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Andrews picks public pocket to keep taxi lobby happy

The delayed decision by the Labor government in Victoria to legalise the Uber ride-sharing service shows that every issue it considers is decided on a political basis.

Victoria's premier Daniel Andrews refused to meet officials from the service on six occasions, replying to the overtures just once. There was no need for all this grandstanding if he was just going to keel over in the end.

In the end, the public has to fork out money so that Andrews can keep the taxi lobby happy. A levy of $2 will have to be paid by every commercial user of a taxi, Uber or hire-car, with the money to pay for a buyback of taxi licences and a fund to essentially keep taxi-drivers happy.

Taxi-drivers vote. So do Uber drivers.

Other states and territories, except the NT - which is an oddball anyway - took the step of legalising Uber because they realised that people were using the service and it was not possible to police such activity.

Victoria was the standout. As with many other decisions made in this state, this now looks to have been a stupid decision.

In Melbourne, there is no shortage of cabs on most weekdays, but on Fridays and weekends, there are often instances when taxis are in short supply. Many drivers are afraid to carry drunk passengers and thus Uber has been increasingly used, with the wealthier classes in particular opting to go down this path.

But Uber use is not for the middle-class and the poorer sections of society. Fares are based on demand and one can thus end up paying far in excess of a standard taxi fare to any destination.

Services like Uber are part of the race to the bottom as they benefit the shareholders of the company. The drivers are lured by the promise of a job but earn poor wages, often below the minimum wage.

Taxi-drivers are not living in the lap of luxury either and Andrews knows that the legalisation of Uber will affect them. The drivers have shown that they will not keep quiet about issues that affect them, and have staged protests in Melbourne in the past.

So Andrews has passed the burden on to the public. Politicians live off the public purse and he is no exception. Residents of Victoria will now have to pay for a politician's shortsightedness. Not that that is anything new.

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Sam Varghese

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A professional journalist with decades of experience, Sam for nine years used DOS and then Windows, which led him to start experimenting with GNU/Linux in 1998. Since then he has written widely about the use of both free and open source software, and the people behind the code. His personal blog is titled Irregular Expression.