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Tasmanian Labor tight lipped over NSW & ACT pokies

Mon, Jan 21, 12:19pm by Staff Writer

Tasmanian Premier Will Hodgman’s Liberal Party has launched a scathing attack on opposition leader Rebecca White over her silence regarding Labor’s pokies ownership.

It was revealed last week that Ms White had not raised the Labor Party’s pokies ownership with her federal colleagues.

The Labor Party in New South Wales and the ACT own 800 poker machines better them according to the press release from Mr Hodgman’s office.

It states that: “given Ms White based her entire election campaign around telling Tasmanians that ‘pokies hurt people’ and were a major health issue, you would expect Ms White to have made it a top priority to lobby Bill Shorten and the Labor Party to get out of pokies ownership.”

When asked about what conversations she has had about pokies with her Federal colleagues, Ms White said last week: “None. It’s a state issue. We haven’t spoken with them about it at all. It’s not a federal issue and it’s not something that will be spoken about in the context of a federal election.”

Prior to last March’s state election, Labor pledged to ban poker machines from pubs and clubs by 2023.

Casino operators staunchly against proposal

It formed the most hotly contested issue in the election, with hospitality giant Federal Group initiating a massive advertising campaign warning Tasmanians who enjoy a flutter that “Labor and the Greens think you’re stupid”.

Federal Group managing director Greg Farrell said Labor “had got it wrong and gone too far” and the company would be seeking legal advice on the implications and review its future in the state.

Federal Group runs Tasmania’s two casinos and has owned the gambling license monopoly since 1973, including every poker machine in the state – some of which are leased to other venues.

The Labor policy would have stripped 2,300 poker machines from venues, but would allow them to remain in the two casinos.

Mr Farrell said in December 2017 that a loss of pokies would “have a huge impact, directly, on the people we employ, on the suppliers who support our businesses and on our ability to execute our strategies of future growth.”

Mr Farrell also flagged that he would rethink the political donations the company hands out stating, “political donations we’ve made historically on the basis of helping both parties further articulate their policy position to the electorate. However in this case we clearly don’t support this [Labor’s] policy initiative.”

Where to next for the policy?

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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