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We Live Here - September 2018

30 Aug 2018

Government ignores Airbnb stabbing death

In stunning scenes in Parliament this month, the Victorian Government passed the weakest legislation for short-term letting ever seen in Australia, to the delight of Airbnb.

In answering questions from The Greens in Parliament, the Trade and Innovation Minister, Philip Dalidakis admitted to Parliament that he visited Airbnb’s office in San Francisco. (Hansard, 7 August 2018, page 46).

It has also been reported by The Age that Premier Daniel Andrews had visited Airbnb in San Francisco in 2015.

Quizzed on the Airbnb stabbing death in the CBD in July, Mr Andrews told ABC Radio: “We certainly would be open to having a look at whether there’s anything we can do from a regulatory point of view.”

Mr Andrews also said that Consumer Affairs Minister Marlene Kairouz was “already doing some work on this”.

However, in Parliament this month, the government passed the same legislation word-for-word that had been rejected by the Upper House as inadequate more than 12 months earlier.

Since the widely-released photograph of the then Minister for Consumer Affairs, Jane Garrett, shaking hands with Airbnb head honcho Brett Thomas on the steps of Parliament, it has been clear that Airbnb has been behind every move the government makes.

And now Airbnb is celebrating the passing of the weakest short-stay legislation in Australia.

One of the recommendations made over 12 months ago was for the government to investigate giving greater powers and resources to Victoria Police to be able to deal with criminal activity in short-stay apartments. However, that recommendation was never acted upon, despite Minister Dalidakis telling Parliament that he considered the issue “core police business”.

The government stated in its policy response that it would conduct a review in 2021 to see whether the new regulations were working and would seek feedback from stakeholders and resident groups at that time. However, this review was not inserted into the Bill and the Labor government could not commit to a review because it might not be in power in 2021.

The Liberal’s Shadow Minister for Planning, David Davis, addressed Parliament to slam the government for reintroducing the same legislation which he labelled “weak, pathetic and a damp squib”.

The Liberal Party told Parliament that it would seek to have this legislation amended if it were to form government at the next election.

Ultimately however, the Liberal Party did not block the passing of the Bill when it came time to vote on the legislation and was absent from the chamber when it was put to the vote.

Tom Bacon, CEO of Strata Title Lawyers said: “The legislation is not worth the paper it is written on. These regulations are the lightest feather of a touch, and do not provide owners’ corporations with any meaningful way of regulating the issues associated with short-term stays. I would not advise owners’ corporations to use these regulations; it would be a costly exercise and a waste of time.”

This parliamentary outcome must rank as one of the worst cases of politicking and back-room deals seen in Parliament.

How can we think otherwise when every speaker on the opposition side condemned the Bill for all the reasons we have articulated over the past three years, then walked out of the House before the vote was taken?

The statements made by Minister Dalidakis and his advisors were feeble and showed how little the government understood the issues that it became an embarrassing spectacle.

Airbnb-taxing Vienna teaches Melbourne a lesson

Vienna, which has a policy of levying a tourism tax on Airbnb, has overtaken Melbourne as the most liveable city in the world. Vienna is also now in a battle with Airbnb, demanding the multinational hand over its Vienna registration data so that the tourism tax can be collected fairly from all operators.

Why doesn’t our state government look to see what is happening overseas? Vienna, New York, London, Tokyo are all taking action – we are not the only city wrestling with this issue.

So again, we invite Daniel Andrews to come and talk to us at We Live Here (now more than 300 buildings are signed up as supporters). We are an organised and passionate group of residents wanting to have our voice heard and includes a large disenfranchised section of the electorate – those who purchased apartments in residential buildings not designed for short-stay quasi hotel-type accommodation.

Time is also running out with the state election looming in a few months. Most of the inner-city seats are held by candidates who support our stance.

We have given the government statistical data, analysis and concrete solutions – all ignored, at its peril. Mr Andrews, please wake up and commit to the following solutions now:

Prescribe a maximum number of days per year for a property to be used for short-stays (such as NSW – 180 days per year, or San Francisco – 90 days per year or New York – minimum stay 30 days); and

Mandate a requirement for a 75 per cent ballot of the owners in owners’ corporations to pass a special resolution in favour of short-stays for the practice to be allowed.

We hope it won’t take another death in an Airbnb apartment before politics is taken out of the debate and the real issues discussed, which the passing of the Bill does nothing to address.

Campaign donations

As a not-for-profit organisation, donations from individuals and buildings keep our campaigns going. To register as a supporter of We Live Here or to make a donation please visit our website at welivehere.net

We Live Here does not accept donations from commercial tourism interests.

We welcome your comments and feedback, and invite suggestions for topics you would like us to include in this column.

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