The Australian Labor Party have enjoyed an ongoing love affair with the Australian gambling industry (here, here, here etc). The latest romance between Packer and the pollies is panning out beautifully in NSW. A second casino for Sydney makes money-sense for James Packer – he can drag in more millions from desperate problem gamblers – but it defeats the social interest. Despite Packer’s claims that it will draw spending from free-spending high rollers from Asia the truth is that most revenue will come from mug, resident Labor-voting Australian bogans and the bulk of this will comprise the desperate losses incurred by problem gamblers in particular. The Asian big rollers now have plenty of opportunities to gamble in many other places.
Look at the political clout Packer has assembled to advance his gambling interests – mainly ex-Labor heavies but also some Liberals:
“He’s got (former ALP national secretary) Karl Bitar and (ex-Labor minister) Mark Arbib counting the numbers, (former Howard government minister) Helen Coonan on the Crown board, and the premiers of NSW and Queensland on-side.”
Of course Packer has also suggested former Victorian Liberal Premier Jeff Kennett as a new CEO for his gambling venture and proposed that he be given a board seat on Echo the casino operator in Sydney he is trying to control on the cheap. .
Packer is dressing up a low-ball bid for an extra casino as an attempt to bolster inbound Australian tourism particularly from China. He is getting good support on this from Geoff Dixon who is chairman of Tourism Australia and also from ex-advertising supremo Harold Mitchell. Of course Dixon, Mitchell (and fot that matter Coonan) are all directors of Packer’s Crown. What a coincidence and they are all saying such nice things!
The way Barry O’Farrell laps up all this nonsense sickens me – particularly as I knew Barry at university and thought he was no fool. But are the Australian people being taken for fools? Can blatant self-interest be allowed to override any sense of perspective on this issue? Packer has employed enough political punch to pull off a socially expensive fiasco.
Promoting problem gambling? The Labor Party’s ‘light-on-the-hill’? I feel a distinct revulsion at what is now happening in Australian politics. The greedy Liberals can be expected to follow their economic noses without a trace of idealism. But the hypocrisy of ex Labor politicians is breath-taking.
Up the workers the Laborite pollies might cry! Yes, right up them. Use their union dues to pay for prostitutes and keep them addicted to hopeless dreams of wealth through gambling. (1909)