Clubs across the NSW electorate of Murray will mount a political campaign against former Shooters Fishers and Famers, now Independent MP Helen Dalton, who has rejected claims she is “uninformed” about gaming reform.
The ‘Gaming Reform the Right Way’ campaign will inform members and staff at rural and regional clubs about the impacts of what they claim are Dalton’s proposed changes ahead of the March state election. Moama Bowling Club CEO Paul Barnes said clubs in the Murray are tired of being ignored by their elected representative, after numerous efforts to meet with the MP.
“We have been asking to meet with Helen Dalton for weeks and instead of taking our calls she blindsided us, giving an interview on her anti-club position to The Sydney Morning Herald,” Barnes said. “Clubs are the heart of rural and regional communities, creating thousands of jobs and contributing millions of dollars in support for charities and other local organisations, so why does Helen still refuse to even meet us?
“We have always said we support sensible ideas that both protect our communities and our jobs, but Helen’s lack of consultation has put our backs against the wall, leaving us with no choice but to register as third-party campaigners against her re-election.
But Dalton says she is still considering all options, a conversation needs to be had, she had not been ignoring the issue but had been focussing on recent floods as a priority rather than gaming, and was available to speak about the matter.
“I’ve never said I wasn’t (available),” she said. “There has been about three calls I’ve taken and I’m happy to have that conversation. I represent all the clubs in my electorate and there has been a lot of people calling for gambling reform. This has been something that has been dreamed up to make me look like I am not an approachable person.”
She said there was a forum in NSW Parliament and she was asked to participate in it and was interviewed by the Herald as a result. In that piece, she was quoted as saying the gaming issue was “out of control”.
“These powerful gambling lobbies wield enormous influence on the major parties. So it’s up to us as independents and the crossbench to really stand up about this … It’s something we need to shine a light on,” she said. “I know I’m not going to be popular with some groups, but I will navigate through that. I think that’s the job I should be doing.”
Dalton backed that up in an interview with Club Management this week.
“What really grinds my gears a bit is the fact that people and ClubsNSW can say ‘Gee, if you have a problem you can go to a councillor’,” she said.
“Well wrong! With my stance on health, the health services are not really available to everyone. I understand that clubs contribute a lot to our communities,” she added. “I understand what they do, they do a great job. But there is a lot of money that leaves our area.”
ClubsNSW CEO Josh Landis said other clubs in the Murray region were joining Moama Bowling Club as third-party political campaigners, launching reformtherightway.com.au, because he claimed Dalton’s approach meant they had no other options.
“As we come out of COVID lockdowns and floods, clubs around NSW are looking to their MPs for support, not uninformed attacks on their right to exist,” Landis said. “As I talk with clubs, what is abundantly clear to me is they are unhappy about how they have been treated as a political plaything, while the good they do for their communities has been ignored. The Murray River clubs are the first to launch a campaign, but those clubs are not alone in being angry.”
Dalton said she was supporting reform and was having discussions at various levels about the gaming issue and advertising of gambling which was particularly problematic. The loss of jobs argument also did not hold because there are plenty of work opportunities in the electorate and in other regional areas.
“ClubsNSW have come out of the red corner smashing me because I am representing someone other than themselves,” she said.