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On 24 May 2018, State Labor MP Stephen Kamper spoke in Parliament. His constituents wanted to know why Government, which was happy to wipe out the taxi industry overnight through the introduction of Uber, had been entirely unwilling to make a decision on so-called ‘home sharing’. Kamper provided copy to the Sydney Morning Herald - published 05/06/18. Kamper was firmly on the side of the disrupter, Airbnb. Was the SMH under pressure from a high-powered Airbnb delegation to publish his article?

The Hon Member for Rockdale, Steve Kamper argued that influential lobby groups had been actively fighting reforms on behalf of major hotel chains. What Kamper failed to mention to the Parliament or the Herald was that he appears to have connections with Airbnb’s Regional Policy Director for Asia Pacific Brent Thomas. Indeed, in an inaugural speech or three to NSW and Federal Parliaments one finds Kamper and Brent Thomas singled out for special mention. And Kamper’s thrust to State Parliament that Moms and dads who want to rent their houses will know how deeply the state government is in the pocket of the great end of the city” ie, the Hotel Industry, sounds like a direct quote from Airbnb’s US marketing department.

In a report this week, Tourism Research Australia finds the accommodation sector has shrunk significantly, “with platforms such as Airbnb potentially affecting the viability of traditional accommodation businesses... Between mid-2013 and mid-2018, 418 accommodation businesses went to the wall”. The brutal social and financial impacts and loss of jobs and income due to illegal short-term rentals are known all too well by many of our small, accredited accommodation providers.

Due no doubt to continuing global coverage of murders, human/drug trafficking, money laundering, fraud, the abuse and deaths of children, plus other illegal activities in its short-term rental properties, Airbnb has held ‘Safety Roadshows’ in Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne. The carefully staged events have brought together “trusted Australian organisations” including Crime Stoppers Australia, Surf Life Saving Australia, Kidsafe, and the Centre for Internet Safety. Beachside venues have provided photo opportunities aplenty: “We (Airbnb) are very much focussed on continually finding new ways to make our platform even more safe for both hosts and guests.” Of course no mention was made of the safety of and opportunities for the Neighbours of short-term rental properties.

In his private members statement, Steve Kamper spoke passionately about the ‘little guy in the taxi industry bashed out of the park’ and pitted these taxi drivers against ‘ordinary people who are seeing an opportunity to open up their homes to visitors (to) make some extra cash’…just like one of his constituents, Claire, whose duplex at 90 Forest Road Arncliffe, has 19 beds in 7 bedrooms and will host big groups @ $600/night ($4,200/week). Parking for up to 19 vehicles on busy Forest Road? No. Or Wendy, with three listings – her townhouse, “Thanksgiving”, will accommodate 6 guests in one bedroom. Airbnb’s Sky has a Garden House at Penshurst for 12 clients and 23 other Airbnb listings. And George has two homes: a house at Macquarie Fields for 16+ guests plus another for 16+ guests in 3 bedrooms.

Stephen Kamper to the Parliament: “Responsible operators within the home sharing industry, such as Airbnb, already provide their own oversight and will remove irresponsible home sharers who receive a certain number of substantiated complaints from their neighbours.”

Our experience is that Airbnb doesn’t even acknowledge complaints, let alone remove listings, even where the short-term rental of the residential dwelling is a clear breach of NSW Land and Environment Court Orders. Would the Hon Stephen Kamper provide examples of Airbnb delisting properties, or is this an example of misleading Parliament?

NSW MPs, one must really compare property listings, which are very, very frequently channelled by local ‘landlords’ through the Chinese website Tujli, a portal for Tripping, which redirects one to Trip Advisor and back to Airbnb. Occupancy numbers will very, very often well exceeds Australian Building Codes and Fire & Rescue benchmarks. An example:

Yes, thoroughly rotten is the NSW Government’s aim to turn every home into an overcrowded, non-compliant Airbnb.

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