An article in yesterday’s Daily Telegraph misquoted Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s short-term rental, Dungowan Estate, at $1,850/night. A minimum two-night-stay in January will in fact set one back $4,899 - or $2,450/night. Happy tidings! The Telegraph’s reporters also wrote of a major Media campaign being waged by Airbnb against Premier Berejiklian and her Deputy in an attempt to stave off enforcement action that would see short-term rental operators comply with Federal and State Legislation, as well as good old Residential Zoning. John Barilaro, in a ‘scathing slapdown’, accused Airbnb of exploiting the drought to boost profits and added that it was ‘unfair of the multinational to target him as he was unable to influence government policy due to his conflict of interest’. “As a holder of public office, I take no issue with being the target of public campaigns,” he wrote. “But what I do object to is a multinational conglomerate, headquartered in San Francisco no less, exploiting the current situation in regional NSW to further its profit margins.”

In November 2016 John Barilaro came under fire for his undisclosed Airbnb business. Barilaro and wife Deanna, who manages Dungowan Estate, purchased the property in July 2014. In 2015 John Barilaro held the positions of Minister for Regional Tourism and Regional Development. From 2014-2017 Barilaro was also Minister for Small Business. In 2015 the State Government’s Destination NSW signed a partnership with Expedia, which owns Stayz. Stayz, along with Airbnb, lists Barilaro’s short-term rental property.

During a Parliamentary Inquiry into the Adequacy of the Regulation of Short-Term Letting in NSW, no mention was made of our Deputy Premier’s operations and connections, nor of those short-term rental properties owned by other State National Party MPs. And Destination NSW’s collaboration with Expedia, Stayz, Airbnb etc was at no time disclosed during the Inquiry. Subsequently, with their short-term rental properties listed on NSW Land and Environment Court Orders for the “Illegal Use of Residential Premises”, and despite clear conflicts of interests, John Barilaro’s former National Party colleagues voted on short-term letting legislation in the NSW Parliament: Those known included Thomas George [#nswlec 14/40923 – 1411] and Kevin Humphries [#nswlec 14/40923 – 807]. Fellow cohort John Williams [#nswlec 14/40923 – 502] had earlier lost his National Party State seat of Murray-Darling.

As Minister for Tourism, John Barilaro is also said to have “failed to declare Dungowan Estate as a conflict of interest when he tabled a petition from adjoining Nerriga Road residents regarding the sealing of that road, for which Mr Barilaro received government funding. In 2017 Mr Barilaro also failed to declare that he had received a $10,000 donation from former Nationals Member for Monaro, Peter Cochran, who runs a horse trek company in the Snowy Mountains. Mr Barilaro back flipped on a previous commitment to cull feral horses in the Kosciuszko National Park, but reversed this decision after being lobbied by Mr Cochran.” The Deputy Premier’s office in Sydney was contacted for comment by the Braidwood Times, but “failed to respond…”

In August 2018 representatives from the NSW Approved Accommodation Accord met with Executives from the NSW Small-Business Commissioner’s Office and outlined the impacts Airbnb, Stayz, Destination NSW etc were having on their livelihoods. A commitment to take the issue to Minister Barilaro was given. At the time the Minister’s conflict of interest was raised. Nothing further was received from either the Minister or his Bureaucrats. While ministerial responsibilities, a parliamentary inquiry and report backs would normally see comment and/or support from a Minister of the State, not one word from John Barilaro can be found on Hansard or elsewhere on the contentious issue of illegal short-term rentals. Barilaro is though very proud of his Airbnb co-host, Deanna Barilaro, “the official ‘naming mother’ of the Svitzer Ruby”…supporting LNG imports, but not supporting small approved accommodation providers in NSW.

Airbnb has recently undertaken to verify all 7 million of their listings. When Airbnb’s Brent Thomas last granted a meeting, he was able to retrieve from his laptop a copy of Land and Environment Court Orders. Among the properties banned were [#nswlec 14/40923 – 1510] and [#nswlec 14/40923 – 1412]. Airbnb may say that it verifies some listings, by perhaps matching photos of a property when last sold, but it is steadfastly refusing to remove illegal listings from its site. And Brent Thomas is another who doesn’t respond to correspondence; an established strategy of Airbnb’s. With maximum festive season profits just ahead, John Barilaro is surely smiling.

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