ACT News

Ex-chief minister Jon Stanhope challenges his party on gambling links and Norfolk Island

According to former ACT chief minister Jon Stanhope, it is a conflict of interest for the Labor Party to own clubs and receive gambling proceeds, and a proposal to strip Norfolk Island of self-government is "bizarre", writes Kirsten Lawson.

Former chief minister Jon Stanhope was resoundingly knocked back in his call at a Labor Party sub-branch meeting on Thursday night for the party to sell the Labor clubs and rid itself of its connection with gambling.

Mr Stanhope's motion had limited support but was opposed by most at the Mount Rogers sub branch meeting. He had more success in another challenge to his party, asking it to back Norfolk Islanders in their fight to retain self-government. That call was supported almost unanimously.

Jon Stanhope, former ACT chief minister, is less than relaxed over his party's stand on clubs and Norfolk Island.
Jon Stanhope, former ACT chief minister, is less than relaxed over his party's stand on clubs and Norfolk Island. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Mr Stanhope said earlier that it was morally and politically untenable for the Labor Party to continue to own the clubs and receive money from the proceeds of gambling, given the club group is a big owner of poker machines in the ACT. Club money was also unnecessary given the proposed fourfold increase in public funding for election campaigns, from $2 a vote to $8 per vote.

Canberra Labor Club president Tony Luchetti hit back at Mr Stanhope on the idea last month, saying the club board was independent of the party and would not take instruction from it.

Mr Stanhope rejected Mr Luchetti's position as technically correct but "absurd" and "nonsense".  If the party took a position that the clubs should be sold, that would be the result, he said. 

The Labor Party "simply should not be associated with gambling", Mr Stanhope said, also pointing to the conflict of interest in both owning and legislating for the club industry.

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"The association with gambling and the conflict of interest, perceived or otherwise, are both morally and politically unacceptable," he said.

On the Norfolk Island issue, Mr Stanhope said the proposal to strip the island of self-government was bizarre and he criticised Labor federal MP Gai Brodtmann and Labor Senator Kate Lundy for supporting the move.

"Our senator and member for Canberra have already declared their position. They support the abolition of self-government. Philosophically, for the Australian Labor Party to support a Liberal party proposal to abolish self-government on Norfolk Island just beggars belief."

Mr Stanhope is calling for the intervention of the ACT branch of the Labor Party because of its close relationship with the Norfolk Island branch. On Thursday night, the sub-branch backed him.

"The removal of democratic rights from a group of Australians should be resisted - it should never have been countenanced," he said earlier.

"But there's nobody arguing for them ... I would have expected and hoped that Gai Brodtmann, Kate Lundy and Zed Seselja would have done everything within their power to ensure that the views of the people of Norfolk Island were respected and listened to and their desire to retain self-government be fought to the death, but it hasn't happened."

Mr Stanhope said it was bizarre that the proposal to abolish self-government had come from a committee looking at how to enhance tourism on the island.

"This is how bizarre it is: the best way of supporting tourism for Norfolk Island is to abolish the government. The poor people were not even advised that the committee would be making recommendations on their government."