Published: 28 May 2018

Legislative Council Tuesday 22 May, 2018

Ms  FORREST  (Murchison) - Mr President, access to housing and the rise of the sharing economy in short-term accommodation through Airbnb, Stayz and other platforms has been raised many times with me as a member of this place.  People are facing some serious challenges with this.  It is not only their competing with other accommodation providers about which I have had much representation; it is also about people not being able to get rental accommodation in some of our smaller communities because these houses are not available for long term rentals.

I am constantly reminded by many of my constituents that Tasmania has the most relaxed and lenient approach to this, and the member for Launceston referred to some of those things.  There is no doubt in my mind this is an area of significant concern to tourism operators and also those looking for rental accommodation around our state.  It certainly is not limited to Hobart or Launceston or anywhere, it is right around our state.  I have spoken to people on the east coast, the west coast, down here and in the north-west and they are the same concerns.  The lack of a level playing field, which is the whole regulatory framework that it exists under, is one of the key matters being raised.

I believe there needs to be a review of the framework in which Airbnb and other accommodation sharing platforms are existing.  We cannot wind back the clock and I do not think we should try to - progress is there.  There are many forms of the sharing economy, if you want to call it that, that have many benefits.  If you are trying to say that you do not like it and you do not want it to happen then you may as well just stand still.  It just does not happen.

We have to look at how we make it an effective and competitive process in which for everyone - if they are competing for a space in either rental accommodation or in holiday accommodation letting - it is an even playing field where similar requirements, if not the same requirements, exist across accommodation providers.  Personally, I do not have a direct interest in this area at all; I may have in the future.  I do not think many of us may have now but could have in the future because as these kinds of platforms become available, it is one of those things that we all tend to get involved in, in one way or another. 

Many of my constituents are very unhappy with what is going on at the moment.  It needs a good look at.  Is it our role to do it?  Should the Government be doing this?  These are questions I ask myself.  It is an appropriate thing for the Legislative Council to look at but the Government should be doing some work on it too.  Hopefully it will listen to the outcomes of the committee if this inquiry is supported.  It is a fairly big body of work to be done because it covers a whole range of areas.

I looked at the motion carefully when it was tabled by the member for Launceston.  My view is that most of these things should be able to be dealt with under our Government Administration Committees which, I accept, are not set up again yet.  However, this one does fit more into a select committee approach because it goes across Committee A and Committee B:  you have tourism, planning and housing, potentially.  When there is that crossover, it probably fits better with a select committee.

Those things said, I intend to support the motion.  It is a serious concern for many around the state.  I hope the Government participates in this and supports it, in many ways.  Change needs to be made but it needs to be made in a well-considered way, not just following what other jurisdictions have done because the challenges can be different in different places. 

Assuming the committee is established, I wish the committee members well because it is an important area.  I hope that the committee visits all parts of the state because I have had significant representation from the west coast and Circular Head on this.  It is important that it is not seen to be merely Hobart-based or Launceston-based because it is not.

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