The annual deluge of political donations data has been public since Wednesday morning and in media terms it proved to be a one-day wonder.

The $14 million spent by the tobacco industry fighting plain packaging legislation was the biggest single number that stood out, but the pokies industry could yet trump that number when the 2011-12 figures are finally released on February 1 next year. Pokies industry donations for 2010-11 got a brief mention in yesterday’s coverage and they certainly make for interesting reading when totalled up. Try this for size:

Labor pokies money

ACT ALP
Canberra Labor Club: $613,511

Federal ALP
AHA: 101,600
Clubs NSW: $27,500
Australian Casinos Association: $2266

NSW ALP
Sutherland District Trade Union Club (“Tradies”): $100,000
Clubs NSW: $79,850
AHA: $79,850

Victorian ALP
AHA: $150,000
Crown Casino: $25,000

WA ALP
Burswood Casino: $22,000

Total for ALP: $1.2 million

Liberal and National Party pokies donations

Federal Liberals
AHA: $105,000
Woolworths: $16,500
Clubs NSW: $15,000

NSW Liberals
AHA: $330,000
Clubs NSW: $207,000
The Warringah Club: $50,000
Star City Casino: $40,000
Harbour Beach Hotel: $11,000

NSW Nationals
AHA: $125,705
Clubs NSW: 50,000
Star City Casino: $64,300

Victorian Liberals
AHA: $70,000

Victorian Nationals
AHA: $50,000

WA Liberals
Burswood: $25,000

SA Liberals
AHA: $20,000

Total for Liberal and National parties: $1.18 million

How amazing that the industry managed to give almost exactly the same figure to the two major parties, both of which appear to be committed to Australians remaining the world’s biggest gamblers.

As the largest hotel group in the country, it is clear that Woolworths has been the biggest single contributor through the Australian Hotels Association (AHA). This will make the position of federal Liberal gambling spokesman Kevin Andrew quite interesting when Manningham City Council moves to introduce a “double rates” regime on four Woolies pokies venues and one non-Woolies venue in 2012-13.

Kevin and I have had quite a spat in the local Murdoch paper over the past fortnight, which began when the following letter was published in The Manningham Leader on January 25:

Is anyone else appalled that Manningham’s federal representative, Kevin Andrews, is continuing to perform his role as Tony Abbott’s attack dog opposing proposed reforms to reduce the estimated $5 billion a year lost on the pokies by problem gamblers?

Manningham councillors from across the political divide voted 8-1 in favour of comprehensive Federal action last year and polls have consistently showed that a strong majority of voters support pokies betting limits and/or mandatory pre-commitment to end Australia’s embarrassing status as the world’s biggest gamblers in per capita terms.

Perhaps Mr Andrews should conduct a straw poll of the hundreds of residents who will gather on Australia Day at the council offices to see who has received his annual “Menzies Awards” for community services.

It is shameful and enormously socially damaging that more than $60 million is lost on the pokies in Manningham each year — a figure comparable to the total amount of rates received by council.

As a prominent political conservative and devoted Catholic, why is Mr Andrews opposing reform when church groups from across the board are demanding action?

Indeed, Catholic Social Services was named as a founding member of the new “Stop The Loss” coalition launched by Andrew Wilkie, Tim Costello and Nick Xenophon in Sydney last Friday.

The following feisty response from Kevin Andrews was published in the Manningham Leader  two days ago:

It comes as no surprise that Stephen Mayne (“Losses too great”, Opinion, January 25) would attempt to misrepresent those he disagrees with.

The Coalition is committed to helping problem gamblers. We believe that any proposal that is to effectively deal with problem gambling has to go beyond just any one measure.

This is why the Coalition is undertaking a robust policy development process that is canvassing industry and community views to find a sensible approach to gambling reform.

We want to help problem gamblers overcome their problem.

We believe that this can only be achieved by a range of measures, including improved counselling and education measures that afford long-term relief from problem gambling.

All Stephen Mayne and Julia Gillard would do is to prolong the problem to fuel their politically opportunistic agenda.

That Stephen Mayne would suggest I turn a ceremony honouring volunteers in our community into a political event just shows how out of touch he really is.

But then again, we have come to expect this grandstanding from Stephen Mayne.

Kevin Andrews MP, Doncaster

Hmmm, after three years of cordial relations with our local federal MP, it seems this pokies issue is going to really liven up proceedings leading into council elections at the end of October.

*Stephen Mayne is a City of Manningham councillor and was not paid for this contribution

Peter Fray

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