Editorial: Sharing is scaring industries’ status quo

FROM the time we are toddlers, we are taught to share.

But the notion of making a personal sacrifice to benefit someone else can be difficult to grasp, even in adulthood.

Adding even more complexity is when the act of sharing has a direct and measurable negative effect on another party.

It is at this point the well-known mantra “sharing is caring” is more accurately described as “sharing is scaring”.

Companies like Airbnb and Uber have at their heart the principle of sharing.

In Airbnb’s case, it connects property owners willing to share – for a fee, of course – their unit, house or even castle – with strangers.

Similarly, Uber relies on people with a car willing to drive those without around.

If it all sounds innocent enough, it was – until each of the American-based tech companies grew so large, so rapidly that they began posing a threat to long-established sectors.

You see, neither Airbnb nor Uber were reinventing the wheel with their business ideas.

They simply took tried and true services and gave them a polish.

There is no shortage of hotels and motels around the place to provide temporary accommodation to travellers, and there is a glut of taxis in many cities around the world.

But both Airbnb and Uber were able to use technological advances – primarily the advent of the smart phone – to provide these services in a way that people in the 21st century want.

The result of this sharing economy is that the hotel-motel and taxi industries are, if not under immediate threat, certainly having their market share eroded in many jurisdictions.

Bendigo Motels Association president Simon Wurf has been calling for the government to address the double standard his sector experiences.

While hotel and motel owners must abide by a strict regulations or risk being closed down, Airbnb hosts have not been required to meet any such obligations.

Similarly, a few short years ago the state’s taxi drivers were paying $500,000 per license from the government for the right to operate, while Uber drivers pay nothing.

Governments should not stand in the way of progress, but they have a responsibility to ensure they move quickly to address gross inequality in the marketplace.

- Ross Tyson, deputy editor