When Alderman Helen Burnet asked me to come and film a forum on pokies I figured it would be just another talk-fest with the same old figures and sad stories trotted out for everyone to be collectively disgusted. I’d heard it all before, it’s tragic but whatayagunnado? To my utter surprise, by the end of the forum a strange emotion had welled up in my person- I was angry. Really angry.
Like most people, I know a bit about addiction. Many of my dearest friends have at times morphed into strangers as a result of various addictions. I too struggle discreetly with my own unhealthy habits which at 32 have already taken a permanent physical toll. Addiction is serviced by availability. The easier it is to satisfy a need, the faster and more damaging the consequences. For this reason, among many others, poker machines are particularly destructive. The availability of pokies in Tasmania is sickening- one for every 84 people of gambling age- among the highest ratios anywhere in the world. And you CAN NOT beat them. I recently read of school teacher who told his class that they had a better chance of picking up a poker machine and carrying it out the front door of a hotel undetected than seeing a return on their money.
Now we love to cut down tall poppies in Tasmania. Whether it’s slagging off Jan Cameron for selling sweatshop goods or blustering that it’s time for Punter (sorry, couldn’t resist) to retire. Therefore I feel it only natural that we should be looking a bit closer at the Farrell family; the uber-wealthy Sydney based collective who fleece $600,000 a day from our most vulnerable communities via their monopoly on the State’s poker machines. The Farrell’s are not so much tall poppies as they are tall Triffids- reaching their venomous funnel-tipped stems into the wallets of Tasmania’s blind addicts.
It is a Triffid allowed to flourish because Tasmanian politicians are cowards who toe the corporate line … they are the Overseers for The Masters. Federal may argue with some justification that all they are doing is clever business to make a quid. They are law-abiding citizens who simply do business according to the law. Their deed of pokies operation was approved by Labor and Liberal politicians. All true … but law that allowed this Deed to fuel this Triffid is an ass …
… As James Boyce, a Tasmanian historian and social policy consultant, revealed so eloquently in an article published on Tasmanian Times way back on Friday, November 5, 2004: Pokies: This is a scandal.
Defenders of this status quo also maintain that business is business … but this is redolent of a business morality that is so cold and dispassionate as to be, in my view, immoral.
Because there are living, breathing human beings involved. Not machines.
The face and front man of Federal Hotels is Greg Farrell. The Federal Group is currently owned and operated by the Farrell Family, consisting of Greg Farrell (Managing Director), John Farrell (Director of Business Development), Julia Farrell (Director of Interior Design), Deborah Lee (Board Member, [nee Farrell]) and Jane Farrell (Board Member) (according to Wikipedia here).
This is what The Federal Group says about itself:
Federal Hotels Ltd began in Victoria in 1885 and is the world’s second oldest hotel group. Chairman of Federal Hotels Ltd in 1969, Mr Greg Farrell Snr, was a man of vision and in that year purchased the Wrest Point Riviera Hotel on Hobart’s River Derwent. Mr Farrell Snr’s dream was for Wrest Point Riviera Hotel to become Australia’s first legal casino – a dream that materialised with the opening of Wrest Point Hotel Casino in 1973.
Federal Hotels Ltd, now known as the Federal Group, is today a diverse, multi award winning privately owned company, run by Greg Farrell Snr’s five children, with Greg Farrell Jnr (pictured) the Managing Director. The company has expanded significantly in the past 38 years, with the opening of Country Club Tasmania, creation of the Vantage Hotel Group and Network Gaming, and the evolution of an inspiring statewide tourism brand, Pure Tasmania.
At iconic destinations, Pure Tasmania unites Tasmania’s most unforgettable experiences and finest accommodation; Freycinet Lodge, Strahan Village, Cradle Mountain Chateau, and the internationally acclaimed Henry Jones Art Hotel. Opened in June 2010, the jewel of Tasmania, Saffire Freycinet, heralds a new level of luxury in Tasmania and is a defining milestone in the evolution of Pure Tasmania.
Beyond fine accommodation, Pure Tasmania delivers a multi-sensory travel experience, with a focus on fine local cuisine plus world-class experiences like Gordon River Cruises, West Coast Wilderness Railway, The Bonnet Island Experience and the Cradle Mountain Wilderness Gallery, incorporating the Tasmanian Tiger Exhibition.
With its origins – and its future – firmly established in tourism, hospitality and entertainment, the Federal Group is one of Australia’s most dynamic companies and is Tasmania’s largest private sector employer. The Federal Group enjoys an enviable reputation and is an organisation that values a culture of mutual commitment built on strong core values.
The Federal Group has a long history of generously supporting a wide range of organisations, including community groups, sporting clubs, charitable causes, the arts and major events. The nature of this support includes sponsorship, donations and philanthropic giving.
A successful and widely respected Australian owned family company, the Federal Group’s commitment to Tasmania, and to its employees, now spans five decades. From Federal Hotels, About Us, here
So this got me thinking- why is it that so few people in Tasmania think about where their hard-earned is going when the habitually feed their grocery money into these flashy, musical rubbish bins? These days when we light up a cigarette we are forced to confront gut-churning images diseased organs and brilliantly written slogans about the many dangers of smoking. I recently heard someone make the point that if you had a plain packaged poker machine that took up to 15% of all the money you put in it, do you think anyone would go near the thing? Better still, plain packaged with a picture of Greg Farrell’s mug on it. But, if you ask the proverbial man in the street who owns the Federal Group and what do they look like, 9 times out of 10 you are greeted with a shrug of the shoulders. This has to change.
My plan is to start a viral anti-pokie campaign that focuses on these soulless parasites. I would like everyone in Tasmania to see what the 6 Farrell family members look like and understand that this small group have an absolute monopoly on these cancerous wealth transfer machines. When Gunns was at its worst in Tasmania, clear-felling old growth forests on an industrial scale to flog off as woodchips we had the pin-up boy for all that was wrong with forestry in that pig of a man, John Gay. His arrogance was legendary and his weaselly face and pot belly from countless long lunches became ripe material for a sophisticated campaign to expose the nature of Gunns’ activities. To name but one example, who could forget that wonderful placard of a Gay’s head along side an animal poisoned by 1080 accompanied by the words ‘Rich Bastard’ ‘Poor Bastard’?
To this end I have started up a youtube channel where I will be producing and publishing video content to expose these depraved racketeers. I realise that to stand up a mob like the Farrell’s can cause all sorts of problems in a small place like Tasmania, but fuck it. Anyone on the island with half a social conscious is bound to get blackballed sooner or later. The Farrell family is carefully media managed to slip under the radar so any sort of reaction will only draw attention to their pokie interests. Of course I am not so naïve as to think such a campaign is going to bother the Federal Group too much, but it will certainly be interesting to see where it goes.
For the time being I have pretty much given up on Government doing anything to stop the Farrell’s ripping off Tasmanian’s to the tune of $600k per day. They are never going to stand up to this mob due to conflicts of interest with various tourism ventures, sponsorship deals and ‘commercial in confidence’ plans all over the state. With all due respect to Andrew Wilkie and the Tasmanian Greens (and they deserve huge credit for their tireless efforts), I really think they are pissing into the wind. I’d like to believe otherwise but history has shown that political action on this devastating industry is about as likely as Jack Newton swimming across Bass Strait.
This is serious issue that needs to be addressed. We all know the figures, now it’s time to do something about it. I am open to suggestions (email below) as to how to get the faces of this evil family into the consciousness of all Tasmanians. When people feed money into pokie machines they need to know where it is going. Many organisations across Tasmania are already doing their bit, from the local music industry that has had their venues obliterated by Oasis’s (after the Gallagher’s did their worst in the 90’s) to groups such as the Salvos and TasCOSS. It’s time to step up the campaign and expose these people for who they are and what they are doing to our communities. Whatcha say folks?
Here is good straight-forward account on how Pokies take your money without you realising it. http://www.abc.net.au/unleashed/2733166.html So simple it’s frightening.