The Victorian taxi industry’s decision to change its tactics towards Uber from confrontation to seeking negotiation and regulation is a welcome burst of common sense from an industry that hasn’t displayed a great deal of it so far.

The industry’s attempt to ban a company — indeed a whole new economic practice — and one that has proven wildly popular is a measure of how arrogant and out of touch monopoly control has made Big (Yellow) Taxi.

Head of the Victorian Taxi Association David Samuel has said that the industry now seeks the public’s views, and has launched a public relations blitz (which has mostly backfired) under the hashtag #yourtaxis. If they have a swear jar handy, none of them need ever drive again.

But the arrogance of this former monopoly industry and the ease offered by Uber shouldn’t blind us to the fact that the Uberisation of the economy represents a huge challenge in Australia.

Uber-like work remains unlicensed piecework, a very old form of exploitation disguised by its mediation through an app. In a society that wants to avoid the destruction of such social security as exists through fair employment laws — including guaranteed minimum wage — the growth of Uber and other companies like it requires vigilance.

Don’t it always seem to go, that you don’t know what you’ve got ’til it’s gone.

Peter Fray

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