Last Saturday night, I picked up my drink at the German Club in Narrabundah and found a coaster emblazoned with anti-Andrew Barr slogans stuck to the bottom of it.
With a long-running anti-Labor campaign being waged by the clubs due to reach a crescendo with a protest at the Raiders Club at Kippax this morning, it was no surprise to learn that ACT Labor had come up with an election sweetener designed to win back at least some of the clubs’ support. The surprise was how long it took them to do so.
Yesterday, ACT Gaming Minister Mick Gentleman announced that a re-elected Labor Government would provide tax relief and a Community Club Grant of $10,000 to eligible small and medium clubs from 2017-18.
The small and medium club gaming tax rebate would allow smaller clubs to retain 50 per cent of their gaming tax revenue to re-invest into their organisation.
Some clubs were quick to respond positively to the Labor pledge, but others remain skeptical.
Clubs ACT has been campaigning for a year against a government move to grant Canberra’s casino operator gaming machine licences. The peak body for the city’s clubs has found a great supporter in the Canberra Liberals, and has become increasingly aggressive in its campaign against Labor’s stance that it would allow pokies in the casino.
While it would seem a natural fit to allow poker machines in a casino, there is no doubt that the introduction of 200 of them in the city venue would impact on the clubs sector. Clubs ACT argues that many small and medium clubs would be forced to close.
They have rejected Labor’s announcement as “an election eve promise to misguide Canberrans yet again”, with the chief executive of ClubsACT, Gwyn Rees, describing it as “deceptive” and “not reflective of the industry as a whole”.
“We appreciate regulations on the clubs industry finally seem to be in focus because we have worked tirelessly to bring this to the public agenda but it needs to be pointed out – Labor is not working with the industry, they are just talking to a small handful of labor-party aligned and union driven clubs,” Mr Rees said.
“A $10,000 grant won’t go far enough to cover the rate rises these small to medium sized clubs have experienced over the last four years, it’s almost insulting.”
He said Mr Barr had been invited to attend today’s public rally at the Belconnen Raiders Club oval in Holt, but had rejected the invitation.
“People shouldn’t believe ACT Labor given their broken promises in recent times,” Mr Rees said.
“We won’t until their support is for more than just a few clubs and until it is publicly proven, not just an empty promise.”
We’ll be covering the rally live on Facebook from around 10.30am.