Labor pushes for sharing economy regulations

The Australian opposition said it supports Uber and Airbnb, but that more regulations are needed around public safety, workers' rights, tax, and accessibility.

The Australian Labor Party has launched a discussion paper examining Australia's sharing economy and the benefits of the peer-to-peer market, as well as the potential regulations that may need to be implemented.

In the discussion paper, Shadow Assistant Treasurer Andrew Leigh highlighted that the federal opposition supports sharing economy apps such as Uber and Airbnb, but believes that existing regulations are in a grey area that needs to be addressed.

Leigh said the sharing economy raises issues around public safety, workers' rights, tax, and accessibility.

For example, the paper noted that currently, sharing economy services are largely self-regulated through internal company rules and online public feedback systems. However, it is unclear how these internal processes and feedback mechanisms appropriately protect public safety or consumer rights.

In addition, the paper said it is only fair that all sharing economy companies and Australians generating income in Australia from the sharing economy should pay Australian company tax.

"Labor wants to see Australians share the benefits of the sharing economy. But we also want to make sure we have the right rules in place to protect workers, consumers, and the public good as they do so," Leigh said.

Treasurer Joe Hockey made similar remarks in February, when he said that he believes job growth in Australia is likely to come from Uber.

"The jobs are in Uber," Hockey reportedly said at the time.

According to Airbnb, as of late 2014, there were approximately 30,000 Australian hosts offering properties, a 96 percent increase from the previous 12 months.

The report said that by the end of 2014, one in 10 Sydneysiders had used a ride-sharing service such as Uber.

Uber, however, has been facing pressure from state governments and the taxi industry over its operating practices. The company has paid hundreds of thousands of dollars in fines for UberX drivers.

In New South Wales, the government is taking UberX drivers to court for allegedly breaching the Passenger Transport Act by offering services without accreditation.

Meanwhile, at the end of 2014, up to 24 Uber drivers were reportedly targeted by the Western Australia Department of Transport for operating unlicensed taxi services in Perth.

As part of this investigation, the Labor Party is calling for written submissions from the public about the sharing economy. Submissions will close on June 1, 2015.