Problem Gambling Foundation will this week take legal action to stop the Ministry of Health dumping it in favour of the Salvation Army.
The move comes as papers released under the Official Information Act show the PGF and the ministry embroiled in a long-running argument over the foundation’s right to speak out on gambling issues. It includes the ministry threatening to terminate the foundation’s contract if PGF didn’t halt a campaign called “pokie free and proud of it” promoting pokie-free pubs. The PGF has engaged Wellington lawyer Mai Chen to act for it.
So the PGF will use its existing taxpayer funding to try and force the Government to keep funding it – rather than the Salvation Army (which was judged better by an independent panel of public servants and experts).
The PGF has always been a vocal critic of pokie machine rorts and gambling harm. It believes, as an independent body with other income streams, it has the right to speak out. The ministry argues there should be no perception government money is being spent on campaigns.
The ministry fielded a series of complaints between 2010 and 2012 from Martin Cheer, chief executive of pokie trusts, Pub Charity, that PGF was “abusing the funding stream” and was not politically neutral. Cheer wrote to Dunne saying: “We would welcome any attention you could bring to bear on this matter.” Cheer was unable to comment. But an industry source said PGF had “not just shot themselves in the foot but blown it off” by not concentrating on their core work.
If the PGF was not overwhelming funded by the Government, then it could campaign for whatever it wants. In fact it should welcome losing the contract, because it frees itself up to be an advocate. They claim that they never spent government funds on their lobbying – so ipso facto the loss of the government funds can’t impact their lobbying.
The PGF was a partisan lobbyist. Their founder is the husband of a Green MP. Their campaigns manager is standing for Labour. Their original lawyer was a Labour Party office holder. Their just retired chairman is a former Labour MP. The Salvation Army also speak out on gambling issues – but they don’t make that the major focus of their work.
Less than 1% of their funding is from private donations. Just $3,143 out of $5.04 million. So the lawsuit is inevitably being funded by taxpayers to try and force us to keep funding them.