Speech in support of regulating ridesharing
In Parliament | 16.03.16
The Hon. PENNY SHARPE [6.52 p.m.]: I speak on behalf of the New South Wales Opposition on the disallowance motion regarding the Passenger Transport Amendment (Taxis and Hire Cars) Regulation 2015. The Labor Opposition will not be supporting the disallowance motion.
Throughout New South Wales people are finding new ways to share what they own. This is something people have always done. However, in recent years technology has made it a whole lot easier. Car sharing and ridesharing; renting out a spare room, a parking spot or that unused tool at the back of the shed; building local community food cooperatives and gardens; and sharing excess office space are now as easy as clicking a button on our smart phones. The technology connects people who want to share their goods or services with those who have a need for them.
A shift in values in the digital age means that people are rethinking consumerism, ownership and sharing as well as what that means for their own consumption. Tougher economic times and changing notions of wealth, assets and growth are joining with concerns about environmental pressures as our communities, governments and individuals look at ways to make better use of finite resources. In a consumer-driven world the sharing economy is creating new jobs, providing new income sources, reducing waste, driving innovation, building community and reducing isolation.
The growth in the sharing economy has many implications for State government. Urban design and planning, jobs creation and transport planning need to acknowledge what is occurring in our communities through sharing. By its very nature, the sharing economy relies less on regulation and more on peer-to-peer trust and reputation. This is a very different model to the traditional capitalist consumer provision of goods and services. Legislation and regulations have failed to keep pace with the growth of the sharing economy. There have been some bumps in the road as some services have grown in a policy and regulation vacuum. That has been acknowledged by speakers tonight and the mover of this motion.
The choice for State governments and parliaments is whether we seek to help or hinder the sharing economy. In the case of ridesharing, this is a decision to be made by the Parliament as a result of this disallowance motion today. Do we seek to regulate an area that to date has growing uptake without regulation? Do we put our head in the sand and try to ignore the phenomenon? Do we try to legislate it out of existence? Do we see ridesharing as an opportunity for greater innovation in point-to-point transport services? Can the regulation system we establish also address issues that have dogged the taxi industry for years—issues such as poor wages and poor safety for taxi drivers? Can these regulations reduce red tape for the taxi and hire car industry? Can these regulations provide for greater consumer choice?
Ridesharing is growing rapidly in Sydney and is increasingly being expanded into other parts of New South Wales. While Uber is the most well-known service, it is important to note that there are at least seven other ridesharing services that are operating in New South Wales, including Coseats, Carpool One, ayride, Share Your Ride, Catch a Lift, Back Seat and Ridesurfing. It is also important to realise that there has been a lot of hype around ridesharing and to consider exactly how much of the market it has. It still only accounts for 6 per cent of point-to-point journeys. Some 61 per cent of rideshare trips are considered new trips; they do not replace traditional taxi trips. People are using rideshare differently to the way they use taxis.
In the case of Uber, the uptake from people across Sydney has been significant. More than 5,500 people are now working as drivers for UberX. More than 500,000 people have Uber on their smart phones and have used the service. Since regulation, I am advised that more than 400 new drivers have been signing up every week to take advantage of the greater certainty that this regulation provides. But if this motion moved today is passed, then that certainty will be gone and it will affect those 5,500 people. For many drivers, this is the quickest and easiest way for them to use an asset they own—their car—to make some extra money if they are students, retired or need flexible work arrangements. For some it is their first job since recently arriving in Australia. Uber reports that 28 per cent of its drivers come from areas of high unemployment, such as Lakemba and Parramatta where the unemployment rate is 8 per cent.
If this disallowance motion is passed today this is what will happen: ridesharing will become illegal; hire car licence fees will go back to being more than $8,000 per annum rather than the approximately $45 per annum fee now being paid as a result of this regulation; and taxi fees and charges such as training requirements, application fees, accreditation and connecting to centralised booking for wheelchair accessible taxi operators will be reinstated. In fact, 50 red tape reductions in the taxi industry will be put in place again at a cost of approximately $30 million per year to the industry, which will be passed on directly to passengers and drivers. Labor supports innovation and an approach that recognises that changes in our economy brought about by technology need to be reflected by government through sensible regulation. We do not support a head-in-the-sand approach to issues emerging from the sharing economy. We oppose this disallowance motion.