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Residents woke this morning to the disclosure of another NSW politician embroiled in the short-term rental of a residential property. News Corp reported that Federal Labor Senator Deborah O’Neill rented out her Copacabana holiday home from 6-8 April despite social distancing rules being in place from 30 March. The SMH reports that (Labor) NSW shadow treasure Walt Secord has defended his Federal colleague, saying:

Senator Deborah O’Neill’s Airbnb controversy should not be compared to the former NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin’s breach of the public health act.”

Photographs of Senator O’Neill’s Copacabana Airbnb rental are splashed across the media. The Daily Mail reports that NSW Police Minister David Elliott said Ms O'Neill's actions were 'disappointing'. And while declaring that he too owned a holiday rental property, Queensland Federal Liberal National Party MP Andrew Laming said he ‘backed’ Ms O’Neill’s decision to rent to Airbnb clients during a pandemic and “urged those hailing criticism at Ms O’Neill to ‘back off’”. The ABC meanwhile is reporting that NSW Police are looking into Ms O’Neill’s activities.

Deborah O’Neill’s Australian Senate Statement of registerable interests indicates that she owns a total of five properties: 1 in NSW, 1 in the ACT, 2 in Tasmania and 1 in Queensland – “income from investments properties listed”. There appears to be no mention of the fact that three of the five properties – Copacabana NSW, Kingston ACT, and Stanley TAS are listed under husband Paul’s name as short-term Airbnb rentals.

To date, current and former NSW MPs who have had their commercial short-term rentals exposed by the Media include:

A spouse is often the one behind whom such Airbnb/Stayz activity is camouflaged. An unknown number of legislators and policy makers at Federal, State and Local Government level would appear to be profiting from an activity which the NSW Land and Environment Court judges to be “fundamentally incompatible” when mixed with permanent residents, with the effect on neighbours judged as “severe”. Our Courts not only finds such behaviour as that displayed by these MPs and others as defying common sense, it also deems that their activity undermines the planning regime and ultimately our State. Or, as one correspondent wrote today of Ms O’Neill’s three Airbnb listings: “Disgusting.”

Legislators everywhere are using the COVID-19 pandemic as their catalyst to step in and finally ban the likes of Airbnb. Here in NSW, so far, all calls for action have fallen on deaf ears. Wonder why?

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