"This will lead to greater choice and more competitive fares for customers, and fresh business opportunities for new and existing operators." Some of the changes to the state's regulatory regime will include the creation of Transport Booking Service entities to replace the current Centralised Booking Service system for taxis and to provide ride-booking services for chauffeur vehicles. The legalisation of ride-booking services comes a fortnight after the state opposition announced its intention to introduce legislation to allow the likes of UberX to operate in South Australia. Opposition Leader Steven Marshall said at the time that "ridesharing" is an opportunity to increase competition, provide more choice, and improve transport reliability and customer service to the state. "This is about giving commuters the choice they want when it comes to transport options in South Australia," he said.
An Uber driver from Melbourne has won an appeal against a conviction for operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence. The decision handed down by a Victorian County Court judge on Wednesday effectively legalises the ride-booking app in the state. Nathan Brenner was found guilty last year by a magistrate of two counts of operating a commercial passenger vehicle without a licence, and one count of driving a commercial passenger vehicle without driver accreditation. The decision effectively outlawed Uber in the state. But Judge Geoffrey Chettle dismissed the charges and ordered the Taxi Services Commission pay Brenner's appeal costs.
Uber has argued that its ridesharing service UberX does not fall within the definition of taxi or limousine, and therefore should be exempt from having to register for the Goods and Services Tax (GST). In the Australian Federal Court on Wednesday, Uber's lawyers pointed out to Justice John Griffiths that based on five main matters, UberX drivers should be exempt from having to pay GST. These five matters included signage, fares, taxi ranks and hail zones, taxi meters, and hiring. Counsel representing Uber specifically addressed how the GST laws have defined "taxi travel" as "transporting passengers in a taxi or limousine for fares". He specifically pointed out that the definition says taxi travel "means" rather than "includes", and therefore the statutory definition of taxi travel is only relevant to taxis, taxi operators, and limousines -- no other vehicles.
The Australian Taxation Office (ATO) has disputed Uber's attempts to raise doubt around the "ordinary" definition of "taxi travel" as outlined by the Goods and Services Tax (GST), saying that the connotation of the phrase along with the words taxi and limousine need to be considered. During the second hearing day at the Australian Federal Court, counsel representing the ATO said during his closing statement that Uber's argument that the definition of taxi travel under the GST Act is only applicable to taxis and limousines is not plausible. He proposed for Justice John Griffiths to consider the connotations associated with the words taxi and limousine. Pointing to the specific case of Sydney-based UberX driver Brian Fine as an example, counsel representing the ATO said Fine revealed during cross-examination that he would drive around -- much like a taxi would -- until someone wanted his service, before picking up a passenger, driving them to their destination, and charging a fare for the service. "Like a taxi driver, [Mr Fine] pry the streets, and really effectively is hailed.
The South Australian government has on Thursday approved on-road trials of driverless cars on the state's roads. Transport and Infrastructure Minister Stephen Mullighan said companies looking to trial technologies on South Australia's roads will simply have to submit plans of the proposed trial and have sufficient insurances to protect themselves and the public. "These laws have received praise from companies at the forefront of this industry, which is estimated to be worth AU 90 billion dollars within 15 years," Mullighan said. "South Australia is now positioned to become a key player in this emerging industry and by leading the charge, we are opening up countless new opportunities for our businesses and our economy." The introduction of the laws in South Australia comes as officials from the Australian Driverless Vehicle Initiative (ADVI) are in the Netherlands taking part in the European Truck Platooning Challenge.