There is a stench hanging over Tasmania's Parliament after the Gutwein government's future gaming market legislation passed the House of Assembly late last week.
It's the stink of institutional corruption.
After nearly 24 hours of debate, every Liberal and Labor MHA voted for a Bill they know will cost lives and livelihoods among the poorest Tasmanians, over generations.
It was a betrayal of the oath we swear as elected representatives to work for the 'true welfare of the people of Tasmania'.
In Tasmania, with the kind of connections and cash the gambling industry has, you can buy the votes of government and opposition MPs to secure obscene profits at unfathomable, enduring human cost.
If it had been a genuine conscience vote, the legislation would not now be on its way to the Upper House.
Wednesday's vote was a clear example of institutional corruption.
The Liberal and Labor parties are captured by their donors in the gambling and hospitality industry.
These industry figures cultivate co-dependency in order to secure policy and legislative outcomes that work against the community interest, transparency and, ultimately, democracy.
With the Gaming Control Amendment (Future Gaming Market) Bill 2021, the Federal Group and poker machine pub owners have hit the jackpot.
The Bill ignores real harm minimisation, removes key powers from the Tasmanian Liquor and Gaming Commission and Parliament, placing them in the hands of the minister.
It gifts the casino and Keno licenses to Federal Group, halves the tax rate on pokies in casinos and entrenches rolling 20-year licenses - given out for free - to individual venue owners.
The Tasmanian Hospitality Association asked for deregulation, and that's what it got.
It opposes $1 bet limits, slower spin speeds and shorter opening hours, so they're off the table too.
Both parties voted down every effort by the Greens and Independent Clark MHA Kristie Johnston to ensure at least the Bill limited the harm from gambling addiction.
They did, however, both agree to look at facial recognition and spending pre-commitment technologies which, entirely serendipitously we can be sure, the gambling industry has made clear it is prepared to accept.
The Liberals' legislation is the exact model put forward by former Labor premier Paul Lennon, on behalf of Federal Group, and the THA at the Parliamentary Inquiry into the future gaming market in 2017.
It's all so cosy, and so rotten.
The result of this perfidious collusion will be addiction, despair, mental illness, poverty, child abuse and neglect, family violence and breakdown, homelessness and, as the evidence makes clear, in some cases suicide born of crushing self-loathing and despair.
All of this was avoidable.
We could have ended the Deed, removed these predatory machines from where they are concentrated in suburbs bitten by socioeconomic disadvantage and banished them to casinos, like Western Australia did.
Back in 2017, the Hodgman government could have decided to save lives instead of focusing on its need for cash at the upcoming election.
All it needed was a letter from the Treasurer, now our Premier.
Because they can't be honest about the fact this legislation is the quid-pro-quo for the industry bankrolling their 2018 election win, now Premier Peter Gutwein and Finance Minister Michael Ferguson claim the government has "smashed the Federal monopoly Deed".
If they have, it was with an imaginary feather duster.
The toxic by-product of first the Groom Liberal government in 1993, then the Bacon Labor government in 2003, the monopoly Deed with Federal is coming to its legislative end.
Its 15-year exclusivity period expired in 2018.
The Deed is now in a rolling extension phase. Under the current arrangement, any government could end the monopoly - all it needs is a letter from the Treasurer to Federal Group to let them know the party - for which Tasmania has paid such a heavy price - is over.
That letter would trigger the expiration, or variation, of the Deed after five years.
The suffering caused by poker machines could end with the stroke of a pen.
Instead, according to the former independent Liquor and Gaming Commissioner Peter Hoult we have a licensing model that's even worse than the status quo, at a certain higher human cost.
Mr Hoult also described Tasmanian Labor as 'craven' on this issue. He is right.
They went to the 2018 election on a policy to remove pokies from pubs and clubs.
They folded shortly after their loss, signed a secret agreement with the THA and their capture was complete.
In walking away from a principled policy, Rebecca White promised Labor's focus would be on effective harm minimisation measures.
After accepting gambling industry donations for the 2021 election, Labor has walked away from that promise too.
The Legislative Council is now the last hope for a less damaging, corrupted gambling control framework.
It is dominated by the major parties, but if Rebecca White's Labor wants to modestly redeem itself and save lives in future, Labor MLCs will vote to send the Bill to a Parliamentary inquiry so its profound consequences can be transparently examined, in the public interest.
That might help to clear some of the bad air hanging over Parliament.
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