House debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:18 pm

Photo of Anthony AlbaneseAnthony Albanese (Grayndler, Australian Labor Party, Leader of the Opposition) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Prime Minister. I again ask a very simple question: does every worker in Australia deserve to be paid no less than the minimum wage?

Photo of Christian PorterChristian Porter (Pearce, Liberal Party, Attorney-General) Share this | | Hansard source

This is actually an issue that was dealt with at some length by the Fair Work Commission in determining whether or not those people who are not covered by the minimum wage or a relevant award in the gig economy and who are independent contractors are employees. On 21 April last year, the Fair Work Commission—the independent body devised by the Labor Party when they were in government and led by a unanimous decision by the president that Labor appointed, Iain Ross—determined that Uber Eats drivers were not employees.

The reason they made that determination was a range of factors, including two very critical things. The first was that Uber Eats exercise no control whatsoever over when or how long a driver performed work, and so, as a matter of legal right and actuality, it was entirely within the driver's control as to when they logged onto the app or how long they remained logged on. There was no obligation to accept any particular delivery request. The second reason why it was determined that that person wasn't an employee is that when they were performing work pursuant to a delivery request, the person could accept the work through other competitive food delivery apps or perform other types of passenger or delivery work. So, as is the case in the platform economy, a person could work across multiple platforms.

What the Leader of the Opposition would have people believe is that it would somehow be a simple thing to move a group of people that the Fair Work Commission has determined are truly independent contractors, not employees, into a system of fixed wages and conditions, and then pretend to those people that it would have no other effect on issues like the flexibility of the arrangement, the price of the service to the end users, the commercial viability of the service—indeed, the very existence of the work that provides the income in the first place. Now, if it's so simple, why would it be necessary to ask and answer questions like these? Does the person work two hours or 10 hours or 20 hours? Do they work across one platform or multiple platforms? If they work for two hours across four platforms and you put them on a minimum wage, who pays that wage? These are very complicated issues that simply don't lend themselves to some simple formulation.

If you have a situation where one person works across multiple platforms—and, in fact, a recent survey in Victoria found that 35 per cent of people who use the platform economy work across multiple platforms; they sometimes work across four or more platforms—how would you transmute that person onto a fixed wage arrangement? Is it even possible? So, if you were to move—

Mr Albanese interjecting

The minimum wage is a fixed minimum wage. If you move someone onto an award, that is a fixed wage. This is what happens when you don't think things through, just like you didn't think the $20 billion cost of this through. (Time expired)