The Labor Party is under fire for abandoning its controversial poker machine policy but anti-pokie lobbyists will continue the fight to keep them out of pubs and clubs.
Labor leader Rebecca White said the policy Labor took to the March 2018 election to ban poker machines in pubs and clubs from 2023 had been a “once in a generation opportunity” but now the focus was on a new gaming licence deed.
“We didn’t win the election. The fact of the matter is we can’t give effect to our policy,” Ms White said.
“We're not going to be able to continue to pursue our policy to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs because there'll be a new deal struck until 2043.”
Treasurer Peter Gutwein described Ms White’s comments as a “humiliating backflip” and “stunning about-face”.
“It is a clear admission that she was wrong, that her policy would have destroyed jobs, and that the Liberal Government’s policy is the right one,” Mr Gutwein said.
“In one sudden embarrassing back down, the policy is gone, the website is gone, and Ms White’s credibility is gone with it.”
Premier Will Hodgman was incredulous that Ms White had done away with the policy which she had been so passionate about.
He described it as a “Kevin Rudd” moment and said it had been abandoned because of the coming federal election.
It is understood federal Labor does not support the policy ban and there were fears it could affect donations to the party from pubs and clubs interstate.
Deputy Labor Michelle O’Byrne denied there had been any pressure from federal Labor on the pokies’ policy.
“We are committed to the policy, we’ve had no pressure from other bodies to suggest we should drop the policy,” Ms O’Byrne said.
“Had we won the election we would have implemented our policy.
“It is disappointing to us we did not win the election and we cannot do that.”
Greens leader Cassy O’Connor accused Labor of betraying Tasmanians who voted for Labor on the basis of the pokie policy.
“It’s a betrayal of those disadvantaged individuals, families and communities harmed by poker machines in pubs and clubs,” Ms O’Connor said.
“It’s a betrayal of the community sector who has campaigned so hard for the removal of pokies from pubs and clubs, and backed in Labor’s position last March.
“This is a cop out of the highest order.”
Pokies reform coalition spokeswoman Kym Goodes said the pokies issue should be above politics.
“The majority of the Tasmanian community wants pokies out of their local pubs and clubs,” Ms Goodes said.
“The election result has not changed this.
“The principle of reducing the harm caused by pokies sits above politics and will continue to be raised as the process to renew or alter the current deed proceeds.
“The fact remains that Tasmanians were never asked if they wanted pokies to move into their neighbourhoods and the majority want them removed.”
Rein in the Pokies convenor Pat Caplice said the main purpose of Labor’s policy was to reduce harm from pokies.
He hoped that could still be achieved.
Mr Hodgman would not say when legislation on a new deed for poker machines would be introduced into Parliament.
Ms O’Byrne said Labor feared the legislation would not come before parliament until next year.
The Federal Group’s monopoly over Tasmania's poker machines, set to expire in 2023, declined to comment.
The Liberals want to introduce individual venue licences and cap the number of machines in the state's pubs and clubs at 2,350.
The Tasmanian Hospitality Association which launched a massive campaign against Labor’s policy to ban pokies in pubs and clubs was contacted for comment.