Xenophon hits out at AHA campaign
Nick Xenophon has rubbished a campaign by the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) targeting him in the South Australian election and taken aim at Woolworths for its role in the poker machine industry.
The AHA has been running television commercials warning that a vote for Xenophon or one of his SA-BEST candidates will put thousands of jobs in the hotel sector at risk.
Xenophon said the campaign against him is based on lies and latest research shows that poker machines actually cost jobs in the community.
The AHA is concerned at SA-BEST’s policy of cutting the number of poker machines in SA by half and also introducing other measures to combat problems gambling including $1 maximum bets. Xenophon said Woolworths was indirectly involved through its stake in Australian Leisure and Hospitality, which operates hotels and their poker machines around the country.
“The great irony is that today there are people in South Australia and around the country who can’t afford to buy food and the essentials of life in a Woolworths supermarket because they have lost their money at a Woolworths’ poker machine,” he told reporters on Sunday.
In a statement on its gaming interests late last month, the supermarket giant said it took its responsibilities in gaming and the service of alcohol very seriously. Its recent annual meeting also reaffirmed its commitment to being the leader in responsible gaming.
“At Woolworths, our priorities and values must always match those of our customers and communities we operate in and this includes taking important steps to ensure we, through ALH, are a responsible gaming operator,” group chairman Gordon Cairns said.
But the Alliance for Gambling Reform said Woolworths should be ashamed of the election campaign being run by the AHA and should sever its ties with the association.
“Woolworths is actually interfering in this election,” alliance spokesman Tim Costello said. “They’re doing it at arm’s length through the hotels association. “Most South Australians would be staggered to know that Woolworths is the biggest pokies operator in Australia and the biggest here in South Australia.”