An article in this week’s SMH raised serious concerns about Airbnb in NSW. John McInerney, Millers Point Community Residents Action Group, said his organisation was considering “a legal challenge” should Planning Minister Rob Stokes decree open slather on our homes. One submission to the Department of Planning states: “even the Government acknowledges (its proposal) as ‘liberal’ and critics say one of the weakest in the world…Industry capture anyone?” So how deeply has Government in NSW been “penetrated”?
Destination NSW officially ‘tied the knot’ with Expedia/Stayz in August 2015, plus NSW Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres is rooting for Airbnb. And before we start, why isn’t there a single NSW Local Government Authority/administrator/councillor enforcing Residential Zoning? Let’s now try and summarise just some, some of the visible hook-ups:
Expedia/Stayz: Registered Lobbyists are Barton Deakin. Their staff make up the ‘who’s who’ of the Liberal Party. Staff at their “sister company” Hawker-Britton “deals with Labor”. Then there’s Atherton Advisory and Newgate Communications.
Airbnb: Registered Lobbyists are Richardson Coutts - Labor and Liberal connections. (Noted: connection with former Minister Carl Scully’s Chief of Staff…was Airbnb’s Brent Thomas. And Statecraft - not much to see on their website or on Linkedin. Further digging reveals their founder, Michael Priebe, is ex-National Party NSW State Director.
So Airbnb and Expedia/Stayz have all major NSW Parties well ‘covered’ by registered lobbyists. Then there are the ‘senior’ MPs profiting directly: Federal Liberal MP John Alexander, State Nationals Leader/Deputy Premier John Barilaro, and State Labor Leader Jodi McKay.
Director Public Policy Asia Pacific Brent Thomas, joined Airbnb in March 2016, having failed to win a Federal Labor seat in 2010 and then subsequently holding the position of Labor Councillor at Hurstville Council. Lawyer and Councillor: without any doubt, Thomas understands illegal breaches of Residential Zoning. Brent Thomas' recruitment coincided with a State Parliamentary Inquiry into the adequacy of legislation for short-term rentals. The Australian (15/06/17) also linked Mr Thomas with James Zhou and wife of State Member for Kogarah, Chris Minns (who made special mention of Mr Thomas in his inaugural speech to Parliament). Their ‘NoBorders’ operations (Brent Thomas, Director) raised questions: “NSW Labor rising star’s wife, pro-Beijing staffer in China venture.” The connection between James Zhou and Xiangmo Huang was also made. Mr Huang’s Australian visa was subsequently ‘stripped’, with his and others’ dealings now under investigation at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The Australian’s Associate Editor Brad Norington also included in his article Sam Dastyari, Chris Bowen, Ian McNamara, and Ernest Wong.
If that isn’t ‘penetration’ enough, we’ll summarised just a few of Airbnb Brent Thomas’ ‘friends with connections’. We can make further connections with other Airbnb Staff and Gabrielle Upton MP (State Liberal) and Cr Linda Scott (President, Local Government NSW), but for now here are just some of note - see photograph. Those opposing the US$31 billion Airbnb monster - one suspects our Legislators want us to…: