Sol Trujillo is telling the world through the BBC that Australia is a racist nation and the PM’s dismissive “adios” comment is certainly the closest he has come to a Pauline Hanson moment.

Another uniquely Australian political feature is also on show this week with the ACT branch of the ALP announcing plans to sell the 440-strong poker machines business it operates through the Canberra Labor Club.

The ALP and its affiliated unions are arguably the democratic world’s richest political movement with almost $1 billion of assets. Part of this wealth has come from running gambling dens in the nation’s capital since 1979 to help raise funds for political purposes. No wonder the ALP-ACTU machine was able to outspend the Coalition by about to five to one at the last Federal election.

As opposition leader, Kevin Rudd claimed that he hates poker machines but it has taken 18 months to finally see some movement at the station.

After all, it is pretty hard for Labor governments to have moral authority in dealing with hundreds of thousands of Australian pokie addicts when it is preying on these very people through its own four venues.

In another classic example of how pokies are ingrained into the Australian system, the major media outlets have ignored the ALP’s dramatic decision.

The Canberra Times broke the story yesterday and the only other comprehensive coverage was this package on ABC online.

The only criticism of the announcement has come from the LHMU union which wasn’t consulted about the sale.

“I would have thought that any company — but particularly a Labor club that’s owned by the Labor Party — would have consulted with its workforce and their representative union prior to making a public announcement,” said Lyndal Ryan from the LHMU.

Rather than worrying about the workers who help fleece the problem gamblers, is there anyone standing up for the victims who will now be at the mercy of a private operator?

Exactly who will pay the ALP more than $20 million to become the biggest pokies operator in Canberra? This money will certainly come in handy if we do have a snap double dissolution election.

Labor’s announcement is a major win for anti-pokies campaigners such as Tim Costello, Senator Nick Xenophon and multi-millionaire Paul Bendat, who runs the www.pokieact.org website.

Bendat is attempting to shame Woolworths into selling its vast 11,000-strong pokies empire — a tough ask when Australia’s dominant political party was in the same business.

With Labor now effectively declaring the pokies business was damaging its brand, Woolworths has come to a major fork in the road.

After all, there aren’t many pokies operators with a spare $20 million to invest and Woolworths is the logical buyer of the Canberra Labor Club chain given it is already the biggest player in most Australian cities.

Roger Corbett, the hypocritical devout Christian who drove the Woolies push into pokies, will be praying his successor Michael Luscombe doesn’t draw even more attention to his destructive empire by giving a big cheque to the ALP.

The mainstream media should be all over this issue, especially the Fairfax press given that Corbett is a director. As we’ve noted before, Woolies is such a big advertiser that it tends to get treated with kids gloves when the commercial media cover problem gambling stories.

However, the tide might slowly be turning. The local Rockhampton paper named Woolies in this story bagging the retail giant’s attempt to extend its opening hours from midnight to 5am, so that lonely pokies addicts can really get into the zone. This is a standard Woolies tactic across the country and one they would no doubt repeat if handed control of the Canberra Labor Club.

Peter Fray

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