Turnbull must act on the sharing economy - Doorstop, Melbourne





SUBJECT/S: Labor’s positive plans for the sharing economy; government set to fail its own economic test with MYEFO 

ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT TREASURER: It's a real pleasure to be here today with Labor's candidate for the seat of Melbourne, Sophie Ismail. We've been here at Uber talking about Labor's ideas for the sharing economy.

Labor's plan for the sharing economy recognises the value that building innovative companies has for Australia. Bill Shorten and I announced this plan at an incubator centre in Canberra back in October, and it focuses principles such as the idea that primary property is yours to share; that the sharing economy should support good wages and conditions; that all firms should pay their fair share of tax and that we make sure that the sharing economy assists vulnerable groups such as people with disabilities.

Unfortunately, the sharing economy has been entirely left out from the Government's Innovation Statement which means it also misses the potential that comes from the growth of local sharing economy businesses in Australia - companies such as Camplify, Parkhound and many others.

I might just make a couple of comments on MYEFO before I throw to Sophie. The Government's economic update tomorrow will likely fail both its own test for the economy and Labor's test for the economy. When they came to office, the Abbott-Turnbull Government said that they would pay down debt faster and make sure that Australia was running a surplus in the first year and every year after that. Well we've seen deficits blowing out; doubled over the course of the last year alone. And the mini-budget is also likely to fail Labor's test and that of the Australian community. With sluggish growth, falling living standards, and high inequality, Australia now has a Prime Minister and a Treasurer that are looking to slash the best-targeted social safety net in the world. We know that this will not only hurt the most vulnerable but will also potentially impede growth because those in the middle and bottom of the distribution spend all of their pay packets. So the cuts to family support that remain on the table are a signal threat to growth in the years to come. I'll hand over now to Sophie. 

SOPHIE ISMAIL, CANDIDATE FOR MELBOURNE: Thanks very much Andrew. It's a pleasure to be here with Andrew Leigh to talk about Labor's positive plan for the sharing economy. Obviously there are thousands and thousands of Uber users in Melbourne. The peer-to-peer economy is presenting challenged for regulators around the world but it is absolutely vital that we regulate to support innovation and also to protect our workers and our drivers and our community. So it's a pleasure to be here with Andrew to talk about that. 

JOURNALIST: So how would you protect workers' rights in the sharing economy? 

LEIGH: Labor believes that this conversation needs federal leadership. The vacating of the field by the Abbott-Turnbull Government has left significant uncertainty not just for businesses in sectors like ridesharing but also a range of other innovative sharing economy companies. These are challenging issues, they involve making sure that consumers and workers are taken care of. But also we need federal leadership on this as an important competition policy issue. The Government has been caught up on competition policy with its battle with The Nationals over the effects test, and that has left it failing to provide the leadership on the sharing economy that Australia needs.

JOURNALIST: So would you encourage all Uber drivers to join the transportation union or something like that?

LEIGH: I would encourage all workers to join their relevant union. Unions not only have brought us the weekend and the 8-hour day but have also worked to improve living standards right across the community.

JOURNALIST: And what about companies with offshore parents not paying their fair share of tax? What would you do to ensure that there was better control over how much tax they paid and the profits made from Australians?

LEIGH: Labor believes that all Australians and companies should pay their fair share of tax. We've been leading the debate around multinational taxation. Earlier this year, Bill Shorten, Chris Bowen and I introduced our multinational tax plan which would close debt deduction loopholes and add more than $7 billion to the budget bottom line over the course of the next decade. And yet from the Government all we've seen is a multinational tax plan that has asterisks where revenue estimates should be. Worse, at the close of parliamentary sittings we saw the Liberals and the Greens band together in favour of tax secrecy. That's not what Australia needs. We need more transparency and we need a Government that is willing to do the right thing on multinational taxation.

JOURNALIST: Sophie, where does a service like Uber fit in with Melbourne's transportation?

ISMAIL: Traffic congestion in Melbourne is an increasing problem and Uber is assisting with that in providing an additional form of transport. Obviously we also need to invest in public transport and I'm pleased to see my State Labor colleagues building Australia's biggest tram stop and pouring lots and lots of money into public transport in Melbourne. 

JOURNALIST: And what about the people who have taxi licences that they paid a lot of money for?

ISMAIL: Well the State Labor Government is considering these issues and working through them. I'll be working with my State Labor colleagues who will provide a response as soon as possible.

LEIGH: It's clearly one of the really challenging issues that ridesharing presents. And it points to why we need a federal role in making sure that ride sharing is appropriately regulated. 

JOURNALIST: How should it be regulated?

LEIGH: Well the ACT Government has shown one model: they've cut taxi licence fees down to a quarter of what they previously were, reduced the regulation around taxi drivers and Uber drivers and preserved a portion of the work - specifically street hail and cash payments - for taxis. That's not necessarily a textbook for the rest of Australia but it is one model for how to appropriately regulate Uber and ridesharing. Really important from a competition policy point of view too is that any rules around the sharing economy shouldn't be company-specific because the last thing we want to do is to lock in new monopolies. New rules ought to work not just for companies such as Uber and Lyft but for any other Australian competitors that come in to challenge them. I'm sure the Uber folks here would welcome more competition in the ridesharing space.  

No more questions? Thank you.



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