‘An attack on aspirational Victorians’: Liberals slam potential Airbnb tax

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The state opposition is accusing the government of plotting to inflict further pain on aspirational Victorians after Premier Daniel Andrews failed to rule out additional taxes on landlords who let their properties via short-term rental platforms like Airbnb

Andrews on Sunday continued to insist that a shortfall in the supply of housing, rather than tax, was to blame for high rents and that his government was re-elected to make difficult decisions.

Premier Daniel Andrews speaking to the media on Sunday. Credit: Wayne Taylor

The opposition attack comes after The Age revealed on Sunday that Labor MPs were pushing for an Airbnb crackdown to ease the rental crisis in areas such as the Mornington Peninsula.

Capping the number of nights landlords can list their properties, imposing a “tourist tax” or empowering local councils to charge higher commercial rates are among options on the table, according to MPs involved in early discussions.

Asked about a state Airbnb levy on Sunday, Andrews said he wasn’t going to get into the business of “ruling in and ruling out” specifics of his government’s future housing reforms. Legislation is expected to be unveiled in a few months.

“We’ll announce the housing statement when it’s finished,” the premier said.

“I know people want to know about these things. But it was very difficult to deliver a budget that had all of our election commitments, a COVID debt repayment plan, and put down a really comprehensive and thoughtful housing statement all in one.”

Opposition tourism spokesman Sam Groth on Sunday accused the government of wanting to “double dip” on people’s incomes, given this month’s state budget hit landlords with an increase to land tax.

“Another tax is not going to do anything to encourage people to head out to the regions,” he said. “I fully believe that this tax is an attack on aspirational Victorians. Attacking those who’ve done their little bit to get ahead.”

The first-term Liberal MP, who represents the Mornington Peninsula, acknowledged tensions were high over the number of short-stay rentals in his seat of Nepean. But he insisted a new tax was not the solution.

“The government should be doing their job in making sure that they actually provide more houses.”

Just 2.2 per cent of rental properties on the peninsula were vacant last month, according to Domain data, making it difficult for local businesses to attract and retain staff.

The debate comes as state MPs prepare for a parliamentary sitting week in which they’ll be asked to vote on the government’s budget measures.

The Coalition has accused Labor of trying to ram through its more controversial policies – such as ending payroll tax exemptions for high-fee private schools – instead of waiting another fortnight for stakeholders to scrutinise the draft legislation and provide feedback.

Shadow cabinet will meet on Monday to formalise the opposition’s position. Liberal and National MPs are widely expected to vote against Labor’s budget, meaning the government will have to negotiate with the Greens and at least two other crossbench members.

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