New South Wales Police are looking into reports of a federal senator’s Airbnb holiday home being rented out well after coronavirus travel restrictions were put in place.
Labor senator Deborah O’Neill has confirmed the property was hers, but said she has now taken action to ensure the home is only available to essential workers.
The Daily Telegraph has reported the property hosted paying guests in recent weeks and at least one review on the Airbnb page, dated April 2020, mentions coronavirus-related travel restrictions.
One reviewer raved about how the property’s manager “helped us organise a weekend away for our friends who had to postpone their wedding due to COVID-19.”
Senator O’Neill said she had restricted bookings to her $310-per-night property so only essential workers would be allowed to stay there from now on.
“All bookings made are clearly informed … that occupants must comply with the recent changes to the law due to COVID-19,” she said in a statement.
“Unless someone is an essential service worker, all future bookings have been cancelled.”
NSW Police confirmed they had received a report over the home, but it is not clear whether the actions of guests, or the senator herself, were being looked into.
NSW Health Minister Brad Hazzard said he was concerned by the reports.
“If it’s true then it’s disappointing, to say the least,” he said.
But Shadow Treasurer Walt Secord said there were clear differences between Senator O’Neill’s case and that of former NSW arts minister Don Harwin, who resigned after spending time at his holiday home against travel restrictions.
“The Airbnb issue involving Deborah O’Neill was dumb and silly, but I know that she’s rectified it now,” he said.
“But you cannot compare that to what Don Harwin did. He drove back and forth three times and police felt that his infraction was enough to get a $1,000 fine.”
At a federal level, Government MP Andrew Laming was reluctant to criticise Senator O’Neill.
“I’d back Deb O’Neill on this one,” he said.
“Ultimately it’s up to the individual to make sure that if they leave their home it’s for an essential purpose.”
Mr Laming said he also owned a holiday rental property and had no idea who, if anyone, was staying there at the moment.