Friday, March 21, 2014

Key Coincidence

When John Key wanted to do a special deal with SkyCity Casino, the Problem Gambling Foundation (PGF) raised alarms. Now Key’s government has cut virtually all funding to the group. Coincidence?

The deal was always bad for New Zealand, and for a lot of reasons, but Key and his National/Act-led Government dismissed all objections. Now it appears John Key is getting his revenge, and even Peter Dunne didn't entirely dismiss that as being true.

So far, National Party supporters are claiming that the PGF used government money to, in the colourful words that Tory attack dog Tau Henare Tweeted, “bag the hand that feeds them”. Later, after calling a critic a “tard” (Tau is such a charming man, isn’t he? Total class, that one—John Key must be so proud to have him in caucus!), he claimed that he meant PGF should not get “money to criticize.”

Here’s the problem with the Tory spin: It’s wrong and stupid. PGF’s mission is to help problem gamblers, yes, but it also raises awareness of the issue and tries to reduce risk and minimise harm. If the government—led by any party—is about to do something that in their professional opinion will increase risk and harm, they have an obligation to speak up, just as ANY other government-funded agency would be expected to do. So, why is this one so special, so offensive to Tories?

This deal was close to John Key's heart, but he got significant opposition to the deal from non-partisan community groups, and not just his political opponents. Many questions were raised about the ethics and even legality of the deal. So, when PGF raised alarms, it gave added legitimacy to the opposition to the deal, and that had to be punished. John Key simply ignores criticism from all other groups that have opposed government policy, but TGF stirred up more trouble for John Key and National/Act than any others ever have.

So, was the de-funding of the Problem Gambling Foundation political retribution from John Key and his National/Act-led government? You bet.

Update: On Public Address, Russell Brown looks at the many issues this raises and points out that PGF “doesn’t lobby on the public dollar – that part of its work is privately funded.”

Update 2: Peter Dunne has had a change of heart. Earlier he said that PGF's defunding had "nothing to do" with its opposition to the SkyCity deal "as far as I'm aware." At around 11:40am he Tweeted, "Claims Problem Gambling Foundation funding cut because of its opposition to Sky City deal are wilful lies spread with malice". So, how did he suddenly become "aware of" what the situation is? Did his boss John Key have a quiet word with him? After such a huge flipflop, how can we trust any of them to be completely truthful?

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