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Anderson involved in framing 'pokie provisions' of $500,000 Atherton Hotel grant.

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Media Release

Kelvin Thomson MP Shadow Minister for Regional Development and Roads; Housing and Urban Development Federal Member for Wills

16 June 2005

Anderson involved in framing 'pokie provisions' of $500,000 Atherton Hotel grant

It was revealed today at Question Time that Deputy Prime Minister John Anderson's office was involved in framing a $500,000 grant to a poker machine venue approved under the Sustainable Regions program.

The Atherton Hotel is known on the Atherton Tablelands for its 'Stump Bikini Babes' performances, its 'Whacky Wednesdays' 2 for 1 drinks nights and topless barmaids. It applied for 21 poker machine licences just months after the Deputy Prime Minister approved the Commonwealth grant.

Evidence given at the Cairns Senate Inquiry hearing exposed the fact John Anderson's political advisers were involved in discussions and correspondence relating to the 'pokie provisions' of this grant.

John Anderson has been caught red handed playing favourites, advising some people and not others, in this case, advising an applicant on how to get $500,000 of taxpayers' money.

The Atherton Hotel grant raises three important issues for the Deputy Prime Minister to address:

• The fact he was advised in early December 2003 that the grant to the Atherton Hotel was in clear breach of the program's competitive neutrality guideline because the hotel was in direct competition with a number of other clubs and hotels in the Atherton district, yet he still approved the project.

• The fact that just months after the $500,000 taxpayer funded grant was approved, the Hotel owners applied for 21 poker machine licences for machines to be located in what was the breakfast servery and the general meals room. Clearly the Commonwealth funded expansion of the Atherton Hotel has created the space required for these machines. This is a most inappropriate use of taxpayers' funds as the Deputy Prime Minister well knows.

• How the Deputy Prime Minister's staff can describe the grant as representing "a significant step in developing a new image for the Tablelands region" when this 'new image’ involves locating topless barmaids, pokies and 2 for 1 drinks nights next to a child care centre.

/Ends Canberra 15/06/2005 Contact: Cora Trevarthen 0418/770484