Labor senator rented out beachside Airbnb in lockdown
A federal Labor senator for NSW had paying guests staying in her oceanfront Airbnb on the Central Coast during the strict coronavirus lockdown period.
The Saturday Telegraph can reveal Senator Deborah O'Neill let out a $310-a-night getaway at Copacabana from April 6 to 8, despite tough stay-at-home rules being in place from March 30 to slow the spread of COVID-19.
Bookings were still being accepted as of yesterday but after inquiries from The Telegraph the senator pledged she would only accept essential workers going forward.
Ms O'Neill's spokeswoman confirmed guests stayed from April 6 to 8 but would not say for what purpose.
State and federal leaders have been in lockstep banning holiday-makers travelling to the coast.
In an initial response to The Telegraph, Ms O'Neill said "all bookings made are clearly informed via automated-generated email response (Airbnb) and notice on websites (Stayz) that occupants must comply with the recent changes to the law due to COVID-19."
She later added that "unless someone is an essential service worker, all future bookings have been cancelled".
The use of a short-term rental is not strictly illegal under COVID-19 rules. However, unless customers are there for reasons such as work, they would almost certainly be contravening the Health Act by visiting.
Police Minister David Elliott last night would not rule out referring the matter to NSW Police. "It's extremely disappointing that this Labor politician has refused to heed the ongoing warnings," Mr Elliott said.
"Only a week ago her Labor colleagues were calling for blood for a similar indiscretion and I would expect Jodi McKay and Anthony Albanese to demand the same response from Senator O'Neill as they demanded from Don Harwin.
"All landlords have a responsibility to adhere to not only the legal obligations of the Health Act but also the spirit of the law," he said.
The office of federal Labor leader Mr Albanese did not respond to repeated requests for comment last night.
A company filing for Ms O'Neill lists the Copacabana property as her address.
Her pecuniary interests filing with parliament says she has just one property in Copacabana - a residence, not an investment.
Ms O'Neill's spokeswoman would not comment when asked if the senator was also staying at the property when the guests were there.
Labor came out in force against Mr Harwin, including Central Coast state Labor MP Liesl Tesch, who urged travel to the coast cease.
Ms O'Neill's guesthouse, named Copa Cabana, is described on Airbnb as the "perfect couples retreat", with a pool, hot tub and sauna.
It was bought by Ms O'Neill and her husband in 2001 for $425,000.
The most recent review of Copa Cabana is a young woman who wrote it was "amazing".
It is one of three reviews posted in April, although guests have up to 14 days after their stay to post their opinion.
Another April reviewer wrote that Ms O'Neill's husband "helped us organise a weekend away for our friends who had to postpone their wedding due to COVID-19".
Originally published as Labor senator rented out beachside Airbnb in lockdown