WATCH: Rockhampton Taxi drivers distraught with Uber
SHOUTS of "open the door Bill, save our business and shame on you" could be heard from outside Rockhampton MP Bill Byrne's office this morning as a number of local taxi owners and operators took a united stand against the paid ride sharing service Uber being legalised in Queensland.
A wave of orange and black balloons and signs flooded East St as Rockhampton Yellow Cabs drivers, workers and their families took their fight to the streets in protest of the Queensland Government reviewing current taxi regulations and passing legislation for Uber to be legalised in Queensland, commencing on Monday.
Earlier in the year Uber was illegal in Queensland with Queensland Uber drivers being served with fines, but this is no longer the case after the legislation was passed early last month. As part of the changes to the taxi regulation the State Government has offered to pay $20,000 in compensation for existing taxi licences.
Local taxi owner and operator Reece Robertson has been in the business for the last eight years, mostly as a Medi Cab driver ensuring the elderly get to medical appointments and was outraged to hear the government had legalised the overseas based business.
"What's going to happen to us when Uber comes here and there's no Medi Cabs anymore?" he said.
"Do you think an Uber driver is going to pick up an elderly person, take them to the doctors and help them get home. They won't do that. More importantly I had to wait seven weeks for an exhaustive criminal history check, which as a customer you would want me to have as your driver. Uber do theirs in house and it can take a day. We pick people up in their worst possible ways, intoxicated, drugged, that's what we have these rules and regulations for safety. We're a trusted service and we need our jobs to survive."
Rockhampton Yellow Cabs manager Donna Donoghue said the offer of $20,000 in compensation was "insulting" and a "slap in the face".
"They've offered $20,000 compensation for each taxi licence that in this region is valued at around $300,000," she said.
"These people here have used their superannuation, their redundancies, their mortgages for their homes to buy those licences and their just scraping them. That's 16,000 small businesses in Queensland who have been abandoned by the state government for an overseas company that doesn't pay tax.
"Between Rockhampton and Yeppoon we did 90,000 jobs in July, that's a lot of people out there who'll be affected if our industry goes down."
Local couple Les and Denise Williams were unable to hold back their heartbreak and disappointment this morning.
"This has ruined our lives, our health, our business," Denise said through tears.
"This is not the treatment we expected from our local member."
The calls for an answer from Bill Bryne remained unanswered today when some of the workers stormed into the office demanding to speak to their local member.
Mr Byrne did however say today that the accusations of avoiding correspondence were false and that he has been in contact with the taxi business.
"I have had numerous meetings with taxi operators and their regional representatives about ride-sharing legislation in my office, out in the community and even from the passenger seat of a taxi while I have been using their service," Mr Bryne said.
"As Transport Minister Stirling Hinchliffe has said, under new personalised transport industry regulations, taxi and limousine operators will have less red-tape with 80 regulations cut, rank and hail markets will be protected, and there will be a $100 million adjustment assistance package for taxi and limousine licence holders. The Palaszczuk Government is committed to helping licence holders and ensuring the people of Rockhampton, and statewide, can access affordable personalised transport services."