AN INVITATION TO AIRBNB WHISTLEBLOWERS
A media search of Airbnb ‘news’ over the last 24 hours features, in every language imaginable, one outstanding topic: Airbnb is making a quarter of its global workforce redundant…laying off 1,900 employees due to a decline in demand. And in an open call to ex-Airbnb employees, Inside Airbnb, which has been monitoring Airbnb’s operations and data scraping since 2014 for the benefit of legislators worldwide, is calling on former staff to provide evidence of systematic evasion of laws and misleading of governments that Airbnb has relied upon as a foundation of its business model. Whistleblowers can ‘direct message’ Inside Airbnb via Twitter, or email email@example.com.
Talking of whistleblowers, in 2016 the Sydney Morning Herald’s State Political Correspondent (now ABC Four Corners reporter) Sean Nicholls blew the lid on Deputy Premier John Barilaro and wife’s multi-million dollar Dungowan Estate at Corang. While Mr Barilaro had declared ownership of the home to Parliament two years earlier, only after Fairfax Media raised questions did the Deputy Premier amend his register of interests to declare business use of the property.
John Barilaro’s same 2016 disclosure statement to Parliament had, amongst numerous properties, a residential apartment listed – 905/2 Hosking Place Sydney (shouldn’t that be 905/1, Deputy Premier?) – which was right next door to an apartment owned by fellow State National Party Minister Adam Marshall MP. They weren’t the only State MPs from Upper and Lower Houses who owned apartments in this building; and said residential building is littered still with many an Airbnb listing. Building Management Staff were approached and asked who was driving the use of residential units as Airbnbs. The response then was along the lines of: ‘Look to the top of Martin Place and what do you see? State Parliament.’ Adam Marshall sold his Hosking Place pad in August 2019. John Barilaro’s apartment was reportedly last sold in 2012 however it no longer appears on the Honourable Member’s declaration to Parliament. We wrote to John Barilaro – twice - asking if he had disposed of the Hosking Place property and if he had Development Approval for his Airbnb and wedding reception operations at Dungowan Estate; no response was forthcoming.
Fast forward to today and the Sydney Morning Herald’s “’Gross hypocrisy’: Barilaro accused of double standards over farm visit”, ABC’s “Police drop investigation into NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro’s farm trip”…”family farm at Nerriga…feed chickens, mow lawns, tend to maintenance”. Also running the same story: The Guardian, 9News, Australian Financial Review, Daily Mail, The Australian etc. John Barilaro’s statement: “My property in Nerriga…is an acreage which require maintenance.” Barilaro wasn’t there “to move the cows”. Nerriga is close, but it isn’t Corang, although it is photographs of Corang and Dungowan Estate that media outlets are running today. And the Deputy Premier’s $5 million Airbnb doesn’t appear to farm chickens or cows or seem suitable even for a child’s cubby house.
We’re simply asking – although no MP ever answers our questions: Is ‘Nerriga’ and ‘the farm’ yet another property that doesn’t appear on John Barilaro’s current register of disclosure to the NSW Parliament?
As recently as 29 April, Airbnb’s Australian country manager Susan Wheeldon told the ABC that to date, “we (Airbnb) have not seen a material drop in the overall number of listings on our platform”. It would be excellent if the Airbnb staffers that have been cut adrift would come forward and finally tell the truth. Whistleblowers, honestly: Twitter or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Homes not Hotels Communities not Transit Zones People before Profits Neighbours not Strangers