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Pokies and pubs group gives to Victorian parties

Wed, Feb 5, 12:13pm by Noah Taylor

Victoria’s pokies and pubs lobby gave a record $761,000 to the Daniel Andrews-led ALP as part of a $1 million campaign to deny the Greens the balance of power at the state election last November.

The Age reports the Australian Electoral Commission disclosures on Monday revealed the Australian Hotels Association made the extraordinary donation to state Labor in 2018-19 while also giving $190,000 to the Victorian Liberals and $181,000 to the Nationals.

The association’s donation to Labor was a four-fold increase on the $171,000 it gave Labor before the 2014 election.

As The Age revealed in March, the AHA imposed a special one-off levy on Victorian pub poker machines to bankroll donations to Labor and the Coalition parties.

It also funded independents who preferenced the major parties.

The gaming industry feared that if the Greens won the balance of power in Victoria, they would push to implement strong anti-pokies policies, including phasing poker machines out of pubs and clubs and introducing $1 maximum bets.

The community clubs sector, including football clubs, also contributed to Labor’s thumping victory and the routing of the Greens, with its first state election campaign aimed at encouraging the 600,000 members of its gaming clubs to vote for the major parties.

The AHA has been the main lobby over many years opposing the introduction of a container deposit scheme in Victoria.

On Sunday, on the eve of the commission’s annual donations disclosure, the Victorian government let it be known it would introduce such a scheme, with consumers who return drink bottles and cans to recoup 10 cents per container. The scheme will be made public within the month, but won’t be operational until 2023.

Mr Andrews, who was gaming minister in the Bracks-Brumby government, is well known in Labor circles for his friendly relationship with the AHA.

On Monday, he would not comment on the donation.

Developer Woodman is a political donor

AHA Victoria chief executive Paddy O’Sullivan also declined to answer questions directly about the size of its donations or the reasons for them.

“The AHA supports political candidates, sitting MPs and political parties who show an empathy for our industry and a willingness to consult,” Mr O’Sullivan said.

The AHA is the major lobby for pubs, hospitality and gaming, with members including Woolworths’ majority-owned ALH group, Australia’s biggest poker machine venue operator, and the James Packer-backed Crown Resorts.

The AEC figures also confirm that both the ALP and Liberals received donations in 2018-19 from John Woodman, the controversial developer and planner at the centre of the Casey land scandal.

Mr Woodman’s planning consultancy Watsons Pty Ltd disclosed donations of $44,000 to the ALP Victorian branch for the 2018 state election, $12,000 to Labor for the federal poll and $20,000 to the federal Liberals.

But Mr Woodman has publicly confirmed donating almost $160,000 for the November state election, most of which has not been disclosed by the AEC because most of his donations were under the threshold of $13,800.

Mr Woodman allegedly bribed certain Casey councillors for lucrative planning outcomes and his use of political donations to curry favour with politicians has been a key issue at the recent anti-corruption hearings over the scandal.

Labor state secretary Clare Burns would not be interviewed about either AHA or Woodman donations.

Instead she emailed a written statement indicating the party would keep the Woodman money.

“All donations to Victorian Labor are accepted, reported and recorded in line with legal requirements,” she said in writing.

The Liberal Party has not yet responded.


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