PAUL MURRAY LIVE
WEDNESDAY, 16 FEBRUARY 2022
SUBJECTS: Worker protections in the gig economy; Labor’s plans for affordable, reliable power.
PAUL MURRAY, HOST: In the meantime, plenty to talk about with Senator Hollie Hughes and, from the Labor Party, none other than Andrew Leigh. Andrew, g’day. Lovely to see you too, Senator. So, interesting report out of New South Wales - so you can all go home, because it’s none of your responsibilities here - which is about Uber, and about how Uber is treating, potentially mistreating its workforce. Where the Uber app allows people to work endlessly, including some people who are working up to 61 days in a row. Now, Hollie, I'm fascinated by this, because I think for all of the high fives and all the rest of it about the gig economy, there are very big companies who are able to get away with workers being paid very little, but also not a lot of protections for them as well. What do you think?
HOLLIE HUGHES: Well, I think people that choose to be uber drivers choose to drive when they want to drive. So I don't think Ubers forcing them to work 61 days in a row, whether or not it's good for their health, but that's the decisions that they're making. You know, I can tell you as an old country girl, when you were doing harvest, the guys worked and the girls worked a lot longer than 61 days in a row, trying to get that crop off. So, you know, no one's forcing them to do it. I think there's plenty of other opportunities with the unemployment rates so low at the moment. So people are making the choice to be an Uber driver, work their own hours, work the days they want to do. But it is, as you say, a matter for the New South Wales State government and their regulation when it comes to the maintenance of the vehicles and ensuring that they're safe. But again, it's consumer choice. And I think sometimes we're getting a little bit carried away over what people want to choose to do rather than, you know, more government regulation.
MURRAY: Is it ultimate flexibility here, Andrew? Apparently 26 per cent of the 11,000 shifts that they had to look at were drivers working 12 or 13 hours.
ANDREW LEIGH, SHADOW ASSISTANT MINISTER FOR TREASURY AND CHARITIES: Paul, I think the gig economy is a terrific thing, but they don't get to do an end run around our important workplace protections. In the middle of last year, the UK Supreme Court said that delivery drivers and Uber drivers needed to be treated the same way as regular employees, breaking the farce that they're somehow independent contractors. That ensured they got the minimum wage, they got pensions, and they got appropriate leave. And we should give Fair Work the same power to do that in Australia. That's what Labor has consistently said, and I scratch my head when the government says it's too hard to put these protections around Uber drivers. We've had the deaths of delivery drivers - they didn't somehow choose to put themselves in the path of a car. They were doing it in an environment in which conditions are squeezed down. There's no reason that Uber drivers and delivery drivers shouldn't have the same protections that all workers are entitled to. It’s as simple as that. I don't see why the government's failed to deliver it.
MURRAY: Alright. Let's get into the obvious connections, that the quiet part has been said out loud for months. The Greens have been saying, ‘look, we look forward to a power sharing arrangement - we don't have spokespeople anymore, we'll get shadow ministers’. That is if the Labor Party ends up in the minority government, but obviously it always matters in the Senate as well. Now, of course, Adam Bandt says ‘oh no no no no, none of that, never meant it’ except for the part where he meant it, Senator.
ADAM BANDT: We're saying let's put a pause on all new coal, oil and gas developments while we have those discussions. Legislation still needs to get through the Senate, and Parliament needs to function for a full three years. I think that in the, you know, the numbers suggest we are heading towards a power sharing parliament and we're saying we will approach that in good faith.
HUGHES: Power share with the Greens. I mean, honestly, the frightening aspect of that is that jobs in the Hunter, jobs in far north Queensland are gone. Only last week, Albo was back flipping all over the show around the Kurri Kurri gas station- gas ah, the program that we were putting together, that over nine of his shadow ministers opposed. Including Pat Conroy who somehow or other holds the seat of Shortland, one of the main seats within the Hunter region. And Pat's too busy overseas hugging snowmen at climate conferences. It is absolutely insane. But it's incredibly frightening for those areas that are reliant on jobs within coal, within gas. It's incredibly disturbing when it comes to our new modern manufacturing, an industry that's boomed particularly during the pandemic. We need to ensure cheap and reliable power. And if we see a power sharing with these guys, don't believe a word that Albo says, that he won't jump into bed with him at the first opportunity. Of course he will, as will every single one of those independents who only seem to be running against coalition members. I mean, it is an absolute fallacy that this is climate 200. I'd like to know how much both Mr Holmes à Court and the rest of his backers have invested in green energy, and why it might actually be very, very beneficial for them to see things like coal, to see things like gas, shut down. I can tell you, the Tomago Smelter will no longer function. Sydney will have its lights turned off, and Australia will go backwards very, very significantly, if we see any sort of power sharing arrangement with the Greens and the Labor Party, and of course, if it's put into minority government, we will.
MURRAY: So Andrew, obviously the leader has said ‘no, not gonna happen’. There won't be formalised this, that and the other. But I will ask you this. Andrew, will you be preferencing the Greens above the Liberal Party in your seat at the upcoming election?
LEIGH: I have no idea what's going to go on with preferences at the next election. I can tell you, Labor is the only party that is looking to govern in its own right after the next election. The Liberals will need to be in a coalition. We won’t be. The very point that you have here is in the House of Representatives, when I look to the crossbench, I see one Greens member and then I see a whole range of other individual independents. Zali Steggall, Helen Haines, Bob Katter. And the Greens have only as many numbers in the House of Reps as each of those individuals. And when Hollie talks about the Kurri Kurri power station, what Labor's announced is that we would look to transition to green hydrogen, which ensures that it is a resource that is able to fit within the overall need of Australian economy to steadily decarbonise. We’ll decarbonise while creating more jobs for Australians, and cheaper power bills. That's what Labor's policy, modelled by RepuTex, carefully costed, ticked by the Business Council of Australia, the National Farmers Federation, the Australian Council of Trade Unions will deliver. So we're very proud of our climate plan. It is a Labor climate plan, through and through.
MURRAY: Okay. Alright. Thank you, guys. We'll get you back again.
Authorised by Paul Erickson, ALP, Canberra.