Poker machines continue to loom as a major battleground heading into next year’s state election campaign, with the State Government’s latest move using a Federal Group staff newsletter as a platform to attack Labor’s policy.
The message from Acting Premier Jeremy Rockliff appeared alongside that of Federal Group managing director and chief executive Greg Farrell.
Mr Rockliff warned Federal’s employees “our way of life” is threatened by the “dangerous, job-destroying poker machine policy” to ban machines from pubs and clubs in Tasmania.
“The Liberals understand that Federal Group creates jobs, supports you and your family and provides entertainment for thousands of Tasmanians every week,” Mr Rockliff wrote.
“Unlike Labor, the Liberals won’t be banning things just to keep the Greens happy. Make no mistake, the industry, many businesses and sadly, your jobs are at risk from Labor and the Greens and their dangerous, job-destroying poker machine policy.
“All of you can help, and we need each and every one of you to help if we are going to overcome this threat to our way of life.”
The message finishes by telling Federal Group staff how they can assist the Liberals’ election campaign.
Mr Farrell described the end of year as finishing “on a challenging note”.
“While we finish 2017 on a challenging note, it in no way diminishes our achievements throughout the year,” he wrote to employees.
Liberals using workforce for own ends: Bacon
Labor spokesman Scott Bacon said the language used in the message left it open to speculation that he Liberal Party would “entrench Federal’s monopoly on poker machines and walk away from their previous statements on an open tender process”.
“The Liberals are prepared to run a fear campaign that isn’t based on the facts and take advantage of Federal’s workforce for their own political ends,” he said.
“As long as the Liberals don’t have a poker machines policy, they shouldn’t be trying to mislead workers.”
The Greens’ gambling spokeswoman Andrea Dawkins described Mr Rockliff’s message as “appalling, but not surprising”.
“It reveals yet again that the Liberals are a mouthpiece for the Farrell family and their destructive pokies empire,” Ms Dawkins said.
“The Acting Premier assures the Federal Group that the entire gambling industry has the Liberal Party’s ‘complete support’. If only the thousands of disadvantaged families affected by pokies had the same support the Farrell family enjoys.
“Perhaps if they too gave thousands of dollars to the Liberal Party every year, Minister Rockliff might consider them when forming policy, or handing out personalised Christmas messages.”
‘Vested interest ahead of public interest’
Ms Dawkins said she did not agree with Mr Rockliff’s line about the threat to “our way of life,” while TasCOSS boss Kym Goodes said the message was “unusual”.
“Thousands of Tasmanian mums, dads and families want to know the Government has their back on this important health and cost of living issue,” Ms Goodes said.
“What protects the Tasmanian way of life is when the public interests are put ahead of the vested interests.
“Communities already know they are the winners when their pubs are free of pokies.”
Ms Goodes endorsed the stance of church leaders who spoke about the issue in their Christmas messages yesterday.
Political analyst Kevin Bonham said it was clear the Government was planning to campaign hard against Labor on poker machines ahead of the state election, and there was no doubt it would be a major battleground.
“It’s going to take a while to see if this has any impact on voter intention, we may not really know until the campaign,” he said.
“In terms of polling on the issue itself, these issues are quite difficult to poll because it depends on how the poll is designed.
“Governments are frequently looking to scare voters away from voting for oppositions and so this will be one issue on which the Government will probably seek to attack Labor on.”
A response was sought from the Government.