gambling donations

The political donations season was shorter than most this year, with the detail of who donated what to whom, and how much was disclosed, swamped by the royal commission report on Monday.

One story that (rightly) attracted media attention was the extraordinary extent of gambling industry support for the Tasmanian Liberals, who reaped hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from gambling interests opposed to Labor’s plan to ban pokies in pubs. They were so big that they more than doubled the gambling industry’s total political donations — from around $700,000 in 2016-17 to over $1.5 million in 2017-18. The Tasmanian branch of the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) alone gave around $270,000 to the Liberals.

Don’t feel too sorry for Labor, however. Take away Tasmania, and Labor actually enjoyed more gambling industry donations than the Coalition. Across all its branches, Labor attracted nearly $700,000 in gambling industry donations (Tasmanian Labor received no gambling donations at all). That compares to the donations to the Coalition nationwide of just over $820,000, including to the Tasmanian Liberals and the Nationals.

And some of the amounts flowing to Labor in other states are extraordinary. While the federal branch of the AHA gave $90,000-100,000 to both sides, its South Australian branch was like a fire hose of cash, gushing over $140,000 to the South Australian ALP and $30,000 to federal Labor, compared to around $110,000 to the South Australian Liberals. The AHA’s New South Wales branch was similarly generous: it gave over $85,000 to the NSW ALP while federal Labor got another $76,000. Its generosity to the Liberals was via the federal branch, which received around $110,000.

It’s not just AHA branches that favoured Labor with its donations. Clubs NSW gave $68,000 to federal Labor and over $50,000 to NSW Labor; the Liberals only received $48,000 via their NSW branch (Clubs NSW’s donations are purely tactical, however — they gave $180,000 to the federal Liberals in 2013 plus tens of thousands to other Liberal branches that year). And you can bet that with a NSW election looming, the AHA and Clubs NSW chequebooks will still be out for both sides.

Peter Fray

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Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

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