Despite all the doom and gloom about the future of Labor in NSW, the party has the key ingredient to survive: robust financial health.

Look no further than the scene of Kristina Keneally’s concession speech on Saturday night, the Randwick Labor Club. It is perhaps appropriate that the morally bankrupt NSW ALP chose to go down in flames at a pokies venue.

Indeed, Keneally’s husband, Ben Keneally, is one of the 10 directors of the Randwick Labor Club, as disclosed on page five of the latest annual report, for the year ended October 31, 2010.

Ben is clearly busy working as marketing chief with Evan Thornley’s Better Place outfit because he missed four of the 14 Randwick Labor Club board meetings last year.

The Randwick Labor Club is a typical member of Clubs NSW, the outfit that is  spending more than $10 million trying to overturn the agreement Julia Gillard struck with Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie to implement full pokies pre-commitment as recommended by the Productivity Commission.

The Randwick Labor Club claims to have net assets of $28 million and pokies revenue jumped from $4.1 million to $5.1 million last year, comprising 68% of total revenue.

Despite returning a profit of $929,000, the club only managed to deliver a miserable $161,397 in “donations and community support” compared with a whopping $687,493 spent on “promotions and games expense”.

Bear in mind, the so-called community donations are deductible from their state pokies tax and the incoming O’Farrell government has agreed to a sweetheart deal that raises the amount that can be deducted.

Even worse, the O’Farrell government has promised Clubs NSW it will introduce unlimited multiterminal gaming machines, which opens the door for faux roulette and faux blackjack right across the state.

Did the Coalition realise this would also increase the most valuable asset of the politically vanquished NSW ALP?

And where does the Coalition’s strong stand on crime sit with the fact that the pokies remain the preferred vehicle for money laundering in NSW, as was explained in this Sydney Morning Herald story, which included the following extraordinary claim:

“Hotel industry sources estimate that nationally $2 billion is laundered through hotels, clubs and casino poker machines and gambling chips, and as much as 40 per cent of this is through NSW, the nation’s crime capital.”

Check out this news update on pokies laundering by corporate advisers BMR.

It will be interesting to see what position John Robertson takes on the pokies as the clubs and hotels crank up the pressure on NSW state and federal MPs across the political spectrum. Robertson claims to have been principled in his consistent opposition to electricity privatisation, despite big money pressure for him to relent.

One source of that big money pressure was none other than Paul Keating, international chairman of Lazard, the Wall Street-listed investment bank that was chief adviser to the NSW government on electricity privatisation as was explained in this Crikey piece in April 2008.

If Robertson wants an easy retort to the barbs coming from Keating, he should publicly ask the former PM to disclose how much he pocketed of the estimated $200 million in advisory fees paid for NSW electricity reform.

Indeed, such is the stench surrounding power privatisation, the O’Farrell government should provide a breakdown of this $200 million, just as the Kennett government did in the late 1990s after its $30 billion energy sell-off.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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