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Tasmanian Greens hedge their bets

By Matthew Holloway - posted Wednesday, 25 January 2012

The Tasmanian Greens are showing themselves to be a completely out of touch with their own policies and Greens in other states, specifically their support of privatisation seems in stark contrast to the policies of Greens branches in Western Australia and New South Wales.

In October 2011, Greens leader Nick McKim confirmed that his party would support the Opposition's bill to stop the state Government selling TOTE Tasmania, the state-owned betting agency. Mr McKim said 'The position we took to the election was to not support the sale of TOTE, it remains Greens policy'.

One month later on the 23rd of November, a vote on the floor of parliament saw every Greens member (with the exception of Kim Booth) vote against the Opposition bill and support Labor in privatising the betting agency.


This gross display saw the Greens ignore the advice of Kim Booth, the Green spokesman on Racing and gaming who had also chaired a committee investigating the future viability of TOTE. Mr Booth was left standing as the lone representative of the Tasmanian Greens who were once a party of principle and a genuine opposition force.

The 23rd of November will go down in Tasmanian history as the day Nick McKim showed the Greens have no alternative to the status quo and are willing to compromise principles in exchange for power. McKim also showed he is just as willing as the major parties to use core and non-core promises as a way of back flipping and betraying the electorate.

The Greens touted neo-liberal arguments in their media release stating, 'The Tasmanian Greens today confirmed that it was the majority view of the Party Room to not support moves to repeal the Tote Tasmania Sale Act 2009, saying that the changing circumstances surrounding the State's financial situation forced a re-evaluation of government priorities.'

It is interesting to note that the Greens press release confirmed that Kim Booth was the only Green to vote according to the recommendations of the Committee's report.

McKim stated 'The majority view in the Party Room was that governments should not be running a gaming entity, especially given the potential ongoing risk to the public purse in order to prop up Tote, when we have such dire funding needs across the community.'

This is a peculiar argument considering the Greens commitment to reforming the gambling industry. Add to this that the WA Greens support for abolition of greyhound racing, horse racing and inhumane use of animals for sport and entertainment.


There is public support for reform; EMC released a poll in October 2011 on regulation of gambling finding 52% of respondents supported more regulation of sports betting while 35% supported more regulation of horse race betting.

If the Tasmanian Greens have ambitions of reform, surely it is better to work with a government owned betting entity than battling a private enterprise who will direct millions into campaigns against any government that tries to initiate change. Counter to Green's claims, privatisation is not restructuring, nor will this promote viability and transparency in the gambling industry.

It is worth noting a quote from a recent address by Greens MP Sylvia Hale in NSW 'The decline of formal engagement with politics, both in voter turnout and in political party membership, has been accompanied by social democrat parties generally accepting – or at least failing to confront – free market economics where government regulation is reduced to a minimum. Challenges to the assumptions underlying neo-liberalism and economic rationalism have been sporadic and somewhat half-hearted.'

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About the Author

Matthew Holloway is a freelance writer and social justice advocate from Tasmania, where he stood for state and federal parliament and co-founded Tasmanians for Transparency. He has previously written for Tasmanian Times and Eureka Street, Matthew currently lives in Melbourne where he works as a Counsellor in Aboriginal Health and a Social Worker in Catholic social services.

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