Politics

The Tasmanian Liberals Just Handed Millions Of Dollars To The Pokies Lobby

"This is basically the Liberals sending a big fat thank you cheque to the poker machine industry."

The freshly re-elected Tasmanian Liberal government has just announced they’ll be more than tripling the funding of a pro-pokies lobby group that also happened to be one of their biggest supporters in the state election held just last week.

The Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) will receive $6.8 million from the state government over the next four years, up from the mere $2 million in government funding they received over the last term. And if you’re wondering how that policy flew with voters during the election, who knows, because they weren’t told until afterwards.

In fact, hundreds of the Tasmanian Liberals’ policies were only released to the public after the election was all said and done, despite interest groups having access to them beforehand. The government is claiming a mandate for these policies anyway, though, and if that sounds less than democratic to you, you’re not alone.

Independent Federal MP for Denison Andrew Wilkie told Junkee that in his view, the funding increase to the pokies lobby was pretty cooked.

“The Liberal Party’s decision to significantly boost funding to the Tasmanian Hospitality Association is scandalous,” he said.

“For the party to more than triple the funding for one of their biggest backers in the election is a shocking failure of governance and any reasonable person would say it is a form of corruption.”

“It also beggars belief that Tasmanians are only finding out about this after the election. The Liberals should have been upfront before the election and put all their policies clearly on the table so the community could see what they were voting for.”

“This is basically the Liberals sending a big fat thank you cheque to the poker machine industry, you backed us in and here is your reward.”

The THA poured its resources into a pro-Liberal campaign during last week’s election, financing billboards and banners that were often so large that they fell afoul of campaigning rules. The signs were also often wrong, claiming that Labor’s proposal of removing poker machines from pubs and clubs would cost 5,000 jobs when the actual figure is much, much lower.

Despite the significant help the THA provided the Libs with during the election, both the Tasmanian Hospitality Association and the Tasmanian government denied the payment was a kickback of any kind when asked by the ABC. We reached out to the government ourselves, but they didn’t respond.