Image for NATION: One armed bandit steals Tassie election ...

*Pic: Image from here

And it is money that has come out of the pockets of some of the poorest people. It is money that comes from human hardship. These machines are located in pubs and clubs in areas of economic disadvantage deliberately. And that is why we have fought so hard, so hard, to get poker machines out of pubs and clubs in Tasmania. We know they are lethal and toxic machines … - Cassy O’Connor Tasmanian Greens leader (Corrected***)

First published March 5

Like rabbits caught in the headlights of a juggernaut of pro-pokie Liberal Mad-men, Tasmanians vote, Saturday, mostly to do as they are told. It’s a win for pokies’ owners by pokies’ owners. Bugger the people. Yet it’s not the crushing victory being sold on mainstream media. What is clear by Sunday is the Liberals will stay in power.

Premier Will Hodgman’s government wins 13 of the 25 state lower house seats on Saturday, a loss of two, or down 0.8 %, but still enough for his Liberal Party to govern in its own right in a large late surge over the past month.

Labor’s vote is up 5.4% with 84% of the vote counted Sunday. The Hare-Clark, Robson system means that several seats remain in doubt in contests between candidates from the same party. What is not in doubt is the size of the Liberal war chest which some say is ten times Labor’s. Did wealthy Liberal donors help the party buy its victory?

Bedazzled by billboards, newspapers and TV screens, in a saturation ad blitzkrieg, voters succumb to sentimental slogans such as “love your local” and fear of paternalism, the dreaded spectre of Labor-Green despotism.

And the jobs’ lies. “I’ll have to go to the mainland for a hospitality career if Labor gets in,” whinges a teenager on the radio, a model of self-pitying misery and entitlement, already a perfect fit for any career in customer service.

Bad news, kid, the “hospitality industry” is rife with wage theft and exploitation. Better you should stay at school.

... it’s a recipe for exploitation ...

“Whether it’s a big, small or medium business, the most common worker is young, unskilled or a migrant so really it’s a hotpot for exploitation. When you put all these things in the mix, people aren’t aware of their rights — people are desperate to work, and it’s a recipe for exploitation,” says Shine Lawyers employment law expert, Will Barsby.

When it comes to wages, Tasmanian workers share the predicament of all Australia’s workers. Wage earners’ share of the national pie has shrunk dramatically to the lowest point since the Australian Bureau of Statistics (ABS) began recording this data in 1959.

Roy Morgan reports that our workforce is 13,410,000 comprised of employed and unemployed, up a whopping 518,000 on a year ago, a context omitted in Scott Morrison’s misleading claim that “2017 was a year of extraordinary jobs growth in Australia, over 400,000 jobs created in the year”.

1.312 million Australians were unemployed (9.8% of the workforce); an increase of 126,000 (up 0.6%) on a year ago, but Morrison chooses to hide this from us in the hope we are all mugs. ScoMo or Michaelia Cash never talk about numbers of unemployed.

Furthermore, despite Liberal shills on ABC and mainstream media who pretend there is some miraculous recovery happening ,Tasmanians are in fact more likely to be out of work or under-employed than workers in any other state.

Tasmania’s unemployment rate is 10.7% while 11.5% of the workforce is under-employment 11.5%. 22.2%, or one in five, Tassie workers have either no work or not enough. Abolishing pokies is not going to cost 5000 jobs - as claimed by Hodgman’s Liberals - when there are only 370 workers in the industry - or about 1000 in gambling overall. And other jobs are likely to be created as a result of money not spent gambling.

The new gaming laws will bring a windfall for casinos reports The Australia Institute, cutting their taxes in half if they are put on the Federal group rate. Taxes for pubs and clubs, on the other hand, will rise by $10 million. Yet, in a typically caring, sharing, token concession to pokies’ toxicity, taxpayers will contribute an extra $1.7 million to the Community Support Levy to counter the costs of problem gambling. The casinos are the big winners while the punter loses out yet again.

It’s the structure of the population that counts

The Liberals’ big Tasmania vision is not solution, either, for unlucky punters. Population growth is at its highest rate since the GFC, but that doesn’t “grow” jobs. Nor is it a state economic windfall. It’s the structure of the population that counts. Each year Tasmania has fewer young and more older people compared to the rest of Australia, even when population “booms”.

Will Hodgman has had a population push since 2014. Yet Tasmania has always gained more people over 45 and lost more younger, working, fertile, 19-39 year olds due, mainly, to the state’s lack of employment opportunities.

Older folk create jobs and actively contribute to society and economy, but they also will create increasing demand for government services, such as pensions and healthcare, areas in which Liberals have a poor track record.

The Government has made sweeping job cuts in health, reports ABC Fact check with the Treasurer stating publicly that while the Tasmanian Health Organisations gained 80 full-time equivalent staff, the Health Department shed 200 positions between June 2014 and March 2016.

But bosses and government never gull young people, it’s always unions and greenies who are out to con you.

“Labor and the Greens think you’re stupid. What’s next? Don’t let them tell you what to do”.

This richly allusive Liberal rhetorical campaign gem shrewdly taps Tasmanians’ memory of the unpopularity of its last Labor-Greens coalition cabinet of 2010, a coalition which psephologist, William Bowe, dubs an electoral disaster.

... a result which will further erode Tasmanians’ control of their own lives ...

Be it inertia, bewilderment, blind panic, cynical manipulation, disinformation or a toxic cocktail of the lot, in the end, voters elect Will Hodgman’s Libs, a shady cabal of big business, big gambling and Big W, in a result which will further erode Tasmanians’ control of their own lives, expand state power, boost gun-power and feed the canker of poker machine blight, introduced to the Apple Isle by Ray Groom’s, 1993 Liberal government.

Can Tasmania, our most beautiful, most wondrous state, Australia’s own Serendip, now be rotten at the core?

Ministry of Truth, our ABC in its Insiders cosy Sunday hack-chat-show, a forum which artfully evades the real issues, or real depth, says the Liberals win as Tasmanians flock to sunny uplands of neoliberal prosperity. Hodgman’s Liberals, they say, deliver an “economic upturn” a myth based on the island state’s property boom, or bubble.

It’s a tall story which can only grow taller, as the federal Liberals’ spin doctor army toils to turn the result into a vindication of the Turnbull government’s futile attempts to revive neoliberalism’s corpse; its corporate tax cut payola to its donors, and austerity budgeting, a campaign of calculated impoverishment of innocent and vulnerable victims of its policies, which daily widens the gulf of economic inequality, in its war on the poor and elderly.

By Monday, Tassie’s results will become a sign of upturn number 365 in the Turnbull government’s popularity. There is always a reboot, a recovery around every corner.

Yet, apart from real estate sales, any other economic upturn is hard to find. So why the sudden turnaround? A month ago, polls had the two parties neck and neck, on 34% of the vote, but in more recent polls Liberals soar an alarming 12 %.  in a shocking corruption of the popular will, which, William Bowe, worries, means,

The election could join federal Labor’s mining tax debacle in 2010 as a cautionary tale about the dangers of taking on deep-pocketed interests in an election campaign.

But end the firm’s half-billion dollar revenue stream?

A key issue at stake is many Tasmanians’ opposition to Federal Hotels’ pokies monopoly. Federal owns all 3500 machines (plus Wrest Point Casino, some luxury wilderness accommodation and the Henry James Hotel). Labor and The Greens’ want to remove pokies from all pubs and clubs by 2023. But end the firm’s half-billion dollar revenue stream?

Also not sitting well with voters is Federal’s breath-taking, back-flipping duplicity. Anti-pokers veteran, Pat Caplice sums up Federal’s hypocrisy.

“The clubs and hotels pushed for pokies back in the ’80s. Federal opposed it totally, used all the arguments about dependency they now deny. Then, when it was being debated in 1993, there was a huge backflip, within days, and Federal itself was gifted a monopoly licence.”

Saturday’s election result ushers in a new “gaming” agreement, an industry euphemism for ripping off unwary, vulnerable, punters. The state will revoke Federal Hotels’ monopoly and gift licences to pokies pubs, in a move which will result in cashed-up Federal and Woolworths buying up dozens of pubs, allowing Woolworths a 30-40% stake in gambling in the state. The result is guaranteed to increase personal misery and social breakdown.

Meanwhile, the pro-pokie promotion create a ruckus that sucks the oxygen out of many other areas of debate.

Protecting what remains of The Tarkine is a huge political issue. Speciality timber logging permits granted in 2014 by Hodgman’s government reduce the area’s reserve to five per cent of its former area. Liberal candidate for Braddon, Adam Brooks’, media release reads “Only the Liberals would stop a Tarkine National Park”.

The Liberal election pledge is an indictment of the party’s senseless environmental vandalism; its contempt for Aboriginal cultural heritage, history and the legacy of shell middens, stone quarries, hut depressions, seal hides and rock carvings that remain and its failure to consult with local Aboriginal people.

17 coupes are still being logged while the 4WD fraternity, bush-bash on expensive temporary road mats. In Hobart, around two thousand people protest the abuse of the unique wilderness, in a gathering led by the Bob Brown Foundation. The group calls for permanent protection for the 447,000 hectares of the Tarkine.

One-armed bandits backers make such a racket they drown out late news that the 45th Tasmanian premier, William Edward Felix Hodgman, promises the quaintly termed sporting shooters and farmers, a hard-nosed gun lobby, an easing of gun control laws, extending licences from five to ten years and permitting automatic weapons.

another stage in the ascent of the corporate oligarch Woolworths

But if it’s a victory for guns and money, it’s also another stage in the ascent of the corporate oligarch Woolworths, which, Guy Rundle writes, will wield power over Tasmanians “from controlling prices to suppliers, to selling them their food back as consumers, and taking the cash of people who never quite make it to the shops.”

At the same time, Tasmanians surrender their own say in their own affairs, as Hodgman’s big government proposes major projects legislation and a state-wide planning scheme which shuts out community input.

Tasmania, fruit of the fruit machine, rolls with the dice, as the state’s obscenely powerful gambling lobby pours millions of dollars into Liberal party campaign coffers, vastly outspending the Labor Party. Some estimate a Liberal war chest up to ten times larger. We may never know. The state has the nation’s slackest campaign donation disclosure rules.

What is unique - and refreshing about the Tassie election campaign is the respect between the Liberal and Labor leaders, a tradition that is dead, buried and cremated in federal politics this week when Michaelia Cash suddenly threatens to name young women in Bill Shorten’s office - about whom there have been rumours “for many, many years.” The idea that she should “slut-shame” nineteen women working in Shorten’s office is bizarre, wrong and a sign of an ugly decline in federal politics.

Worse, Cash makes it clear that she proposes to name names and then Shorten will have to prove his innocence. It’s a perversion of legal process and a cheap, demeaning stunt. Worse, it plumbs new depths in character assassination as political strategy.

And it’s part of Liberal team plan: Peter Dutton is soon off the leash on 2GB attacking loose, louche, philandering Bill and two-timing Tony Burke.

“I think we’ve sat here taking a morals lecture from Bill Shorten in relation to Barnaby Joyce over the last few weeks and people know that there’s a history of problems in Bill Shorten’s personal life, Tony Burke’s personal life. And to be lectured by the Labor Party really sticks in the craw.”

As is Dutton’s wont, he is undeterred by being factually incorrect and totally out of order. Labor scrupulously abstained from criticising Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his staffer Vicki Campion.

... what can only have been a National to Liberal Party hand-ball leaking ...

It was, in fact, Malcolm Turnbull who took it upon himself to deliver a finger-wagging moralising, which was backed up with what can only have been a National to Liberal Party handball leaking of the name of a woman who is bringing case of sexual harassment or serious misconduct against Joyce to the National Party - from whom we have heard nothing further.

Above all it’s not Joyce’s dangerous liaisons that are the critical issue - not his fidelity or his personal morality but how he could create or cause to be created not one but three jobs for his (non-partner) paramour Vicki Campion. And his boondoggle inland rail. Plus his Murray Darling basin water for rich cotton irrigator National Party mates scandal.

As the week closes, it is clear that the Coalition’s mud-slinging will continue as part of the Kill Bill strategy - but also as a splendid diversion from any alleged peculation, nepotism or misuse of public funds including travel allowances, a net which seems to be closing rapidly on Julie Bishop, whose non-partner, David Panton, is somehow able to travel at taxpayers’ expense.

The situation is clarified late in the week when Bishop changes her mind; agrees the two have been partners for six months. At least that’s cleared that up. Will Panton now repay his trip to the UN or any other trips he took with her prior to that period? At least it’s not “a grey area” as Barnaby Joyce calls his paternity.

A new tune to add to his brilliant riffs on playing the innocent victim, Joyce tells media that everyone assumed he was the father of Vikki Campion’s child. He may not be. The Daily Tele never asked, despite there being an email from the paper to Joyce asking that very question according to Fairfax.

Now it seems Barnaby and non-partner Vikki were mostly geographically apart with some togetherness during the putative conception date of the unborn child, whom Barnaby, nobly, says he will love anyway. And no. He has no intention of taking any paternity test. Perhaps it may turn out to be an immaculate conception.

In Tassie this week, the Liberals win by throwing buckets of their sponsors, the gambling mob’s - (wrongly dignified as an industry) -  money at advertising promoting fear and loathing of Labor, while, in the Senate, Michaelia Cash dishes the dirt as a diversion from her own alleged collusion with the AFP to contact media to help her conduct a witch hunt in an illegal raid on the Melbourne office of the AWU, a union Michael Keenan says gave a donation to Bill Shorten’s campaign - as it is perfectly entitled to do.

The AWU has not yet been charged with a single criminal offence. Probably because none has been committed. In the meantime, politicians from Tasmania to the nation’s capital compete this week, as Hamlet almost says, stewing in corruption, honeying and making love - while tipping buckets of excrement over their opponents in a debauched, degenerate, parody of a competitive party political system which was once based however loosely around policies and reasoned argument and rational rebuttal.

The nation moves beyond policy, principle or even the fan-club of identity politics to savage character assassination, innuendo and vituperative personal attack. Each day we draw closer to the politics of Trump’s USA, the nation our PM wishes to sedulously ape and not only in tax cuts for corporations but in health and welfare, too.

*David Tyler (AKA Urban Wronski) was born in England, raised in New Zealand and an Australian resident since 1979. Urban Wronski grew up conflicted about his own national identity and continues to be deeply mistrustful of all nationalism, chauvinism, flags, politicians and everything else which divides and obscures our common humanity. He has always been enchanted by nature and by the extraordinary brilliance of ordinary men and women and the genius, the power and the poetry that is their vernacular. Wronski is now a fulltime freelance writer who lives with his partner and editor Shay and their chooks, near the Grampians in rural Victoria and he counts himself the luckiest man alive. A former teacher of all ages and stages, from Tertiary to Primary, for nearly forty years, he enjoyed contesting the corporatisation of schooling to follow his own natural instinct for undifferentiated affection, approval and compassion for the young.

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***Corrected: It was Cassy O’Connor, not Rebecca White, (Comment 3) ...