In an extraordinary move for someone who should be smoothing the way in the halls of power, Brent Thomas, the Head of Public Policy at Airbnb in Australia, has effectively told the Premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian, that she has no idea about innovation and that her predecessor, Mike Baird, would be doing a much better job.
Why? Thomas, a former Labor Party staffer, is outraged that Airbnb has been unable to get its way in NSW, Australia’s biggest and most lucrative state. There is no question the NSW Government is deserving of criticism for dithering without direction.
It’s frustrating for all concerned to be sure, but the important thing to remember here is that the NSW Government (a Liberal/National Party coalition) is yet to make a final decision, that this issue is in the balance and could go either way.
However, it appears from the comments made by Thomas in an interview with The Australian that he has given up hope.
Otherwise what could possibly be gained from telling a journalist:
“As for NSW, this is the sort of bold fair and progressive reform that Mike Baird would have embraced. He would have recognised the cost of fair regulations was sometimes to upset vested interests. But unfortunately, it seems like that’s not happening.”
(Interpretation – Gladys Berejiklian, you have no idea).
“There are some really draconian options that have been included. So unfortunately, we could we see a situation where NSW takes out the prize for being least innovative state in the country,” he said.
“Let’s hope the sort of boldness that Mike Baird was prepared to embrace isn’t a relic in the past in this Coalition government. The options paper mentioned the word innovation once and it’s in the Minister for Innovation’s title.”
I wonder what his strategy is?
Does Thomas think the NSW government will roll over because an American company – one that has plenty of detractors in the state and is in the process of disrupting the short-term rental market – has attacked its lack of leadership.
That his dubious and transparent barbs about being anti-innovation actually mean anything other than – we didn’t get our way and are now pissed off?
Maybe Thomas and the leaders at Airbnb thinks they have nothing to lose. Yet they clearly do – whatever doors were previously open will now surely be closed. Telling the Premier she has no idea destroys relationships at the very top.
Bizarrely, Thomas was also angry Airbnb was not being admitted to hotel lobby lobby groups.
“We’ve applied to join Tourism Accommodation Australia and the Accommodation Association of Australia, and they’ve said no.
“These bodies purport to represent Australia’s tourism sector. But actually they’re a backward-looking pocket watch brigade that are just protecting the old world big players.”
But he’s got it wrong, though it does make good copy.
Both TAA and the AAA represent hoteliers who are in direct competition with Airbnb, a distribution platform for people to rent their homes, apartments, rooms, treehouses, igloos etc. There is absolutely no reason for them to admit Airbnb as a member.
Thomas said plenty of other stuff as well and his self-interested attack reads like one of those emails you think is funny but realise the minute after it’s been sent that you’ve made a horrible mistake and the joke is on you.
If the laws do eventually get changed in NSW it will be despite, not because of, the comments made by Thomas this week.