ACT Govt to legalise ride-sharing


news The ACT Government this morning announced it would legalise and regulate ride-sharing services such as UberX, in the wake of a wide-ranging review the territory has conducted into how emerging technologies and new business models could contribute to a better on-demand transport system within its borders.

The announcement was made this morning by ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr, as well as Shane Rattenbury, the Minister Assisting on Transport Reform.

The ACT Government said the reforms will ensure that Canberrans will have access to safe, flexible and affordable taxi, hire car and ridesharing services while also reducing significant costs and the regulatory burden on the existing taxi and hire car industries to ensure they remain competitive and sustainable for drivers, owners and passengers.

The landmark reforms, an Australian first and innovative in a global context, will be delivered in two stages. The first stage will allow the regulated entry of ridesharing into the Canberra market, and deliver an immediate reduction of fees for taxis and hire cars, from 30 October. The second stage will include a customised compulsory third-party and property insurance regime for rideshare activity and further reductions in regulatory burdens for taxis.

Ridesharing vehicles and drivers will undergo accreditation and registration, including criminal and driving history checks – just like taxi drivers. Vehicles must be checked for safety, and rideshare will be fully insured, ensuring safety for passengers, drivers and the community.

The ACT Government said it recognised that new business models may put pressure on Canberra’s existing taxi drivers and owners. That’s why from 30 October, the Government will reduce costs for drivers and owners of taxis, halving taxi license lease fees in 2016 and halving them again in 2017. Annual license fees for hire cars will also be significantly reduced.

According to the ACT Government, the reforms champion innovation and help taxi and hire car services remain sustainable and important modes of travel in the Territory.

Canberra’s taxi drivers will have access to multiple modes of business, from traditional rank-and-hail work to ridesharing and third-party taxi booking apps. This will increase productivity and income streams for drivers while providing a consistent and high-quality on-demand transport service for Canberrans.

Rattenbury, said that taxi industry reform was part of broader reform to public transport, with benefits to the economy, the community and the environment.

“Public transport is an integral part of any city. These reforms are a win for Canberrans and those travelling to the Territory, improving access to diverse transport options and competitive pricing,” Rattenbury said. “Taxis and other demand-responsive transport options are important for accessibility and social equity, and are often relied on by those with special transport needs. These reforms do not change the current arrangements – the wheelchair accessible taxi service booking system and the Taxi Subsidy Scheme are unchanged.”

The news comes as other jurisdictions around Australia are increasingly cracking down on ride-sharing services and Uber’s platform in general, rather than seeking to legalise them.

For example, NSW Roads and Maritime Services this week revealed it had suspended some forty owners of vehicles involved in UberX-style ride-sharing services, ruling the use of vehicles for this purpose as illegal, despite the fact that the State Government is currently conducting a review into the future of the related taxi industry. Similar moves are afoot in other states.

Those who don’t live in Canberra may not realise what a progressive and common sense place it is. We often see these kind of laws introduced in the ACT without a huge amount of fuss and bother. While the rest of the country is up and arms over one thing or another, in Canberra we tend to just get along with normal business rather than starting huge internal regulatory wars.

As a Canberran myself (just passed my first year in this beautiful city), I’m proud to see this policy from the ACT Government, and I look forward to catching more Ubers and using ride-sharing around the city. Of course, Canberra’s taxi drivers are also some of the best and most polite taxi drivers in Australia, with some of the most interesting conversations (just ask them for stories about politicians in taxis — they all have them) — and the cabs some of the cleanest. So I’ll continue to use taxis as well.

Congrats Canberra — once again you have proven yourself a bastion of common sense compared to your neighbouring cities. Let’s hope other jurisdictions follow suit.

Image credit: Percita, Creative Commons


  1. Props to the ACT. This will be a worrying development for the likes Swan Taxis in Perth. They currently control the industry here and their taxi fleet are close to the smelliest, clunkiest, and oldest in the country.
    When I jump in a cab and ask “So what are you going to do about the competition from Uber?” Cab drivers don’t have an answer. They love to whine about Uber, but there seems to be very little competitive thinking going on.
    Uber will only be good for competition if their competition responds and evolves. I don’t give the taxi industry much credit for development. They’ve been static since wireless despatch was introduced and certainly don’t seem to treat their clients as important to their business success.

    • Ha Swan Taxi. It’s like winning lotto if they even bother to show up at all.
      Honestly if they weren’t so bad at their job, we wouldn’t need Uber.

  2. Having family who have worked in the taxi industry, and having worked in it myself, I’ve been hoping for something like this for a LONG time.

    The problem I have with most of the arguments for and against Uber is that the vast majority of people have ZERO understanding of how the traditional taxi industry works. They say “the taxi industry needs to move with the times”, “the taxi industry are all a&%holes who don’t give a fat rats clacker about the customer”.

    This couldn’t be further from the truth. Many people in the taxi industry have been seeking the kind of reform that would allow it to do the things that Uber is doing for years. The ‘problem’ has been that the taxi regulations around the country were written decades ago, and have changed very little – and the regulations as they stand don’t ‘legally’ allow Uber to do what they are doing.

    I tried to do some of the things that Uber does today fifteen years ago, but was warned off under threat of massive fines and told it was not legal. I know many people in the taxi industry who’ve wanted to do similar things as well. They are common sense things that will make the entire industry much better for everyone.

    The roadblock? (Pun intended)

    The governments who’ve been throwing their hands in the air and saying “it’s all too hard, it’s all too complicated, it’s all too expensive – (which isn’t entirely inaccurate) – to change.”

    The ACT government has just demonstrated that it’s not. The other state and territory governments around the country need to pull their heads out of the sand and make it happen.


    • yeah its been about enforced limits of numbers to increase the price the governments can charge for license/medallion thingo’s. That we have ‘investors’ sub lease those to the actual drivers and the like is somewhat a mockery of the system (not talking about firms either that are actually in the cab business).

      Some deregulation is definitely over due and if the ACT approach is followed elsewhere then I guess cabbies don’t have to compete with Uber they can simply join them ;).

      • “yeah its been about enforced limits of numbers to increase the price the governments can charge for license/medallion thingo’s.”

        Not so, that’s the myth perpetuated by the media.

      • There are a lot of third parties involved outside the actual cabbies that determine the cost of running a taxi

        1. The dispatch companies that own the ‘131008’ type numbers; they charge a monthly fee for the service and its not cheap
        2. The plate ownership groups that ‘lease’ the plates to the operators, and
        3. Cabcharge and the other meter/billing providers

        Each has it’s hooks in the industry and its hooks in the government. Legislation needs to change in many places to alter the forces driving the industry, and those changes are going to affect one or more of those forces.

        • Many others also; typically to do the initial setup you need to:

          * buy a car – most of the approved vehicles are around $35,000
          * if there is a standard colour (eg: Victoria) – get the car painted – around $3000
          * get it outfitted with radios, computers, EFTPOS, etc – around $1,500 typically
          * scotchguarding the interiors (spew protection) – around $500
          * if you want to OWN the licence/plate you’re using, that cost will vary state to state and region to region, but that could be upwards of $400,000 (seriously)

          If you’re the owner, once you’re running:

          * if you are using SOMEONE ELSE’s licence/plate, you’re leasing that at between $450 and $500 a week
          * you’re paying fees to the depot you’re affiliated with – around $200 to $300 a week
          * you’re putting money aside for regular servicing – (typically 8 to 10 times a year) – so maybe around $2000.
          * your registration ANNUALLY is about $2000.
          * your insurance ANNUALLY is about $3000.
          * your have to have your vehicle go through roadworthy once a year, more often later in the vehicle’s life.

          If you’re the owner, on a shift by shift basis:

          * around (average) about $50 a shift in fuel, so 14 shifts a week, is $700 a week, comes typically from the owners share of the takings
          * owner (typically) gets 50% of the shift takings off the meter
          * from your share of the takings, you have to take out GST, and income tax, so you generally aside 25% of your share to be safe.

          If you’re the driver, on a shift by shift basis:

          * driver (typically) gets 50% of the shift takings off the meter
          * from your share of the takings, you have to take out GST, and income tax, so you generally out aside 25% of your share to be safe.
          * not uncommon that $5 – (or more) – a shift is payed to the owner from your half of the takings for insurance


          * a typical cab doing all 14 shifts a week with good drivers – (not easy to find) – might get around $3000 on the meter in a week – not all cabs go out all 14 shifts, because particularly on quiet evenings, it’s not worth it.
          * if you’re lucky enough to be in a jurisdiction that allows advertising on the vechicle, you might get $500 a month from the ad agency.
          * if the car breaks down or is in an accident, it doesn’t make any money, and neither the owner or the driver makes any money AT ALL, yet lease and base fees are still payable.

          So if you’re a typical driver, you do:

          * $1500 on the week on the meter, of which about $725 is “yours”. Take away $180 a week for GST and income tax, you’re left with $545, from which you need to pay your living expenses.

          If you’re a typical owner, you do:

          * $1500 on the week on the meter, of which about $725 is “yours”. Take away $180 a week for GST and income tax, you’re left with $545, from which you need to put money aside for:
          — money towards paying off the car – (if you didn’t/couldn’t but it outright)
          — plate lease fees
          — base/radio fees
          — fuel
          — maintenance
          — registration
          — insurance – (part of which *might* come from the driver)

          So next time you’re in a cab, and wondering why the fare is “so high”, or the cab isn’t in “perfect” condition, or the driver smells a bit, remember:

          – he/she has probably been sitting out in the sun in a hot car in a polyester shirt on a vinyl seat for the last 12 hours, listening the same conversation over and over again about how Tony Abbott is a moron who’s ruining this country.
          – it’s been a slow week so the owner has had to delay the regular service of the car for a few days because they can’t afford it yet.
          – that the cost of just getting out there on the road is more than you ever realised.

          Also remember, that most of these costs are regulatory – you can’t avoid them, the law says you have to pay them – note that most of the above doesn’t apply to a Uber vehicle.

          That’s all the taxi industry wants – that Uber is regulated as well, or that the taxi industry is de-regulated so they have a snowball’s chance in hell of competing with Uber on price.

          At the moment, it’s impossible.

          *drops mic*

  3. Pretty much what I was saying in the NSW article. Government needs to make the changes over a period of time. Allowing the people who have the existing licenses to still operate but also allowing the new operators to innovate.

  4. At the current capacity uber will be like getting fireworks in Australia. You gotta goto Canberra

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