Springtime in Sydney is heavenly. Entranced by the pink and orange hues of the morning sunrise I did not see the stormclouds looming in the distance. My first passenger pointed them out to me.
Beep. Beep. Beep – Daniel – Bronte, 6 minutes
Classic style chinos and a red and white checkered shirt, Daniel was about thirty years old. “Matttttee! You’re one of the brave ones i’m guessing?” He announced upon entering my car. “haha sorry mate? What do you mean?” I replied.
“Haven’t you seen the news?” he said with a concerned tone. “The government are cracking down on Uber drivers in Sydney. They are dishing out fines and threatening to deregister Uber drivers cars.”
I was confused. The Australian Taxation Office had only recently announced Uber drivers would be required to pay GST as well as regular income tax. I didn’t know what to say. If I’m paying tax as well as GST why are my fellow drivers and I being punished by the government? “Are you sure these aren’t just rumours Daniel?” I asked.
“Nah mate, a fair few news outlets have reported it this morning. It’s legit, and it’s total bullshit if you ask me,” Daniel said with a touch of aggression in his voice.
“Who the f#!k do they think they are telling me which service I can choose to travel to and from work? The headlines should read, ‘NSW government denies citizens right to cheaper, cleaner, safer and more reliable transport.’ I’ll keep using Uber. I’d rather crawl through broken glass than catch a taxi to work,” Daniel continued, raising his voice angrily.
I felt slightly sick. I began driving for Uber because I had been unsuccessful applying for jobs after I had closed my business. A failed business and bills piling up, I had even considered lining up at my local Centrelink with my hand out. Desperate times. A friend had mentioned driving for Uber and I jumped at the chance. Uber provided me an opportunity to get back on my feet. I will be forever grateful for that opportunity. It also afforded me the flexibility to continue trying to secure a full time job while not becoming a burden on the system.
I dropped Daniel off at Central Station and found a safe place to pull over. I pulled out my phone and started searching. He was right. The news reports announced a statewide crackdown on Uber drivers. Would I be next? I considered driving home and calling it a day but something was stopping me. I bought this car, I registered it and paid the insurance and I pay taxes to drive on these roads. The idea that I can’t pick up a passenger who has explicitly chosen to ride with me in exchange for a fare, is so jarring, so far removed from logic and reason that I found it earth shatteringly offensive. I would not be dictated to like some child. I refused to be made to feel like a criminal, and so I continued on.
Beep. Beep. Beep, Jordan – 8 minutes, Ultimo
I was suspicious of every passenger from thereon. Would my next ride involve a poison letter from the dictatorship?
Jordan, the Bohemian in the long dress with a brilliant smile, was surely on my side. “Hey there! I didn’t think I’d get an Uber this morning with all the trouble I heard on the radio,” she said as she sat down and closed her door.
“I’m relieved you aren’t in disguise working for the secret police,” I responded, genuinely relieved.
“I find the whole thing so ridiculous!” Jordan declared. “The government have got this whole thing backwards.”
Jordan continued, “The sharing economy doesn’t destroy industries it creates them. It doesn’t stifle the economy, it bolsters it! Think about it, I save an average of $10 per trip with Uber. With this $10 I buy a coffee from my local cafe and a glass of wine from my local bar. It makes zero sense to me to outlaw a business that will create jobs and inject money back into the local economy. It’s mental!” She passionately decried.
“Where do the exorbitant taxi fares go? Into the pockets of the taxi companies and the state government. That’s where!” Jordan raged on.
I was inspired by Jordan’s rousing speech. I would not be intimidated. I will continue driving for Uber undeterred by the senseless threats from a government and industry so out of touch.