Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (11:13): I rise to speak just briefly on Mr Barton’s motion. It is sensible. Mr Barton and I did not come to fisticuffs, but we possibly did not see eye to eye in the last term when I introduced the Ridesharing Bill 2016 that was about recognising ridesharing, recognising that we needed to do something about that emerging part of the industry and recognising that it needed to be regulated. In doing so it was not great for the taxi industry, and I understand that, but it has been really wonderful to see how Mr Barton has been able to represent and advocate for the industry and is now seeing the industry as a whole. This motion goes to the fact that it is not just the taxi industry, it is the whole industry. It is all of those contractors. Whether they are driving an Uber or a DiDi, whether they are driving for Amazon or whether they are driving for Menulog or whoever they may be contracted to, they need the same protections.
Last week I was at the memorial for workers who have died, and it is one of the most moving memorials that you can ever witness, where you watch in silence as shoes are placed on stools in memory of each person who has died in a workplace accident.
Those numbers are going to grow because—and it seems remarkable that we had not done it before—we did not actually count road accidents in workplace deaths up until quite recently so we are now seeing that. We are now seeing the people that Mr Barton is working to protect through this motion being reflected in that memorial. Now their shoes are on a stool to be remembered, and if we do not do something, we will just keep having to put more shoes on more stools.
We need to introduce ways to protect that emerging cohort of workers. You know, this is not reinventing the wheel. This is not doing something that is out there. This is not doing something that is actually all that unusual. In fact New South Wales has done it. From both sides of the house it gets bipartisan support. For some reason I am hearing people in this chamber saying that we do not need it, we have got adequate protections—we do not. We do not have adequate protections. In fact we have very few protections for these workers, and we certainly need to be able to set minimum standards.
The minimum wage at the moment is $20.30 or something. I suspect that many of those delivery people would dream about getting the minimum wage. They would dream about it. They do not have even the basic minimum working conditions that most workers just assume would never be taken away from them. Quite rightly we are arguing for increases on the minimum wage, but here we are talking about workers who do not even have the privilege of being able to call to receive the minimum wage, do not have the privilege to be able to call to have proper meal breaks to ensure that they can work safely. We call them subcontractors, and I think the gig economy is changing the way we work. It is changing, and there is no point trying to put our head in the sand to say that it is not happening. It is changing and so our regulations and our enforcement have to reflect that.
I guess from my perspective, I draw on what we are doing with sex work. We have decriminalised sex work, but that is actually about providing greater protections to those workers who are self-employed. That is about the government recognising that those workers, even though they are self-employed or they may be subcontractors, need protection. They need workplace health and safety regulations and requirements to protect them and the people that they may work with. Drivers are no different. Drivers need that protection, and there should be a body to ensure that that happens.
We heard Ms Terpstra and Ms Shing speak about the various court cases on this, but I think we should also be really turning to what we have seen in New South Wales—what they have been able to do in setting minimum rates for some of these workers and what they have been able to do in setting work conditions which will improve the safety outcomes. You know, we see those ads about the reason we have these rules. It is so that people do not just work safely they come home safely—they come home through that door. It is those ads you see on television about someone coming home to their family that really get to the point of our regulations in this community. And if we are a modern society, then we must be extending those protections, extending those rights, to all workers.
I think Mr Barton is being progressive in this motion, in recognising that this economy is here to stay. The technological revolution will change the way we work and will change the relationship between employers and employees. It is changing, and that is, probably sadly for some, inevitable. But introducing a tribunal such as this will provide a voice, will provide a really balanced voice, and it will be able to establish those protections so we are not seeing more shoes on stools at our memorials.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Mr Barton’s motion 11/5/22