Former chief minister Jon Stanhope compares Andrew Barr's 'petulance' on clubs to Donald Trump
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Former chief minister Jon Stanhope compares Andrew Barr's 'petulance' on clubs to Donald Trump

Former Labor chief minister Jon Stanhope has compared Chief Minister Andrew Barr to Donald Trump accusing him of "petulant" handling of the poker machine issue, and once again urged his party to sever its links with gambling.

Mr Stanhope said the ACT ICAC, when it was set up, ought to look first at the Labor Party's relationship with the Labor clubs and with the construction union's Tradies clubs.

Jon Stanhope with Andrew Barr in 2008, when the pair were in cabinet together.

Jon Stanhope with Andrew Barr in 2008, when the pair were in cabinet together.Credit:Andrew Sheargold

"If the Labor Party was smart it would sell the clubs before it comes to that," he said in a letter to the editor published in The Canberra Times on Tuesday. Mr Stanhope, who sent the letter before heading overseas for three weeks, has not made a specific allegation, but refers to a "gross conflict of interest".

He is a lifetime member of the Labor Party, but vociferous in attacking Labor for its treatment of asylum seekers, and regularly criticises Labor in the ACT for losing traction on affordable housing, pushing up land prices, failing indigenous people and being bankrolled by poker machine profits.

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Former chief minister Jon Stanhope speaks at a rally against the treatment of asylum seekers in Canberra last year. Mr Stanhope has been a  trenchant critic of his party on the subject.

Former chief minister Jon Stanhope speaks at a rally against the treatment of asylum seekers in Canberra last year. Mr Stanhope has been a trenchant critic of his party on the subject.Credit:Jay Cronan

But this time, he has gone further, saying Mr Barr's "Trump-like response to Clubs ACT daring to oppose the government over the decision to give the casino poker machines does seem, at best, a tad petulant".

"Residents and community organisations are entitled to disagree with and to oppose the actions of government. It's called democracy," he said.

Mr Stanhope was referring to Mr Barr's refusal to deal with the clubs industry body Clubs ACT. Mr Barr has shut the group out after it bankrolled a campaign against Labor at the last election over a decision to allow poker machines in the casino.

Now, Mr Barr has slammed the group as a "wreckage" and a "joke" and says he will deal with a breakaway group instead. He officially launched the breakaway group last week.

With four clubs as members, it was set up by the Construction, Forestry Mining and Engineering Union's Tradies clubs and is headed by Burns Club chief Athol Chalmers. The Labor Party's clubs belong to neither group.

Mr Stanhope said Mr Barr's decision to deal only with the breakaway group was a "gross conflict of interest".

"The CFMEU is not just affiliated with the ACT branch of the Labor Party, it is the most powerful and influential organ of the party," he said.

"I would imagine that at least half, if not more, of the Labor members of the ACT Legislative Assembly owe their preselection to the CFMEU."

Mr Barr made no comment on Mr Stanhope's attack on Tuesday, other than rejecting the suggestion that half of Labor parliamentarians owed their preselection to the CFMEU. Labor had rank and file preselection, he said.

On selling the clubs, Mr Barr said that was a question for the party.

"I don't have a view either way. It's about a 100th order issue," he said.

Mr Hall did not respond to requests for comment.

Between them, the Tradies and the Labor clubs control almost 1000 of the city's 4600 poker machines. Labor has 489 and the Tradies have 467. Mr Stanhope attempted to sell off the clubs in 2009 when he was chief minister, and a deal was struck to sell the clubs to the CFMEU, for about $20 million. But the sale was stymied when the federal party intervened.

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Mr Stanhope has continued to push for the sale. Two years ago, he put a motion to his party sub-branch calling for the sale, but was defeated.

Mr Barr and Mr Stanhope were in government together for five years, when Mr Barr was a minister in Mr Stanhope's cabinet. Mr Stanhope stood down in 2011 after 10 years as chief minister.

Kirsten Lawson is news director at The Canberra Times

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