Win on pokies

Federal Treasurer Peter Costello released the National Competition Council’s 2004-05 recommendations on competition payments yesterday, which included the long-awaited review of the pokie deal.
Nanjing Night Net

Competition policy funding is paid by the Federal Government to the States to encourage introduction of competition in various sectors.

Last year the State Government granted Federal Hotels a monopoly on poker machines until 2020 in the face of NCC warnings that Tasmania could lose competition funding if the deal was signed beyond 2008.

While the NCC found the Government’s actions were in breach of competition laws, improvements in other areas meant the breach did not warrant a penalty.

Tasmania joined Victoria and the ACT as the only states and territories to receive their full entitlements this year.

“The government made a judgment that even if we were to penalise them, and they must have thought that was possible, that they were better off doing it anyway,” NCC executive director John Feil said.

“That is certainly disappointing and we still think what happened should not have happened but we have to look at all-round performance.”

In its previous report, the council identified areas of the health profession, auctioneers, taxi and hire cars, real estate agents, and vocational training, along with gambling, as areas needing reform. As a result, $900,000 withheld in competition payments last year was repaid this year, along with $18.6 million following improvements in most areas.

Finance Minister Jim Cox stood by the Government’s pokies decision.

“The State Government takes its competition obligations seriously but the impact of gambling on our community is one area where we believe we should impose limits on market forces,” he said.

Greens gaming spokesman Kim Booth said the finding put the Government in a poor light.

“It is also proof that (former Treasurer) David Crean misled Parliament during Budget estimates by saying the NCC had no problem with the deal,” he said.

Mr Feil said the NCC had never given that information. “We certainly do have a problem with it (the deal) and up until the report was made available to the Government last month I have no idea on what basis they would have thought it was okay,” he said.

This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.