Wednesday 17 August 2016

Hansard of the Legislative Council



Mr FINCH (Rosevears) - Mr President, I will be interested to hear what others members' communities are telling them, and what the people who are going to be affected are saying to them.

However we vote on this bill, legal ride sharing or sourcing, as the honourable Leader has been referring to, will come to Tasmania and the sky will not fall in.  While ride sharing will obviously affect the existing taxi and car hire industry, it can be argued that the effect will not be as acute as the industry has stated.  Ride sharing is a niche market with a largely different customer demographic.  It was interesting to hear Ben Brooks from Uber who said this is not a zero‑sum strategy.  There will be new people who will start to use taxis. 

This type of carpooling system generally makes use of three recent technological advances - global positioning devices to arrange the shared ride; smart phones for a traveller to request a ride from wherever they happen to be; and social networks that establish trust and accountability between drivers and passengers. 

We saw the social networks in operation when our email was bombarded with messages.  It was unbelievable.  We have had quite a few of those over the past decade or so.  It is very frustrating when you are trying to run your normal business email, and all of a sudden you have this wave of protest.  It can be quite tedious and time-consuming to eliminate those from your accounts.  It was an element of frustration for me, but I did recognise the names of some of the people who were contacting me.  It was interesting to see how they had been harnessed to let us know how they were feeling about this opportunity.

Ms Forrest - They were not all from Tasmania.

Mr FINCH - Not all from Tasmania, I realise that.  I recognised some of the names from our business community.  People, like your good self, who have been using the service - that was the message I received, but on the mainland as well.

Those three elements I talked about - the global positioning devices, the smart phones and the social networks - are coordinated through a network service which can instantaneously handle the driver payments and match rides using an optimisation algorithm.  The sharing economy is the way of the world, particularly for the millennials, X and Y generations and how they go about their business.
Ms Forrest - A lot of the baby boomers are using it.

Mr FINCH - Are they?  Ride-sharing customers have to be smart phone savvy.  While the majority of adult Australians do have smart phones many of them, especially the older people are by no means smart phone savvy.  There are those who use it, but generally those older people will continue to use conventional taxi services that will still be operating in our communities.

Many of the younger people attracted to ride sharing rarely use conventional taxi services anyway.  In larger mainland cities many younger people prefer not to own their own car because of public transport, parking issues and they want to travel.  They do not want to have their money tied up in a motor vehicle but they can find better things to put their money to.

Ms Forrest - A new smart phone.

Mr FINCH - Smarter phones all the time.  They are one of the main groups of the ride‑sharing users.  As we heard in the briefing, the main player internationally in ride sharing is Uber Technologies Inc.  We thank the Leader very much for arranging those briefings.  Uber is based in San Francisco but of course is spreading throughout the world.  Sixty‑six countries and 507 cities around the world are linked to Uber.  Since their launch several other companies have replicated its business model.  It is not just Uber we are dealing with in this legislation, but the others that have replicated what they provide.  If this bill is passed it will be Uber which will dominate the ride‑sourcing or ride‑sharing market in Tasmania.

Mr Valentine - Today, but it might not tomorrow.

Mr FINCH - That is what I just said.  It is a bit like Betfair and the process we went through.  They were first cab off the rank so of course that system can be and has been replicated.  The first in, best dressed is the one that gets the lead in the market.

What is the situation elsewhere in Australia?  In Queensland ride sharing becomes legal on 5 September.  The Queensland state government is going to spend $100 million to support taxi drivers affected by Uber.  That $100 million package includes compensation payments of $20 000 for existing taxi licences capped at two per individual.  Legal ride sourcing is already in place in the ACT, New South Wales, South Australia and Victoria.  It is likely to happen in Western Australia after the March elections.  Ride sharing is banned in the Northern Territory. 

Ride sourcing or sharing in Tasmania is inevitable.  What we need to ensure is it does not compete unfairly with the existing taxi and hire car industry.  There must be a level playing field and consideration given to those who in the past have invested in the taxi industry.  They have bought their cars and licenses.  Of course recent changes have changed circumstance they may have first bought into.

They are realistic people.  They have a sense that changes are occurring for their industry.  As we heard during our briefings, there are those who bought licences and vehicles and have passed away.  Their widows, or widowers, are looking to feel their future is secure.  It may not be as secure as it once was.  We have to consider those people whose futures have been thrown into some doubt as to where they thought they were placed.

We must also regulate to maximise the safety of ride sharers and ride sources as well.  I believe it is going to happen in Tasmania, and I will be interested to see how it unfolds with the second reading contributions and in the Committee stage.