Victoria set to regulate Uber and address disability concerns

Victoria is set to becoming the fifth Australian state or territory to legalise Uber following a deal between the state government and the Australian Sex Party to establish new laws regulating ridesharing services.

Victorian minister for public transport Jacinta Allan has agreed to work with Sex Party leader Fiona Patten to develop a bill that will provide a framework for the ridesharing market to operate.

“Providing for rideshare services raises a number of complex and interrelated issues regarding passenger safety, equity for the existing industry and access for people with a disability, among others,” Allan tells StartupSmart.

“We will work with Ms Patten to address these issues and develop a safe, fair, workable regulatory framework that provides certainty to the industry.”

The decision to collaborate comes on the back of concerns from disability groups regarding Uber’s service gap for people with special transport needs, as well as the issue of reimbursing licensed taxi drivers impacted by ridesharing.

By working together, Patten says these issues will be addressed in the reformed bill.

“Our bill broke down all the relationships within ridesharing and all the definitions of ridesharing,” Patten tells StartupSmart.

“I think that [disability access] will be a very important part of the regulations.

“At the moment because all the ridesharing services are sitting in gray areas, it’s very difficult to enforce the equal opportunity act.”

But once legalised, Patten says the government will have power to regulate and ensure that these services meet the needs of the broader public.

“The government also subsidises disability taxi services, they will be able to extend those subsidies to ride sharing so anyone entering into commercial [transport] must be able to provide services to the whole community,” she says.

“There will also need to be reformation of the taxi industry and taxi regulations.”

She says these changes with proper regulation will have a silver lining for the taxi industry as it will create healthy competition.

“I suspect that we will see a better taxi service as a result,” Patten says.

Uber Victoria general manager Matt Denman says he’s looking forward to hearing more on the state government’s own improvements to the bill.

“We would now like to move to more transparent and substantive discussions on how regulations will be developed to let the ridesharing industry flourish in Victoria, and look forward to ongoing and detailed discussions with the minister where we will ensure she hears from local drivers on what this reform means to them,” Denman tells StartupSmart.

Uber is currently legal in four Australian jurisdictions, with New South Wales, Western Australia, South Australia and the ACT all moving to regulate ridesharing.

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