Labor embraces 'sharing economy'

Bill Shorten outlines 'light-touch' regulatory approach

The Labor Party has embraced the so-called 'sharing economy' — the term for peer-to-peer style services such as those facilitated by Airbnb and Uber.

Labor yesterday published a set of National Sharing Economy Principles, which it says will help strike a balance between promoting the emerging economic model and protecting workers and employees.

The six principles include that when people use their "primary personal property" to deliver services, regulations specific to the sharing economy should be applied.

"These should involve light-touch regulation which protects consumers without creating undue regulatory burden," the document states.

However, when "additional property" is used for delivering services — for someone running a fleet of cars to provide transportation services — it falls outside of the scope of the sharing economy.

The sharing economy shouldn't undercut wages and conditions, the document adds.

"The Federal Government should look at ways the Fair Work Act, Independent Contractors Act and Competition and Consumer Act could allow collective bargaining by sharing economy workers over issues like pricing, service charges and network access," it states.

"Commonwealth and State governments should also investigate options for bringing sharing economy workers into insurance and workers’ compensation schemes – as is currently the case for certain independent contractors in states such as New South Wales – and explore reforms to support compulsory superannuation saving through the tax system."

The other principles are that companies and individuals that are part of the sharing economy ecosystem must pay their fair share of tax, public safety should be protected, services should meet accessibility standards, and there should be a "zero tolerance" approach to companies breaking Australian laws.

A federal Labor government would work with state and territory governments on reforms to turn the principles into concrete laws, the document states, and the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission and the Productivity Commission will be tasked with monitoring the impact of regulation in the sector.

"Labor's sharing economy principles can be summarised as light-touch regulation," opposition leader Bill Shorten said yesterday during a doorstop interview.

"Our priority... has been to get the balance right between the rights and conditions of people at work, making sure people pay their taxation, making sure that public safety remains foremost, understanding that primary property is yours to use and making sure, of course, that people pay their fair share of taxes.

"Once we establish these principles, and sit down and talk with states and territories about regulation, at that point we want to make sure the rules apply to everyone. We have zero tolerance after that for people not paying their taxes, not adhering to the regulations.

"But Labor knows that the sharing economy offers exciting potentials at the edge of today so that we can do better in the future."

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