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Apr 19, 2006

Tim Costello, gambling, the Press Club and tainted money

Victoria's most prominent anti-gambling campaigner, World Vision CEO Tim Costello, has accepted a speaking

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Victoria’s most prominent anti-gambling campaigner, World Vision CEO Tim Costello, has accepted a speaking gig
at the Melbourne Press Club on 2 May which is primarily a public push
for more foreign aid spending in his brother’s budget the following
week.

However, Rev Costello might not be aware that the Melbourne Press Club
boasts pokies giant Tattersall’s as its major sponsor – something which
doesn’t look good for Victoria’s media establishment in an election
year as the Bracks Government gets closer to making some momentous
decisions on the long-term structure and regulation of the state’s
poker machine duopoly.

Costello is well-versed on the question of tainted money after the
controversy that erupted when World Vision initially rejected a
$500,000 tsunami donation from the NSW Registered Clubs. Trevor Cook, a
director of the spinning outfit which arm twists for the Registered
Clubs, presented a typical response on his blog in January 2005:

I wonder what the hundreds of thousands of homeless in the tsunami-ravaged
regions of southern Asia would think? And what about the tens of thousands of clubs’ members who will see Rev
Costello’s rejection as a slap in the face to their way of life?

Clubs NSW has since donated the money to CARE Australia, who apparently don’t
put self-righteousness ahead of the plight of millions. And yours truly’s plan to donate to World Vision has been scrapped. My
family’s money will go to CARE.

Naturally, these were only Trev’s “personal views” and had nothing to
do with Jackson Wells Morris, who finally helped the Registered Clubs
prevail when the Iemma government backed down on their proposed pokies
tax slug last month.

The political and media tentacles of the insidious gaming industry is an interesting question. The Labor Party is
up to its neck in the industry and even runs a few hundreds
machines in its own venues, such as the Canberra Labor Club.

The NSW media has long been heavily infiltrated by the industry. News
Ltd needs the pokies to subsidise its disastrous NRL investment, John
Laws has pocketed hundreds of thousands from the Penrith Panthers over
the years and Alan Jones is great mates with Stargames boss John
Messara, which probably explains his personal advocacy for the aborted $800 million Oasis development.

In Victoria, veteran 3AW Morning host and political powerbroker
Neil Mitchell rarely gets stuck into the pokies which is not surprising
given that he was the President of the Press Club when Tattersall’s was
first landed as a $40,000 a year chief sponsor of the Quill Awards. Mitchell even banned Tim Costello for a number of years.

The Herald Sun has taken quite a tough stand in recent months,
probably reflecting Rupert Murdoch’s personal belief that $3 billion
lost on the pokies each year is $3 billion not available to buy his
local tabloid or subscribe to Foxtel. However, Herald Sun deputy editor
John Trevorrow happily sits on the Press Club committee as it takes
Tatt’s tainted cash.

Maybe it’s time for the Press Club committee to develop a bit of moral
fortitude and sever all links with the pokies giant. If not, committee
members and Quill winners who receive cheques from Tatt’s could be
considered a little compromised as the political temperature rises
around gaming.

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