Melbourne – The trusting economy? How peer-to-peer platforms are changing work, business, and policy

Watch a recording of the event

This event is one of a series on the peer-to-peer economy hosted by the Grattan institute. 

Policymakers around the world are struggling with how to respond to the peer-to-peer economy. Millions of people use online peer-to-peer technologies to find matches for products, work, transport, accommodation and finance. Further afield, hospitals match kidney donors and recipients, and new digital currencies are emerging.

Some talk of a ‘sharing economy’, implying a wholesale alternative to today’s largely market-based system. Others argue that the new platforms erode labour and other community standards. What is sure is that not everyone will emerge a winner: the peer-to-peer economy disrupts existing industries and occupations. The new technologies also challenge policymakers across tax, consumer protection, competition, and community access.

Professor Ian Harper, who recently chaired the national Competition Policy Review, joined Dr Nicholas Gruen, CEO of Lateral Economics and previously chair of the Government 2.0 Taskforce, and Dr Jim Minifie from Grattan Institute in this Policy Pitch discussion about the peer-to-peer economy.

– Why are peer-to-peer platforms so controversial?

– Why have policymakers struggled to respond?

– Do we need policy responses to get the most from these platforms?

– What are the insights from the Competition Policy Review?

– Can lessons from the peer-to-peer economy be applied to the public sector?

– What needs to change in Australia’s competition and consumer policy?


Ian Harper is one of Australia’s best known economists. He has worked closely with governments, banks, corporates and leading professional services firms at the highest level. He recently chaired the Abbott Government’s Competition Policy Review, a “root and branch” review of Australia’s competition policy, laws and regulators, and is often asked to comment on economic and financial issues in the media. In March 2011 Ian joined Deloitte Access Economics as a Partner, following a 25-year academic career including 16 years in various roles at the Melbourne Business School. Ian was elected Emeritus Professor of the University of Melbourne on his departure. From December 2005 to July 2009, Ian Harper served as inaugural Chairman of the Australian Fair Pay Commission, an independent statutory body whose role was to set and adjust minimum wages in Australia.  From January 2011 to February 2012, he was one of three panellists chosen to review Victoria’s state finances. Ian is currently a member of the Australian Advisory Board of Bank of America Merrill Lynch. He was elected a Fellow of the Academy of Social Sciences in Australia in 2000 and a Fellow of the Australian Institute of Company Directors in 2009.

Dr Nicholas Gruen is CEO of Lateral Economics and a widely published policy economist, entrepreneur and commentator on our economy and society and innovation. He was a founding shareholder and Chairman of successful San Francisco based startup, data analytics crowdsourcing platform and is an investor in and advisor to numerous startups in Australia and the US. He has advised Cabinet Ministers, sat on Australia’s Productivity Commission and founded Lateral Economics and Peach Financial. He is chair of the Australian Centre for Social Innovation and the Open Knowledge Foundation (Australia). Until Sept 2014 he was Chair of the Federal Government’s Innovation Australia. He is Patron of the Australian Digital Alliance. 


Dr Jim Minifie is the Productivity Growth Program Director at Grattan. Jim is a leading economist and writer, with a strong grasp of the Australian policy landscape. The program includes work on getting the most from technology and innovation, responding to structural change, and improving productivity in services. Prior to joining Grattan, Jim worked closely with Australian corporate leaders during his seven years as Chief Economist of the Boston Consulting Group.

The State Library Victoria has put together a suggested reading list for this event from their catalogue:

SLV library registration required for the first 2 items. Sign up here. 

(1)  “You Say Illegal, I Say Legitimate: Entrepreneurship in the Informal Economy” in The Academy of Management Review, vol. 34, No. 3 (Jul., 2009), pp. 492-510. Authors: Justin W. Webb, Laszlo Tihanyi, R. Duane Ireland and David G. Sirmon

(2)  Digital culture industry : a history of digital distribution, James Allen-Robertson. Houndsmills, Basingstoke, Hampshire : Palgrave Macmillan, 2013.

(3)   “Airbnb: the travel revolution in our spare rooms“ Guardian Online, 16 Sep 2013.

(4) “There’s an app for that: freelance workers available at a moment’s notice will reshape the nature of companies and the structure of careers” The Economist, Jan 3rd 2015.

(5) Debating the Sharing Economy Juliet Schor, Tellus, 2014