Off the record: Festival crackdown goes Uber the top

 

The Advertiser

March 10, 2017 10:47pm

OFF The Record this week looks at illegal ride-sharer Uber’s backdoor bid for legitimacy,

Uber is defiantly sponsoring the Adelaide Fringe.

UBER has become so ubiquitous in Adelaide it’s almost tempting to believe it runs a legal operation.

Uber is defiantly sponsoring the Adelaide Fringe, Womadelaide and even a Property Council debate next week between Premier Jay Weatherilland Liberal leader Steven Marshall.

This apparent contempt in the face of the law has angered the Department of Transport, which sent a protest letter to the Fringe drawing attention to the fact that Uber’s ride-sharing services had not yet been licensed to operate in South Australia and it was likely the company’s drivers would be pinged if caught.

“Once the Department of Planning, Transport and Infrastructure became aware of the sponsorship arrangement, it contacted the Adelaide Fringe board. Unfortunately by that stage agreements had been signed and tickets had been printed,” a Transport spokesperson said.

The spokesperson said 272 Uber drivers had now been sanctioned since last year. Most of them fined $375 for their transgression.

Uber could find quite a few more drivers being lifted this weekend. Not only has the department hired more “compliance officers” to patrol streets, but the Womadelaide map has a designated Uber pick-up spot marked, which will no doubt attract official attention.

Adelaide Fringe chair David Minear said the organisation was “working well within legal boundaries’’.

Still, perhaps peace will break out between the government and Uber. Off the Record has learned Uber’s head of public policy, Brad Kitschke, is moving on. He may have once worked for Labor luminary Michael Atkinson, when the MP was Attorney-General, but his relationship with Transport Minister Stephen Mullighan was spectacularly fractious.

Uber spokesman Mike Scottsaid it now had 2000 drivers on its books in SA.

 “We believe in supporting local organisations and major events in the cities we serve and sponsorship is a key part of that,” he said.