House debates

Tuesday, 23 February 2021

Questions without Notice

Workplace Relations

2:25 pm

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for the Arts) Share this | | Hansard source

My question is to the Minister for Industrial Relations. Igor from Sydney is a student who works for Deliveroo and for DoorDash. Last week he did a four-hour shift on just one of those platforms and earned a total of $41.45—just over $10 an hour and well below the minimum wage. What's complicated about workers like Igor being paid no less than the minimum wage?

2:26 pm

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

The complication is that the thousands of people who work across the platform economy all have completely different working arrangements. No two look precisely the same. As the Fair Work Commission noted, one of the key issues in accessing a platform app to do this type of work is that, when the work is being performed, someone like Igor or anyone working in the platform economy can work for a competitor app and work across multiple platforms. As was noted and has been noted a number of times, the difference with that arrangement, which the Fair Work Commission has said is the arrangement of an independent contractor, is that an employee who is in the middle of a shift of Coles can't go down the road and work another job at a pub or at Woolies or whatever it might be. So the complication that arises is that the thousands of people who work in this part of the Australian economy have absolute flexibility and completely different patterns and arrangements of work.

It was noted indeed in the recent Victorian survey that said that 35 per cent of people who work in the platform economy work across multiple platforms that only a tiny number of the individuals that work in the platform economy do so as the sole source of their income. So the idea that you can pretend to Igor or the other thousands of people working in the platform economy that you can overnight shift their arrangements from being truly independent contractors, which is what the independent Fair Work Commission has found their work arrangements to be, onto an employee-employer relationship, where there is a fixed minimum wage, without detracting from the other parts of that working arrangement that many people find advantageous to them, such as the flexibility, would be to pretend something to Igor and the other people who work in the platform economy that simply isn't true.

The idea that you can somehow apply traditional employee conditions like hourly remuneration and benefits or conditions to someone who is truly an independent contractor working on a platform or a tradie, subbie, someone in the media or the arts or someone who does local jobs and advertises in the local newspaper but uses Airtasker to supplement the way they approach customers, and the idea that you can promote to those individuals that you can move them directly from one arrangement, which is independent contracting, onto an entirely different form of arrangement, which is employer-employee, and they would not lose something in the process, notably the flexibility, would not be telling those people that work in that economy the truth. So this is something that needs thorough, clear, level-headed thought, not a thought bubble.