Documents reveal the extent of Uber’s lobbying of Daniel Andrews’ government to legalize its operation in Victoria | Uber
youBer saw the victory of Labour’s Daniel Andrews in the 2014 Victorian election as an opportunity to finally legalize his money-making business in Melbourne, documents obtained by Guardian Australia reveal.
Uber moved to Australia in 2012 without the required permits, then launched an aggressive campaign to change state laws to legalize its operations across the country. It’s a tactic the company has used repeatedly in markets around the world: launch first, build a loyal following, then push for laws to change.
The ride-sharing company’s ultimate success in Australia had a devastating effect on taxi drivers, who obeyed the law by buying expensive commercial vehicle licenses. Remarkable details about Uber’s Australian operations have been detailed in the Uber Files, an unprecedented corporate data leak that the Guardian published earlier this month.
The new documents – not part of the original leak – show that in 2014 Uber was working with lobbying firm Civic Group to prepare a plan to influence the Andrews government, which included seeking meetings with government officials. dozens of politicians and senior executives, including the new prime minister. as an “aggressive public campaign against the taxi industry”, describing it as dirty, dangerous and hostile.
Uber should try to “convince the Prime Minister that a regulatory solution for Uber is needed, and that it should be implemented quickly,” said Civic Group, which is now a division of communications group Civic Partnership, in the plan.
Uber has also sought to meet other influential Victorians and lobbied Victoria’s road accident insurer, the Transport Accident Commission, as a way to reduce drunk driving.
Labor’s victory in November 2014 swept the Coalition from power after just one term and gave Uber a chance to rethink its lobbying strategy.
“The election of Andrews’ Labor government now provides an opportunity for Uber to more actively advocate for regulatory/legislative change,” Civic Group wrote in its strategic plan.
“The objective of this strategy is to achieve regulatory/legislative change that will allow Uber to operate legally in Victoria.”
The Andrews government announced it would legalize Uber and other ride-sharing services in 2016 and the changes became law in 2018.
“Commercial passenger industry reforms were not about a single supplier, it was about doing what needed to be done to modernize the taxi and ride-sharing industry,” a government spokesman Andrews said. .
“Anyone who uses a taxi or ride-sharing service today will know full well that the services are much better than before these reforms were introduced.”
Ahead of the 2014 election, Civic Group executive Jason Aldworth, a former Liberal party member, told Uber executives he had prepared a list of “key backbenchers who can influence on political decisions.
“We’ve compiled a list of those we believe can effectively advocate to the Minister/Shadow, have influence in the caucus/party hall, and potentially be willing to ‘fly a kite’ in the media,” he said on September 10. 2014 email to Matthew Trigg, who was on Uber’s public policy team. According to the strategic plan, this list included a number of current Andrews government ministers, none of whom answered questions from Guardian Australia directly.
In response to questions, government spokesman Andrews declined to say whether the prime minister had personally met Uber. “Any meetings that have taken place are being conducted in accordance with the Government of Victoria’s Code for Professional Lobbyists,” she said.
In the post-election strategic plan, Aldworth said the public part of the campaign should focus on presenting Uber as a cheaper and safer alternative to a dirty and dangerous taxi industry that “got away with it. because there was never any other option.”
“Currently, the government has no incentive to alienate a large and powerful group in the taxi industry by helping Uber,” he said.
“Therefore, the campaign must be aggressive in its attack on the industry and demonstrate that the entrenched monopoly is providing poor service to consumers. Uber should be positioned as the ideal alternative – offering the better and cheaper services that consumers want, as well as better conditions for drivers.
Briefing notes prepared by Aldworth for Uber show the company held a meeting with Avalon Airport General Manager Jason Giddings in August 2014. Aldworth also spoke of the need to side with the influential Fox family, owner of one of the largest transports in the country. companies, Linfox, owner of the airport based in Geelong.
“The Fox family’s private office told me they were having significant taxi issues at Avalon Airport and were in principle very keen on an Uber solution,” Aldworth wrote in a statement. August 13, 2014 email notifying Uber executives of an upcoming meeting with Giddings.
During the briefing, Aldworth told Uber that due to its location, Avalon was not as well served by taxis as its biggest competitor, Tullamarine Airport in Melbourne’s north.
“The Fox family are one of Melbourne’s most influential families,” Aldworth wrote. “If they backed Uber it would mean much more than airport work – it would send a very powerful message to both the business community and regulators. It would also be very difficult for Tullamarine to continue operating without a solution. Uber X for inbound passengers.”
However, it is understood that the August 2014 meeting was only with Avalon management, and not with representatives of the Fox family.
“Avalon Airport confirms that its management team has had discussions with Uber among a range of other transportation providers as part of an ongoing effort to improve airport amenities,” a doorman said. -word of Linfox.
The spokesperson said Avalon was having difficulty finding taxis to get to the airport, which he repeatedly raised with authorities.
While in Geelong, Uber executives also met with TAC’s community relations manager, Joe Calafiore, who is now the body’s chief executive.
Emails show that Uber’s Asia-Pacific policy manager, Jordan Condo, echoed the Civic Group’s suggestions that Uber focus the discussion on “how Uber can contribute to road safety – for example , reduce the incidence of drunk driving by providing people with a safe, cheaper ride home” highlighting the shortage of taxis at night on weekends.
Condo also spoke with the chairman of the Victoria Taxi Services Board, Graeme Samuel, as Guardian Australia previously reported.
Samuel told Guardian Australia that Uber’s claims that Condo had reached an agreement with the company to legalize its services were incorrect and that it had no authority to do so because the licensing of vehicles that he was using required a change in the law.
“I had a conversation with him,” Condo said in a Sept. 16, 2014, email to other Uber executives.
“We start working on the same sheet of music.”
An Uber spokesperson did not respond to detailed questions from Guardian Australia about the 2014 lobbying campaign in Victoria, instead referring to a general statement regarding Uber files.