The campaign against Labor’s poker machine policy was launched by hotel industry representatives. (ABC News: David Hudspeth)
The Tasmanian Greens have accused the Liberals of using government resources to help the gambling lobby fight an unfavourable report into poker machines in the months before the election.
Right to Information documents reveal the Tasmanian Hospitality Association (THA) emailed Treasurer Peter Gutwein in September 2017, asking for his opinion and information on an Anglicare report, which was tabled in a parliamentary gaming inquiry.
Replying to the THA’s email, Mr Gutwein said he would “seek advice” and respond, and included his chief of staff in the email thread.
Two weeks later, Mr Gutwein’s chief of staff emailed the THA with the Treasurer’s response.
Mr Gutwein said the Anglicare report’s methodology undermined its findings, and the economic modelling was not robust.
The Treasurer pointed to other reports on the economic and social impacts of gambling as a “more reliable source of information for (the THA) to rely upon”.
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor said the Treasurer had effectively helped the THA in its fight against Anglicare, as poker machines heated up to become a key election issue.
“We believe it was the sign of an unhealthy relationship between the Liberals and the THA, that led to the Treasurer asking his treasury department to help the industry dismantle the community sector’s evidence about the harm caused by poker machines,” Ms O’Connor said.
“I think plenty of Tasmanians would be concerned about that.”
The THA helped finance the pro-pokies Love Your Local campaign, which took aim at Labor and the Greens’ policies to rid hotels and clubs of gaming machines in the lead-up to the March election.
After the election, it was revealed the THA would have its funding tripled over the next four years.
Deputy Premier Jeremy Rockliff rejected any suggestion of wrongdoing by the Treasurer.
“We get questions from various stakeholders to do with our particular portfolio responsibilities…which, of course, the polite thing to do is answer that correspondence,” he said.
“This is another Greens’ conspiracy line.”
Concerns about use of public servants
Community and Public Sector Union state secretary Tom Lynch said the correspondence raised serious questions.
“I think it would be highly inappropriate for the Government to be using public servants to prepare talking points for their political allies in a what was clearly a political argument between the Government and the Opposition,” Mr Lynch said.
“The public sector serves the community of Tasmania, they’re there to provide the Government with frank and fearless advice and not to be politicised in a campaign like this one.”
Labor MLA Josh Willie said the correspondence was no surprise.
“We know that the relationship between the pro-pokies lobby and the Government was very close, so close that the pro-pokies lobby effectively wrote the Government’s policy when it comes to EGMs (electronic gaming machines),” he said.