Tasmanian Times

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. No price is too high for the privilege of owning yourself. ~ Friedrich Nietzsche

Economy

This is the man …

*Pic: From ‘Team Mulawa’ here: “Greg Farrell Jr, “Mr. Mulawa”: Greg is by nature very hands-on – activity done translates into learning and understanding – and he still applies this essential quality to the horses with ambitious zeal and earnest dedication. Greg is a natural horseman – his innate affection for and confident ease with horses is readily apparent in his daily interaction with the horses at every level. Although Greg’s primary vocational responsibility has always been Managing Director of Federal Group (the highly successful and widely respected Australian owned family business and the world’s second oldest hotel group), he always finds quality time for the horses. He remains integrally involved with all the handling and training of the Mulawa Arabians, from early breaking through the professional turn out of top level show ring performers in hand. (Pictured with ADVENT) “

First published March 15

This is the man who holds the key to Tasmanian pokies …

And this is the man who will make the decision …

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*Pic: of Tasmania’s Treasurer Peter Gutwein, from his website. Says James Boyce: “There is no evidence that Peter Gutwein is a habitual liar or heartless cynic. Why, then, would he mislead the community about the extent of this suffering?”

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Leunig, http://www.leunig.com.au/ … used with permission

… A decision which will decide the future of pokies in Tasmania … the most abject failure of politicians, perhaps in the history of Tasmania.

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Andrew Wilkie MP, launches the book …

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Publisher Chris Feik talks about publishing Andrew Wilkie’s Axis of Deceit, The Extraordinary Story of an Australian Whistleblower … and the threatening legal implications of doing so. The book, below …

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James Boyce …

There is no doubt this is a terrible, terrible political failure. Its roots lie in the likely bribery of Kevin Lyons (I drove him in my car in Burnie in the early 70s from a speaking engagement, after he had resigned to bring down the Angus Bethune Liberal government …)

This must be investigated, says James Boyce to a standing-room only audience at the Republic last night. Police must reopen the case. In fact he’s written to Police Commissioner Darren Hine to that effect. Hine’s reply: There are some still living who might be implicated. Boyce: ‘That is one good reason to reopen the case.’

As writer Amanda Lohrey says in her brilliant essay in The Monthly ( Tasmania got gamed, here )

… Losing Streak is a remarkable work, and even for the reader with no interest in gambling it offers a valuable case study of bad governance and its consequences. Between 1998 and 2000 Boyce was manager of social action and research at Anglicare Tasmania, and in that role (and later as a consultant), he observed firsthand the deleterious effects of poker-machine gambling. Just as Nick Xenophon was spurred into politics by his work as a solicitor dealing with families broken by poker-machine addiction, Boyce was galvanised by the Anglicare experience. Although clearly incensed by what he perceives as justice denied to Tasmanian taxpayers, the respected historian is no mere moralising pamphleteer. The forensic detail of his research speaks for itself and much of his case for reform is made on economic grounds. Who benefits from the current Federal Group monopoly is the question he poses, and the answer isn’t edifying.

At the end of 1968 the Labor government steamrolled casino legislation through the Tasmanian parliament in the face of stiff opposition, and a ban on poker machines was written into the legislation to appease its critics. A state election in the following year produced a hung parliament, and the Liberals combined with the leader of the newly formed Centre Party, Kevin Lyons (a former Liberal member), to govern in coalition. Lyons, son of former prime minister Joseph Lyons, became deputy premier, but not for long.

Despite his earlier opposition to the Wrest Point casino, the new Liberal premier, Angus Bethune, decided for political reasons to support the proposal for a second casino in the north of the state. Opposed to a monopoly, Bethune opened the second casino up to competing bids, and Stocks and Holdings Ltd was selected over Federal Hotels in 1971.

Soon afterwards Lyons announced that “mutual trust” between him and Bethune had broken down. Lyons resigned from the government and with its slender majority gone parliament was soon dissolved. The details of this bizarre episode are too byzantine to be outlined here, but it was alleged, among other things, that Lyons had been given illegal inducements to destabilise the Liberal government. British Tobacco, which had been granted dubious land leases by the Reece government, paid Lyons $25,000 ($250,000 in today’s money) to write his memoirs (never published). Soon after his resignation from parliament in 1972 Lyons bought expensive properties in Melbourne, and, despite no experience whatsoever in the field, set up his own public-relations company. His first client? Federal Hotels.

There were calls in Tasmania for a royal commission into what had quickly become a murky saga but instead a police report was commissioned, one that was never released for public perusal. Boyce has unearthed a copy of the report, and on his analysis the police investigation was manifestly inadequate. “Whatever the truth of the conspiracy charges,” he writes, “it is clear that Federal Hotels’ national casino monopoly was preserved through the collapse of a government that was actively promoting a competitor, and the installation of a new government with which the company had close political and personal ties.”

Dramatic as the Lyons episode had been, it was just the beginning. In 1985 Federal Hotels persuaded the then Liberal premier, Robin Gray, to introduce gaming machines. In one of the more risible arguments to emerge during the company’s public-relations campaign, managing director John Haddad informed the Mercury newspaper that the machines were no big deal, indeed were something of a public service: “the machines are designed for people who are shy, lack confidence or do not understand the rules of a game and wish to gamble away from the scrutiny of others”. Bob Brown, then a state MP, was the only member to vote against their introduction. Brown was one of the first to foresee that ecotourism, not casinos, would be the key to Tasmania’s tourist industry. He also pointed to the fact that despite all the rhetoric around casino-based tourism more than 80% of casino earnings came from Tasmanians …

James Boyce is convinced that now is a crucial moment; now things can change. Now the insidious nature of modern poker machines – which seem to make pokies habitual – can change …

But, we’re dealing with politicians …

As Amanda Lohey says in The Monthly …

… In 1998 Labor took power under Jim Bacon, whose wife, Honey, had worked at the Wrest Point casino as a croupier. Early in 1999 the Bacon government abolished bet limits that had been part of the original deal to get poker-machine legislation through parliament. Federal Group’s profits subsequently soared from $596,000 in 1993 to $29 million a decade later, with the largest proportion coming from gaming machines.

This was followed in 2003 by what Boyce dubs the deal of the millennium. Federal Group was granted a further extension of its monopoly licence to, in real terms, 2023. Included in the deal were a number of favourable conditions, such as no restrictions on the company’s right to buy the most profitable poker-machine venues and then compete with neighbouring pubs on advantageous terms.

According to a study on the impact of gambling in Tasmania, conducted in 2009 by the South Australian Centre for Economic Studies, poker machines were deliberately concentrated in poor neighbourhoods, and local councils had no power to stop this.

A 2016 report by economist Saul Eslake revealed that Tasmania has “greater concentrations of social and economic disadvantage than any other State or Territory”, and gross household incomes around a third less than the national average. As if this were not problem enough, as Boyce documents, one in eight Tasmanian families has an immediate family member with a gambling problem, a figure that has doubled since poker machines were introduced. Given these figures it’s not surprising that public opinion continues to be hostile to the expansion of the machines, and a 2015 opinion poll revealed that 84% of the population believed the community had derived no benefit from them.

How, asks Boyce, has Tasmania benefited from Federal Group’s monopoly? “Because no other jurisdiction used the Tasmanian model, it is hard to predict what the pokies licence would have fetched on the open market,” he writes. “Only in Tasmania was the licence-holder free from competition and almost all capital costs. The Tasmanian licence provided the sort of recession-proof, risk-free, predictable income stream so highly regarded by bankers. It would have been highly sought after.” Boyce cites the Business Review Weekly’s 2006 ‘Rich List’ edition, which, in explaining how the Farrells became the then 18th-richest family in Australia, concluded that Federal Group had “exploited compliant governments” and that Tasmanian politicians had “failed taxpayers on this issue” …

*Lindsay Tuffin has been a journo since 1969, mainly in Tassie apart from a few years elsewhere in Oz, and in Pomland where he had a brief stint as a youth worker and where for five years he edited ‘Buzz’ – a magazine dealing with church and social issues and which was beaten in audit circulation only by the Specialist Interest category of Aero Modeller magazine …!

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22 Comments

22 Comments

  1. Simon Warriner

    March 24, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    Stephen, you make some mighty compelling points. You are dead on target with “If only the anger that people have for the government’s contempt for their opinion about this could be harnessed, what a power source this would be.”

    There is a reason for both Giddings and Hodgman’s complete spinelessness, and it is this, they collect their wages at the pleasure of a party machine that is brought and paid for with the money that circulates, corruptly in my view, through those pokies, to Federal Hotels, and back to the lib/lab parties and the various lobby groups that support the status quo.

    If you want change, the place to get it is in parliament, and the way to do it is by putting independents in there who are prepared to consider the issue from all perspectives, not just from the perspective of what is good for the party coffers ’cause that is what will get me my advertising budget next election.

    We need to give the people a way to express their anger, and as a result of years of training by political parties we will have to tell them how to use it. This is possible but it needs an organisation to do it. If you are interested contact me via the editor.

    Cheers

    Simon

  2. Lynne Newington

    March 24, 2017 at 11:04 am

    #20. Suggestions given would bring back painfull memories for those who experienced it in their lifetime.
    I wonder if any children of families with one parent addicted are now caught up in the web themselves?
    The sad truth is, those who can least afford it with so much unemployment a fair target with licenses continually being sought to upgrade adding more, especially in rural areas.

  3. Stephen Menadue

    March 22, 2017 at 11:32 pm

    I’m not sure whether “Plain Packaging” Poker machines can even be achieved.
    I started playing poker machines when they really were “One Armed Bandits” and they only had one line that could be played and even the winning combinations had to be in left to right order. Often, there were 3 reels and there was no credit meter. What you won spat automatically out of the chute. Usually, one’s hands would be black from the coins before any decent win would come. At even this basic level, the lighted area of the reels against the darker body of the machine was a device to draw people in. I still managed to lose all my money on most occasions. Most of these machines were made by Aristocrat whose Founder, Len Ainsworth stated publicly that his success with these machines was attributable to “Building a better mousetrap”. It sounds rather quaint but it is doublespeak for fleecing the people over and over again. These modern machines gave me an extra buzz with all their psychologically designed traps but that was only on top of the ever present foundation buzz of delusion that was “I will win the big one”. Actually, it is possible to design a machine that has no traps to suck the player in apart from their own desire for more money- The trouble is that the people who make these machines, by logic, aren’t going to produce something that might limit their profits. Get real.
    The only way to produce a plain packaged machine would be to go the way they did with cigarettes. Have regularly played videos on the machine’s monitor showing Kids waiting outside pubs all sad and cross because they know that this means another week or fortnight of meagre times. Or a group of policeman at a house with a landlord and an eviction notice with a mum or a dad telling their kids to start packing up their stuff-Quickly. Or a welfare worker who breaks down because for 5 days a week they have to share the pain of addicts’ partners who can do no more than ask for a food hand out.
    The bottom line is that this notion of reducing the harm is about as realistic as Wile E. Coyote’s chances of one of his Acme contraptions working properly. This is an insult of the highest order to those who are left to clean up the shit created by the pokies. No need for names, it is the GUTLESS government who put their wax seal on this activity-Past and present government(s).
    If only the anger that people have for the government’s contempt for their opinion about this could be harnessed, what a power source this would be.
    Premier, this heartache will not become invisible because you turn your back on it.
    Be a man of integrity and champion for the people and make a decision…sorry,I forgot, your hands are tied because Legal contracts are binding until the first part of the 2020’s.
    That was exactly what Lara Giddings said when asked to do something about this problem except she said the contracts were rock solid until 2018.
    $#@# them off somehow before too much more damage is done.

  4. Pat Caplice

    March 22, 2017 at 12:22 am

    Ros
    Gutwein basically ducked the question from the committee chair Mike Gaffney. The standard Gutwein refers to basically says that the machines are fine if “they don’t electrocute you”. An expected comeback and topped with “its up to the committee to make a recommendation.”

    But. If the addictive elements, Gutweins “the bling” and deputy chair Tania Rattrays “plain packaging” are removed it would be a fantastic result.

    15% of regular players are addicted by the deliberately designed addictive elements and a further 15% are at risk from them. The addicted 15% provide 40% of the lost money an the at risk 15% provide 20% of the lost money.

    Only 4% of Australians are regular Pokies players (Productivity Commission 2010) Thats just 16500 Tasmanians with just 2400 being addicted and 2400 at risk.

    The 2400 lose around $90 million of the annual $220 million lost and the at risk 2400 Tasmanians lose around $40 million. Removing the bling, the addictive elements, would be an enormous harm reduction measure.

    The committee has heard all the relevant evidence of the deliberate addictive elements from Monash Uni’s Dr Charles Livingstone, not refuted by any other submission or evidence. How they deal with that clear evidence will be a reflection of the committee membership, and that aint looking pretty from where I have been sitting. The “Losing Streak” atmosphere seems dominant.

    Pat Caplice
    Rein in The Pokies

  5. Ros Barnett

    March 21, 2017 at 7:32 pm

    This from The Mercury an hour ago ‘TASMANIA could consider a move away from the bright lights and synthesised sounds of poker machines in preference of plain-packaged pokies.

    Premier Will Hodgman and Treasurer Peter Gutwein today faced a parliamentary committee hearing into the state’s gaming industry, with Mr Gutwein indicating that all 3560 machines in operation met with national standards but there could be scope to tone down the bling.”

    I wasn’t expecting much but this just makes me groan.

  6. Claire Gilmour

    March 16, 2017 at 9:19 pm

    #15 Duncan … TGC – Trevor Cowell … one of the ‘seemingly’ preferred contributors to letters to the editor in the Examiner for many years when my ex bro in law was chief of staff then editor. Suggestive of a very liberal … ?
    May I also suggest do a Tastimes and google search of Peter Henning (great man!), he could perhaps give more insight.

  7. Simon Warriner

    March 16, 2017 at 6:55 pm

    would this be appropriate to the circumstances around the Farrell monopoly on ripping off addicted gamblers?

    “”Unhappy events abroad have retaught us two simple truths about the liberty of a democratic people. The first truth is that the liberty of a democracy is not safe if the people tolerate the growth of a private power to a point where it becomes stronger than the democratic state itself. That, in its essence, is fascism & ownership of government by an individual, by a group, or by any other controlling private power.” FDR: message to Congress proposing the monopoly investigation, 1938″

  8. Duncan Mills

    March 16, 2017 at 11:24 am

    Re #10 TGC (whoever you may be, do you have good reason to hide under a rock? Perhaps the editor should insist you disclose!!)

    Perhaps I may be too opaque too some, I am working on it! However because we all come from valuably different world views, we come with different vocabs, so we do have to work to read one another.

    If TGC you have a sincere query I will explain. It may help others understand my point. It may help me learn to improve my writing.

    If sincere it is a fair cop, I too have asked others in this space to be more concise.

    Thanks editors for allowing us to work on one another’s learning, this a unique space, to be treasured.

  9. Simon Warriner

    March 15, 2017 at 7:30 pm

    re 12, absolutely and it was brought about by the carcinogen that is the accepted presence of conflicted interest within ALL political parties.

    re 11. its not weaning that is needed. Its a one way trip on the back of a speeding truck.

  10. Lynne Newington

    March 15, 2017 at 10:41 am

    A little history on the pokies with Andrew Wilkie and old Nick [the good one] who has had them on the run for decades …..and one other with links to to bring a smile. …….https://www.pokiesgame.com.au/anti-pokies-politicians/
    http://cathnews.com/cathnews/61-archive/5952-bar-owner-accuses-priests-of-conspiracy

  11. Philip Lowe

    March 15, 2017 at 10:03 am

    Tassie has a cancer with the gambling industry.;a malignant, Rotten,stinking tumour.Stop feeding it.

  12. Stephen Menadue

    March 15, 2017 at 2:03 am

    This article has digested from my intellect to my emotions and spiritual and screams out,”F$@# this”.
    I pity the current and past state governments-and the Federal Group- who have exploited their people in such a nasty, immoral way. The majority of the responsibility really does lie however, with the 2 parties( Labor and Liberal);both past and present.

    You’ve GORGED for way too long. Even Pigs get weaned after enough is enough.
    The Bill is coming and WILL be paid. There will be no running out the door on a full gut.

  13. TGC

    March 14, 2017 at 10:02 pm

    Is the Editor able to arrange for a translation into English for the submission at #2?
    and…
    It is going to be necessary to draft in Nick Xenophon for this anti-pokies campaign-he’s the acknowledged expert in getting rid of ’em

  14. Claire Gilmour

    March 14, 2017 at 9:53 pm

    Always good to have an opinion, but one wonders how many actually see the people in pokie rooms?

    About once a week/fortnight I go to town … Wynyard – the big smoke! Because of limited bus service I have to be in town all day, so the best, cleanest, and most convenient loo to use in town is the middle pub, the pokie pub. When ever I go in it’s chocker full of the elderly and some 30 + to middle aged women and a few men. They look at you as you pass through as if you’re going to be competition. I’m just thinkin I need a wee, not pissing it all up against a wall. I look at them and want to scream – is this the best you can do?, Your being fucked over by some greedy rich men! But I can’t say that ‘cos I’d be thrown out and have to use the horrible dirty public toilets, if not called on by police.

    Whilst one wants to be free to have choices, the bells and whistles in those pokie pub clubs really don’t give a choice. It’s not social, It’s winner takes all and screw the public.

    I guess it’s an addiction the government is allowing the likes of Farrell to capitalise on. Should that be deemed legal???

  15. Simon Warriner

    March 14, 2017 at 6:25 pm

    Pat, at the risk of sounding trite, Labor have declared their position.

    What did we hear when the pokies license was gifted to the Farrell’s?

    Not a single bloody peep from the spineless twats.

    There is your answer, right there. Anything they say today will be revisionism in search of your vote. What they say unprompted is what really counts

    Brought and paid for, like the good little party politicians they are.

    If you want this fixed, vote independent, and tell them it only sticks if they fix the mess.

  16. Pat Caplice

    March 14, 2017 at 4:57 pm

    Gutwein and Hodgman appear before the Pokies Committee next Wednesday. It will be interesting to see if they have taken any notice of the abundant evidence of harm and addiction.

    Labor. Hello. Cooee. Will you ever declare a position.

    James Boyce noted that this is the first ever that the public are having a say and a dirty backroom deal hasn’t been done. And all before an election.

    Whether the Lib/Labs want it or not, Pokies WILL be a major election issue.

    Pat Caplice
    Rein in The Pokies

  17. Ros Barnett

    March 14, 2017 at 4:44 pm

    It was edifying to see so many people turn out to celebrate the launch of Boyce’s book Losing Streak. I formed a resolution during the speeches to make this issue my talking point from now until the next election. I’ll be asking every candidate to (1) take a personal and unequivocal stand against poker machines and I’ll record and publish their responses for later comparison to their actual behaviour in parliament, and (2) insist on transparency and probity in dealing with the issuing of licenses for all gambling. As Andrew Wilkie said “The stench has not gone away”.

  18. Lynne Newington

    March 14, 2017 at 3:04 pm

    For anyone who hasn’t as yet read Axis of Deceit….Andrew’s courage has been acknowledged and validated near and far and reference for today.
    Emma Sky in her book The Unraveling- High Hopes and Missed Opportunities in Iraq wrote: “when it became clear there were no WMD, Colonial Mayville was left with the question, why are were here then?”……
    George Bush believes he liberated them with the Bible in one hand and message from God taking believers and non-believer a like with him. …..http://abcnews.go.com/Politics/story?id=6353033.
    Then Tony Blair crossed over to Rome…..

  19. Ross

    March 14, 2017 at 2:05 pm

    Here’s a win win solution.

    The state should seize Federal Group’s assets and invest all of the profits in clearfelling those pesky proposed future reserve forests.

    Seriously, it sounds like an important and fearless exposé, well done. The least we can do is to encourage visitors to Tasmania to boycott all Federal Group businesses. That would be quite a list.

  20. john hayward

    March 14, 2017 at 12:42 pm

    In his 1970 film” The Rise and Rise of Michael Rimmer” Peter Cook plays an utter scoundrel who rides his outrageous dishonesty and cynicism to political supremacy in Britain.

    Little did Cook, or co-writers such as John Cleese and Graham Chapman, realise that Rimmer could be a serious template for pollies such as Donald Trump and any number of the Tasmanian LibLabs described by James Boyce.

    Few Tas pollies would knowingly imitate art, particularly of the black humour genre, but this is perhaps their supreme achievement, as Boyce so convincingly demonstrates.

    John Hayward

  21. Duncan Mills

    March 14, 2017 at 12:33 pm

    Thanks very much for that Lindsay.

    I write as a Social Ecologist with an interest in how we make sense of complex systems; such as the human ecosystem that is Tasmania. To do so, we have to build but move beyond quantitative analysis and embrace the tools qualitative enquiry, such as fractal story and conversation, and even poetry, in order to get the picture.

    This synopsis of multiple informants provides yet another very disturbing story of corruption in Tasmania. For justice sake it must however be put through the Justice institutions.

    Compassion can only be exercised at the sentencing stage. Any other response, as practice in the past, is heinous prejudice.

    If the institution of Tasmanian Government is to lift itself out of out of this septic morass and claw back some respect from Tasmanian, and Australian Electors, a cross party alliance is required to expose corrupt practice where ever it lies.

    To fail to do so leaves democracy in Tasmania in moral danger of the mutually destructive nihilism of desperate electors, as seen with the election of self seeking wrecker politicians like Hanson and Trump.

    Whether its gambling, forestry, public land theft, environmental degradation, these hidden transactions must stop.

    Those that practice them are either sociopaths or psychopaths and need psychological help. They have at some stage in their sad lives acquired a fear or hatred of fellow humans. Perhaps through trauma or parental neglect? Any enquiry process of course must be compassionate, but public justice while tough, is good for all in the long run.

    We have quite enough evidence that these corrupt practices have done incalculable harm to thousands of families and tens of thousands of individuals in this state. One would have to deaf and blind not to know of some avoidable tragedy in this state! Numerous case studies and company collapses also have provided ample evidence of this systemic failure. Only when we arrest this wrecking of human potential, can this state become the star is could be.

    Yes…. now is an opportune time, all political incumbent leaders are under this cloud and to avoid an electoral swing to the loose cannons that are most independents, present incumbents could gain immensely from moving together now, to all our benefit.

  22. John Biggs

    March 14, 2017 at 11:03 am

    What a launch that was! And for what a book! All speakers brilliant and so revealing of the filthy state of Tasmanian politics from the 1960s on. A faint glimmer of hope that the mind boggling hold Federal has had on successive Tasmanian governments will finally be broken. A very faint hope, but a hope nonetheless. This story even beats the Gunns story for sheer dirty dealing, dudding the public and chucking democratic processes out the window. Why do Tasmanians put up with this? Make banning high intensity machines an election issue. That would solve the problem.

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