clubs spin into damage control

Faced with a growing public backlash against their “It’s Un-Australian” save-our-pokies campaign, ClubsAustralia has turned to their resident spin merchant Jeremy Bath to try and re-write recent history.

The campaign, surely one of the most ludicrous and ill-conceived media blitzes ever created, is aimed at discrediting the Federal government’s impending poker machine reforms. ClubsAustralia joined forces with the Australian Hotels Association (AHA) in a rare display of gambling industry unity, and hired their old friend John Singleton to spearhead the campaign. The price tag? $20 million. This campaign was supposed to rival the mining super-tax advertising frenzy that yielded such spectacular results.

So far, it’s been a debacle. From the spelling and grammatical errors on their campaign posters, to the now-infamous Mike and Bruce online ad (the full version of which ClubsAustralia removed from YouTube within three days, only to have it keep popping up on other sites across the internet), to the sheer gall of telling the country what is and isn’t “Australian”, to an official website that censors negative feedback, this campaign has limped from one disaster to another. As if that wasn’t bad enough, the $20 million price tag has been widely condemned by the media and the public alike; any organisation that can afford that kind of money has no right to be crying poor.

Enter Jeremy Bath. Desperate to try and change the public’s perception of the campaign and the industry, Bath has gone on the offensive. That $20 million figure? Wildly inaccurate. Closer to $2 million, he says. This has popped up in a few newspaper articles over the past 48 hours, and was even mentioned on last night’s Mediawatch program (ABC). Bath has also put the call out to clubs people around the country; Merimbula RSL boss Michael Mutsch was yesterday reported as saying that he had “no idea where the $20 million figure came from,” and that the actual amount would be “much lower”. I wonder how the boss of the Merimbula RSL knows so much about the financial details of the campaign?

Sadly for Bath and ClubsAustralia (and luckily for the rest of us), this is the Information Age. Nothing is ever lost, if you know where to look. So where did that $20 million price tag come from? Let’s see. I know it was widely reported in the mainstream media; the Herald Sun, the Australian, the Sydney Morning Herald, the Courier Mail, the Daily Telegraph, the Adelaide Advertiser, the Perth Sunday Times, the Age and the Brisbane Times (to name a few) all ran with this figure weeks ago. The advertising media also reported that the contract between John Singleton’s Banjo and the clubs/pubs was worth $20 million. Not a word of protest from ClubsAustralia… but that isn’t conclusive, I admit.

Let’s go straight to the source. Anthony Ball, executive director of ClubsAustralia, over to you.

I hope we don’t have to spend $20 million. We hope that common sense prevails well before that point, but we will do whatever we have to do to make sure that people understand what this licence to punt is all about.

ABC News – Inside Business, 3 April 2011

People are getting excited about the $20 million. We haven’t got a budget. We’ll go for as long as we need to on this.

ABC News – The World Today, 11 April 2011

You know something? Reading what Ball has to say, I’m worried that $20 million is just the tip of the iceberg!

But in case this still isn’t conclusive enough, there’s one other notable figure who has put the $20 million stamp on this campaign. Someone who has been a staunch defender of clubs for decades, who has been slamming the reforms at every opportunity, and who is arguably the most influential “shock jock” in NSW.

As was also reported on Mediawatch last night, Allan Jones went on record during his radio program on 2GB on 10 March 2011 with the following statement:

John Singleton, one of the owners of this station, will spearhead a twenty million dollar two-year advertising campaign against these ridiculous poker machine laws which I’ve been talking about.

Surely Allan Jones hasn’t got it wrong too? Not good old Allan! I mean, he is Mr Clubs NSW! No one is more passionate or more vocal on the subject. If Jones is wrong about this… but he’s not. This is one of the rare occasions where he has actually got his facts straight. And given that the bloke who runs 2GB and pays his wages is the same bloke who will “spearhead” the campaign, you’d expect him to be on the money this time.

No matter how hard they try, ClubsAustralia can no longer re-write the past. They may be spinning harder and faster than the reels on the poker machines they’re trying so desperately to protect, but in the end all they’re doing is digging a deeper hole. I wonder what they’ll try next.

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2 Responses

  1. Libby Mitchell says:

    Tom that article is hilarious really…pithy, spot on and if it were not so serious an issue…pathetically funny. I hope that the arrogant gaming industry has had its proverbial piles pushed in! It needs a strong message that people are past its BS rhetoric, its call to arms so the speak…and it is time to see responsible action for once from the gaming industry…stuff its shareholders and annual profits….the safety of its consumer market, families and communities adversely affected by its shoddy, misleading product, poker machines, is the priority right now. Get over it Clubs? xoxo

  2. Scott Lambert says:

    Gee, that terrible campaign looks like it might actually be starting to resonate. Labor MPs even telling national media that mandatory pre-commitment is a bigger problem than the carbon tax in their electorate.

    Ha! Poor anti-gambling lobby, putting all its hope in Andrew Wilkie. What fools

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