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Political parties receive hefty donations from hotels body

Mon, Feb 4, 11:46am by Staff Writer

Political parties have reaped the benefits of a generous hotels sector after it was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald that the Australian Hotels Association is the second largest political donor in Australia.

The associations declared political gifts have leaped from A$153,000 in 2016-17 to A$1.1 million last financial year.

Their newfound generosity was focused on the Tasmanian division of the Liberal Party, which received A$289,000.

The Tasmanian Libs were fighting off a plan from the opposition Labor Party that promised to ban poker machines in the state’s pubs.

The political party’s top five declared donors all had poker machine interests and gave the party A$513,750 in 2017-18 according to data from the Australian Electoral Commission.

Further donations came from mainland gambling interests including A$2,750 from Tabcorp.

The Liberal Party only had to declare the source of $950,000 of its $4.1 million in donations because they are not compelled to declare donors who give less than A$13,500.

Tasmanian author and historian James Boyce has written extensively about the state’s poker machine gambling.

Mr Boyce said: “The [Tasmanian] election as a test case. We know what happens when a political party dares to campaign against the poker machine industry. Your political opponents will be given whatever they as for to destroy you. They used that money to buy up all the available advertising space.”

Tasmanian federal MP Andrew Wilkie, an opponent of poker machines vented his frustration at the lax disclosure regulations regarding political donations.

“This is a mind-blowing amount of money in itself. But it’s all the more alarming when you consider all of the spending that isn’t disclosed,” Mr Wilkie said.

“No big political donor hands over money without expecting a return on that investment and the poker machine industry sure did hit paydirt at last year’s state election.

The Alliance for Gambling Reform’s director, the Reverend Tim Costello, said it was disappointing to see that the Australian Hotels Association and Clubs NSW had made collectively A$1.3 million in political donations.

“Since the NSW Coalition first signed the notorious Memorandum of Understanding with Clubs NSW before the 2011 state election, when you include free or subsidised venue hire, I suspect the clubs industry in NSW has delivered as much as A$5 million to the Coalition parties and their candidates, much of it undisclosed,” he said.

In 2017-18, the NSW Labor Party took A$50,260 from Clubs NSW and A$2,690 from the Star.

The Victorian branch of the Electrical Trades Union is the largest donor this year, donating A$1.3 million to the federal Labor Party, the Victorian Labor Party and the Greens.

Labor has seemingly backed off pokies stance

Last year’s Tasmanian election was won by the incumbent Liberal Party, which staved off a fierce campaign from the Labor Party to ban poker machines from pubs and clubs by 2023.

Since the election result, the policy appears to have been swept under the carpet by the Labor Party.

It was not mentioned in Ms White’s budget reply speech to the Tasmanian parliament in July 2018.

Health, education, affordable housing and government transparency were among the many topics discussed, in what Labor described as its list of “key priorities”.

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.”

The Tasmanian Labor Party picked up three seats in the most recent election, but needed six to win back government.

Just after the election Ms White was asked whether or not the party’s pokies stance was too strong and cost her the election.

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,” White said.

“The future of poker machines was no in the hands of the Tasmania parliament,” she said.

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