Peter Garrett, the former Labor minister and rock star, has changed his tune over claims he was offered thousands of dollars as a “gift” by Clubs NSW in 2004.
Garrett, who was lead singer of Midnight Oil before entering politics, was attending a meet-and-greet for new MPs 11 years ago when he was approached by a representative from the influential pubs and clubs operator.
Garrett had claimed in the new ABC documentary, ‘Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation’, that he was initially offered “hundreds, if not thousands” of bucks 11 years ago.
Garrett claimed that he sent the brown envelope back once he realised it contained money.
However, the former politician and singer has now changed his story, with the film-makers hurrying to edit the final broadcast before it goes out this week.
Garrett, who was representing Kingsford-Smith in Sydney, now says he was presented with a cheque for his electoral office, not cash. He has also stated that the incident took place before he officially took office.
Change of Story “Out of Character”
It was only when ABC’s 7.30 programme, who are broadcasting the doco, contacted Garrett again that he changed his recollection of events.
Both the documentary, which charts the history of pokies in Australia and delves into the way pokie machines are sucking up billions of dollars every year, and Garrett’s publisher Allen & Unwin, will be updating their respective film and book.
“I didn’t count it,” Garrett said in his initial interview.
“But it was hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars. I wasn’t going to accept money from them [Clubs NSW] or from anyone in that way.
“But it was a very early taste of the way in which this sector could actually operate.”
Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, who has been leading a campaign to fight problem gambling Down Under, called Garrett’s change of tune “unfathomable, completely out of character for the man.”
“Why he would now abandon that story and talk about there just being a cheque in an envelope, it beggars belief.”
Before becoming an MP and later Environment Minister in the 2007 Labor government, Garrett was a prominent voice on environmental issues and once sat on the international board of Greenpeace.
He has also long been known for his passionate defence of Indigenous people in Australia.
Ka-Ching! To Expose Murky World of Pokies
‘Ka-Ching! Pokie Nation’ was one of the last programmes to be co-produced by Neil Lawrence, the renowned ad exec who died in July this year. The show airs on ABC on October 20 at 9.30pm.
The documentary will apparently set out to expose “how the seemingly innocuous pokie machines at your local pub are programmed for addiction.” It features interviews with players and politicians alike, and tells the story of pokie development Down Under.
The film shows that pokies are now classified on a similar level to cocaine in the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders for psychiatrists.
It’s not the first time Clubs NSW have been caught up in a political donations scandal.
Earlier this year it emerged that the powerful chain, along with AHA (Australian Hotels and Hospitality Association) in Victoria gave donations totaling AUD75,000 to front-bencher, Kevin Andrews.
Andrews was associated with pro-pokies lobby groups, according to anti-gambling campaigners, although no impropriety was ever established.
“Sadly, Mr. Andrews and the Coalition have been joined at the hip with the poker machine lobby from well before the 2013 election,” said outspoken anti-pokies senator, Nick Xenophon, earlier this year.
“Frankly, I don’t know why Clubs NSW bothered, given the Coalition was determined, long before this donation, to wreck even the minimalist [anti-pokies] reforms put through by the Gillard Government.”