Taxi drivers have threatened to ramp up their protest against Uber with rolling strikes across the country.
Calling on state governments to clamp down on the illegal ride-sharing service, hundreds of drivers rallied in Melbourne, Brisbane and Sydney on Thursday.
Drivers want Uber shut down or for governments to introduce a level playing field that would make Uber drivers pay the same licence and registration fees.
They say the unregulated service promotes unaccredited and often rejected taxi drivers using old and unroadworthy cars, threatening passenger safety and not paying relevant taxes.
Until something is done, they will take part in rolling strikes in Victoria, NSW, Queensland and Western Australia, a rally that blocked a major Melbourne street was told.
“Next week it will be rolling strikes throughout Australia, we cannot wait a day longer,” Victorian Taxi Families spokesman David Singh told a rally in Melbourne.
“We won’t say what day, but it could be at the airport or in Melbourne’s CBD.”
Cabbies in Sydney also threatened to boycott Sydney’s airport.
It took Brisbane driver Mr Singh six years to save the money to buy his licence, and he struggles to see how he can compete with Uber.
“People have come from different parts of the world to Australia because we knew this country was a land with law,” he said.
“This company flouts all our laws.”
The Queensland government has flagged a review of its taxi strategy, but Deputy Premier Jackie Trad hinted in July that UberX could co-exist with taxis.
The Victorian government is working through the issues, but Premier Daniel Andrews said Thursday’s rally would have left customers little choice but to use it.
“We want to be fair, we want to give people not only choices but ultimately we’ve got to give people the security and safety that they are entitled to,” he told reporters.
“Technology has got ahead of the law and we need to deal with that … sometimes these things take time.”
Despite threats to vote Mr Andrews out at the next election, many cabbies seemed unaware of the Victorian opposition’s support for Uber.
“The technology is here to stay,” shadow treasurer Michael O’Brien told reporters.
“Victorians are voting with their feet. Some of them are choosing to use Uber and it’s up to the government to ensure the laws reflect reality.”
The Melbourne protest coincided with a four-hour tram strike.
Uber wasn’t to blame for taxi drivers’ poor working conditions, the service said in a statement.
“To be clear, the leaders of these protests are taxi investors, not drivers.”
But Uber has also called on governments to provide certainty to its 15,000 drivers across Australia.
“The time has come for political leaders to provide certainty … and implement sensible, safety-based ride-sharing regulation as quickly as possible,” it said.