Thursday, 25 February 2021
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Prime Minister. Today I met Hungry Panda delivery rider Jun Yang, who says that he worked 12-hour days earning as little as $12.50 an hour, way below the minimum wage. Mr Yang says his employment was terminated when he spoke out. This is the same company that saw deaths at the end of last year. Why is it so complicated to pay people like Mr Yang no less than the minimum wage?
I thank the Leader of the Opposition for the question. I also met with Mr Yang, and his story is not a happy one—far from it—and Hungry Panda's conduct as a business has been very, very bad. I absolutely agree. In fact, very recently they were before a committee of inquiry in New South Wales where it was noted that they failed to notify the appropriate authorities of a workplace death. Of course, all of these platforms operating as businesses in Australia are absolutely subject to Australian work health and safety laws as administered by the states, of which system the Commonwealth is a part. So I might just commence this answer by noting that that sort of behaviour from that company is absolutely unacceptable. The fact that it is being pursued in New South Wales, as it should be, needs to be brought to bear. That is a complete breach of Australian health and safety laws.
Listening to Mr Yang's experiences, you could not have anything but a great deal of sympathy. What I was unwilling to say to Mr Yang and to Michael Kaine from the Transport Workers Union is that improving that situation is somehow simple, easy or uncomplicated because, with due respect to the Leader of the Opposition and to the shadow minister for industrial relations, it's just not.
I think that some parallels are borne out, as the Leader of the Opposition noted today, in what happened with the media code this week. We are not cheerleading for gig economy platforms—far from it. They should obey Australian law. The Fair Work Commission has noted in a range of decisions that it is not an employment relationship but, nevertheless, that occupational health and safety laws apply. But the idea that you can simply move that group of people who work inside that part of the digital economy from what has been consistently appraised by the Fair Work Commission to be contracting relationships into employment-type arrangements with employment-type minimum remuneration fixed is just not correct. Anyone who believes that this is uncomplicated and that there are not complications could read the shadow minister's transcripts from today on Sky News. It's not a criticism of the shadow minister. He raised the issues about why this is complicated—the cost to the business of changing the model, the loss of flexibility to the employees and the fact that there would invariably be a large impact on consumer pricing.
The process that we went through with the media code went back several years to an ACCC inquiry to fully understand how that market worked, because what we did not want to see was the withdrawal of those businesses from Australia. We want to see those businesses in both competition and safety work fairly.