Labor Proposes 'Tailored, Light-Touch' Rules For The Sharing Economy

22/10/2015 5:31 AM AEDT | Updated 15/07/2016 12:50 PM AEST
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Fairfax/Andrew Meares

CANBERRA --- The Federal Opposition has moved to try and harness the economic potential of the sharing economy, while seeking to assure the physical safety of clients and protect Australian wages and conditions.

In a blog for The Huffington Post Australia, Opposition Leader Bill Shorten has outlined how Labor wants to deal with new, growing and largely unregulated services such as Airbnb, Uber, AirTasker, Camplify and GoGet.

The Labor Leader wants to bring in “tailored, light-touch” national rules for the sharing economy and has offered to work with the Turnbull Government to bring them in as soon as possible.

“There is huge economic and community potential in the emerging peer-to-peer market,” Shorten wrote.

“I want to see Australia embrace it, while ensuring we have the right rules in place to protect workers, consumers and the public good.”

By definition, the sharing economy allows people to make money from existing resources, such as a spare room or car, by cheaply using a technology platform like a website or smartphone app.

While peer-to-peer services are proving popular in Australia, there is concern they are disrupting existing businesses, undermining the tax system and offering varying degrees of quality with little recourse for unsatisfied customers.

It was discovered earlier this month that Uber and Airbnb have been sending profits offshore to lower taxing nations like Ireland and the Netherlands.

Shorten will on Thursday announce six guiding principles to embrace the sharing economy:

  • Flexible rules and regulations.
  • Industry standard wages and conditions.
  • Pay “fair” share of tax.
  • Public safety assurance, including insurance, licencing and inspections.
  • Disability access
  • “Heavy” penalties, or disabling the operations of companies found to be breaking the law.

“Striking the right balance between supporting innovation and protecting the Australian community is complex,” he said.

“In a fast-moving digital context, it will be a challenge to get it right. But Labor believes we owe it to Australia to take this challenge seriously.”

There have been warning that Australia is lagging behind in the grab for the sharing economy.

Labor is positioning itself ahead of any potential move by the nascent Turnbull Government.

In May, the-then Communications Minister praised Airbnb and Uber for what he called an "efficient use of unused inventory.”

"The key to our future prosperity is to be faster, leaner, more productive, more innovative and more collaborative," Turnbull said.

"And above all, to be more agile."

The emerging and increasingly popular services want to work with government.

The Opposition Leader said he will either team up with a Turnbull Government now on this principles, or wait and work state and territory governments if a Labor Government is elected.

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