Tue, Aug 13, 8:15am by Staff Writer
The newest member of Tasmania’s Legislative Council has criticised the poker machine lobby for their “power and influence” and being a threat to democracy.
The Independent and first female elected to the seat of Nelson, Meg Webb, also lashed out at the Labor and Liberal governments for “flagrantly” misleading Tasmanians on poker machines.
She said Tasmania’s pokies’ policy from a “legislative and regulatory approach has been, and continues to be, an example of bad public policy,” The Advocate reports.
“Policy made against all credible evidence, to the detriment of tens of thousands of Tasmanian families and solely in the interests of currying favour with an influential, financially powerful industry,” she said.
“Over decades, we have witnessed our state governments of both stripes flagrantly mislead the Tasmanian people on this issue, tie themselves in knots to justify the policy capture and regulatory capture they have allowed to prosper in relation to this industry, and time and again fail to demonstrate the common decent required to put the lives of Tasmanian people before the profits of a small number of well-connected donors.
“In fact, this area of public policy stands as an exemplar of our worst fears when it comes to the operation of power and influence in political processes.
“In recent years, I believe we have seen the bedrock of our democracy cracked on this issue.”
Ms Webb also was scathing of the poker machine lobby’s involvement in the 2018 state election campaign.
“In the context of electoral donation and funding laws that are far too opaque, the most lax of any state, in 2018 we saw a single industry make a financial incursion into our political process,” she said.
“Having happened once, our democracy remains perpetually overshadowed by the threat that it will happen again.
“As a member of the Tasmanian community and as an elected independent representative in the Tasmanian Parliament, I never again want to see the overwhelming financial support and raw political influence of a particular industry install any party as the government of this state, nor cause any opposition party to be cowed to the point of inaction.
“There lies the death of our democratic foundation.”
Ms Webb, the former manager of Anglicare Tasmania’s Social Action and Research Centre, paid tribute to her great, great aunt Maud Donnelly, who was born in 1882 and was a social justice trail-blazer.
She said in her role in the community sector she had seen the toll on Tasmanians who struggle every day to overcome poverty and inequality.
New MP Meg Webb targets the politics of pokies; I never want to see the financial support & raw political influence of a particular industry install any party as the government of this state, nor cause any opposition party to be cowed to inaction… https://t.co/l1sZl7Wc2F
— Jane Rankin-Reid (@janerankinreid) August 7, 2019
“Beyond that, and even more cruelly, I’ve seen the discrimination and judgement that is all too readily poured on those who are struggling in this way,” Ms Webb said.
“Judgement which then becomes yet another barrier to be overcome.
“And, most insidiously, I’ve seen that in this daily sentence of poverty and disadvantage, the ultimate casualty is hope – hope for the future. For far too many, this hopelessness is a prison from which there is little prospect of release.”
Ms Webb called for the Legislative Council to remain independent and free from party politics.
The Federal Group’s monopoly on poker machine licenses in Tasmania could soon be over, with the state government expected to table legislation next year to end their reign.
The Examiner reported in March that Tasmanian treasurer Peter Gutwein said the government had recently writer to the Federal Group “to advise them of our intention to end the current exclusivity arrangements through the legislation that will be tabled from early next year to give effect to our policy and put in place a new framework fro 30 June, 2023.”
“By ending the current arrangements through legislation, rather than by notice under the Feed, we will ensure that the industry has the certainty to continue to invest and employ until the new gaming framework is in place for the industry post 2023,” he said.
“The Future Gaming project team was established last year and has been undertaking comprehensive financial analysis of the current industry and the impact of various tax and license settings on industry participants – this work is complex and ongoing.”
“The Government will shortly be engaging with relevant stakeholders as we deliver our commitment.”
The Federal Group arrived in Tasmania in 1968 when the state was struggling with debt.
Greg Farrell Sr, the chairman of the Federal Group ran a public campaign to reassure locals that a casino in Tasmania would be more than a hotel and gaming den and would put Tasmania on the map.
Wrest Point Hotel Casino was opened on 10 February 1973 and was Australia’s first legal casino.
Wrest Point has more than 650 poker machines and 269 hotel rooms.
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