Pok­ies loom as big poll is­sue

Mercury (Hobart) - - FRONT PAGE - DAVID KILLICK State Po­lit­i­cal Re­porter

AN ANTI-pok­ies can­di­date would stand a big chance in the seat of Deni­son at the up­com­ing State Elec­tion if the ma­jor par­ties block re­form, the sus­pended mayor of Glenorchy says.

Kristie John­ston, who has been widely tipped to run as an in­de­pen­dent in Deni­son, says pok­ies take mil­lions of dol­lars a year from the pock­ets of lo­cal res­i­dents and the com­mu­nity has had enough.

The Joint Se­lect Com­mit­tee on Fu­ture Gam­ing Marke ts handed down its re­port on Thurs­day, rec­om­mend­ing a de­crease in the num­ber of poker ma­chines.

The 15-year mo­nop­oly over pok­ies, held by Fed­eral Group, is due to be re­vis­ited next year be­fore its ex­piry in 2023.

The ma­jor par­ties have given lit­tle in­di­ca­tion of ma­jor change. The com­mit­tee re­sulted in two dis­sent­ing re­ports.

Lib­eral pol­icy is to re­duce the cap of 3680 ma­chines statewide by 150. La­bor is yet to come up with a pol­icy — leader Re­becca White says she wants to con­sult more.

But Ms John­ston said the pub­lic was fed up and pok­ies would be a big elec­tion is­sue.

“I think both La­bor and the Lib­eral Party have let the com­mu­nity down. They’ve both choked,” she said.

“Twenty mil­lion dol­lars a year goes into poker ma­chines in Glenorchy and it’s un­sat­is­fac­tory to hand down a re­port that doesn’t rec­om­mend re­mov­ing them from pubs and clubs,” she said.

“Po­lit­i­cally there’s a real risk for the par­ties — they’re so out of touch with what peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions are.”

Ms John­ston said she had seen first-hand the im­pact of pok­ies on the com­mu­nity, such as chil­dren go­ing to school without lunches.

“The com­mu­nity are very strong on this. They’re not go­ing to let the is­sue lie.”

Ms John­ston has not ruled out run­ning but says she is fo­cused on stand­ing again as mayor once the cur­rent Board of In­quiry process is com­plete.

Long­time anti-pokie cam­paigner Fed­eral Deni­son MP An­drew Wilkie said he had not de­cided whether to en­dorse a can­di­date in the poll.

“Given that the Lib­eral and La­bor par­ties have let Tasmanians down greatly on the is­sue of poker ma­chines, they de­serve to be pun­ished at the next elec­tion by vot­ers who want to see re­form,” he said.

Trea­surer Peter Gutwein yes­ter­day called on La­bor to re­lease a pol­icy on pok­ies.

“La­bor is all over the show on this im­por­tant is­sue,” Mr Gutwein said.

Shadow trea­surer Scott Ba­con said La­bor was form­ing a pol­icy to take to the next elec­tion.

Greens leader Cassy O’Con­nor said the ma­jor par­ties had be­trayed the peo­ple they were elected to serve.

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