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Federal Labor denies meddling in Tasmania’s pokies plan

Mon, May 13, 12:04pm by Staff Writer

The federal Labor Party did not put pressure on Tasmania’s Labor Opposition to scrap its polarising poker machine policy that was taken to the 2018 state election.

The Examiner is reporting that federal Deputy Leader Tanya Plibersek has denied the claims, after independent Andrew Wilkie wrote in an opinion piece in the Sydney Morning Herald in February that it was an “open secret” in Canberra that federal Labor was “shamefully applying pressure” to Opposition Leader Rebecca White to abandon the policy.

Less than a week later, Ms White announced the Labor Party would not be persisting with the policy in Tasmania.

Labor leader Rebecca White told ABC Hobart in February that her party could no longer pursue its policy of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs by 2023, because the Hodgman Liberal Government was planning to bring in legislation for a new license deed in this term.

Last year’s Tasmanian election was won by the incumbent Liberal Party. Despite picking up three seats in the election, Labor needed six to win back government.

In her budget reply to the Tasmanian parliament in July 2018, Ms White didn’t mention the controversial policy, leading many to believe at the time that it had been abandoned.

When the ABC asked explicitly about the pokies policy Ms White said: “The Tasmanian Labor Party remains firmly committed to the policy position we took at the last election.”

In the wash up from defeat in the election, Ms White was asked whether or not the party’s pokies stance was too strong and cost her victory.

In response she said: “I know, and the Labor Party knows, that our decision to take this issue to this election was the right thing to do for the health of our communities and for the economy of Tasmania,” Ms White said.

Ms White and Labor’s recent back down comes after she made comments shortly after the March 2018 election that renewed Labor’s commitment to remove poker machines from the state.

Ms White did not reveal whether Labor would oppose the new license deed when it comes before parliament, only that the party would wait to see the legislation and assess whether improvements could be made in areas such as harm minimisation.

“The fact of the matter is once they [bring forward legislation], we’re not going to be able to continue to pursue our policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs because there’ll be a new deal struck until 2043,” Ms White said

Ms Plisbersek denied the ALP was beholden to the national gambling lobby and said state Labor had “made all of their decisions independently.”

“It’s completely a matter for the Tasmanian ALP,” she said.

“It has nothing to do with us federally.”

“[State Labor has] made their decisions themselves.

“I thought Bec White was very brave in [pursuing the policy] and that there were clear harms associated with [problem gambling].”

Tassie casino workers receive backpay for training

The Advocate is reporting that workers at Tasmania’s two casinos will receive back pay for compulsory problem gambling training they did in their own time.

Up to 800 workers will be paid between $100 and $150 after United Voice lodged a dispute with the Fair Work Commission last year about the lack of payment for training.

The secretary of United Voice Jannette Armstrong said the commission’s ruling meant casino workers would be back paid for compulsory training they were instructed to take in their own time.

Ms Armstrong said that both the Country Club and Wrest Point casinos had agreed to pay workers for time spent in training for Responsible Conduct of Gambling courses and committee to paying workers for future training.

“It was wrong that Federal Group expected workers to not be remunerated for compulsory training that is a very important requirement of their day-to-day work,” Ms Armstrong said.

“The time spent registering, training and doing this assessment takes four to six hours for employees to complete. This should never, ever have been unpaid work.”

Ms Armstrong said the union had also asked that a full audit of all training practices at both casinos be conducted.

She said she hoped the audit would establish further details on the number of workers who would receive back pay.

The union estimates that between 400 to700 employees are affected and the cost of lost wages for unpaid training hours since 2013 could be up to A$120,000.

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