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Tasmanian Labor abandons poker machine policy

Fri, Feb 8, 12:24pm by Staff Writer

One of the Tasmanian Labor Party’s most recent important pieces of election policy has been ditched, almost a year on from their election defeat.

Labor leader Rebecca White told ABC Hobart 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.

Hotel sector gives big donations to Liberal Party

Political parties have reaped the benefits of a generous hotels sector after it was revealed by the Sydney Morning Herald that the Australian Hotels Associations 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.”

Poor disclosure and backflip draw ire of MP Wilkie

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.

Federal Denison MP Andrew Wilkie said it was shameful that Labor had abandoned this policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs across the state.

“This is a disgusting backflip and a kick in the face to the thousands of Tasmanians affected by poker machine gambling addiction who put their trust in Labor to do something about it,” Mr Wilkie said.

Currently the Federal Group – owned by the Farrell family – holds the monopoly over Tasmania’s poker machines, with the license set to expire in 2023.

The Tasmanian Liberals plan to end the pokies monopoly and move to an individual venue license model, while capping the number of machines in the state at 2,350.

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