Uber has thumbed its nose at the Queensland government’s crackdown on illegal ride-sharing businesses by launching a service in direct opposition to maxi-cabs.
Uber has emailed its customers to announce the launch of UberXL, which gives access to vehicles that seat up to six, and the ride-sharing service claims is up to 30% cheaper than a maxi taxi.
The announcement comes after the Queensland government increased fines for Uber drivers in April from $1,413 to $2,356, and administrators of illegal taxi services could be penalised up to $23,560.
A Queensland government taskforce has been set-up to review how ride-sharing services can operate in the state.
The taskforce’s chairman, Jim Varghese, has said the review is also looking at linking taxis to public transport networks to help drivers maintain revenue in the face of the increased competition from Uber. The taskforce findings are to be completed and released by July.
An Uber spokeswoman said the ride-sharing service was involved in the review and while there were hefty penalties for drivers and administrators, they had not altered their operations.
“Obviously we are working with the government and their review … but at the moment it’s business as usual and making sure we provide safe and affordable rides and different options for consumers,” she said.
Taxi Council Queensland and the transport minister, Stirling Hinchliffe, have been contacted for comment.
In Victoria, Uber could be legalised by the end of the year after the government agreed to work on new laws with the Sex party.
The ride-sharing service has been operating there since January 2013, but has been in legal limbo.
The Sex party MP Fiona Patten proposed new laws to regulate Uber but has agreed to put her bill on hold while the government figures out how to make them work.
She hopes the laws will be operating before Christmas.
The Victorian public transport minister, Jacinta Allan, said the laws had to take into account how fast the hire car industry was developing.
In New South Wales, taxi drivers are set to be compensated by passengers and the government.
The transport minister, Andrew Constance, said legislation changes that passed unamended in the NSW parliament on Wednesday night include a compensation scheme for affected taxi licence holders.
But Uber’s general manager in Australia and New Zealand, David Rohrsheim, said on Thursday he wanted to see transparency in how the compensation was determined to ensure only those who genuinely need compensation receive it.
In April the South Australian government announced ride-sharing services would be legal from 1 July.
Under the sweeping reforms, passengers of companies such as Uber and Ingogo will be charged a $1 levy on metropolitan trips to compensate taxi drivers, in recognition of the encroachment into their market.
Plate owners will receive a one-off $30,000 payment, a more generous package than the $20,000 compensation offered to New South Wales taxi drivers when UberX was legalised there. Taxi drivers who lease their licence in SA will receive $50 a week compensation for up to 11 months.
Ride-sharing drivers will be required to undergo police and working-with-children checks and their vehicles will be inspected for roadworthiness every six months.