Tasmania's Bishop Condie says pokies an 'immoral' basis for State's economy

Anglican leader outlines issues of concern in Pastoral Letter leading up to 3 March Tasmanian election

Bishop Condie wrote that Anglicare had produced evidence-based research for 20 years on the harm that poker machines were causing, mostly in disadvantaged areas.

PHOTO: iStock

By Mark Brolly

February 28 2018 

Bishop Richard Condie of Tasmania has taken aim at poker machines in a Pastoral Letter before the State Election this Saturday (3 March), declaring it “immoral” to base the State’s economy on exploiting vulnerable people through instruments of addiction.

He also expressed concerns about abortion, euthanasia and the lack of affordable housing, urging Tasmania’s Anglicans to uphold all candidates in prayer and to be less concerned with their own interests and more about others, particularly the weak and vulnerable.

“For 20 years, Anglicare has produced evidence-based research on the harm that poker machines are causing in our community,” Bishop Condie wrote in the letter, dated 22 February. “They cost too many Tasmanians their health, relationships, jobs and sometimes even their homes and lives.

“Poker machines are designed to addict and always favour the ‘house’. Last year, poker machines took $16.7 million from the community, and mostly from disadvantaged areas. It is immoral to base our economy on exploiting vulnerable people through instruments of addiction.

“The Labor party policy would rid these insidious machines from our local communities, and provide a healthier future for our state, one that prioritises the wellbeing of local people, communities and businesses.”

In December last year, Bishop Condie, a former Archdeacon of Melbourne and Vicar of St Jude’s Carlton, had welcomed Labor’s commitment to withdraw pokies from clubs and pubs in Tasmania by 2023 and return them to Tasmania’s two casinos.

He commended the political courage of Labor and urged Premier Will Hodgman’s Liberal Government to make a similar commitment to the welfare of vulnerable Tasmanians.

“The policy of helping pubs and clubs transition to more life-giving business models is commendable,” Bishop Condie said at the time.

The poker machine issue has been prominent in the campaign, with Mr Hodgman echoing the industry’s warnings that their withdrawal from pubs and clubs could threaten more than 5000 jobs.

On abortion, Bishop Condie acknowledged that it involved real people facing serious dilemmas, and wrote that the Church’s response must be one of compassion and gentleness.

“However, the Bible teaches that life begins at conception and that every life is precious. Our concern must be to protect the life and rights of the unborn.”

He noted that Labor supported abortion on demand and had pledged public funds for this procedure to be conducted in Tasmania’s public hospitals. The Liberals continued to allow a conscience vote on the issue in their party and had pledged not to fund abortions (except in some medical cases) in public hospitals.

“Euthanasia continues to be a matter of concern,” Bishop Condie wrote. “I acknowledge that the motives of those promoting ‘legally assisted dying’ legislation, are to provide dignity and compassion for terminally ill people. However, the unintended consequences of any euthanasia legislation will put vulnerable elderly and mentally ill people at risk. We must resist any party or politician who supports this dangerous legislation.”

He wrote that Tasmania’s lack of affordable housing was putting pressure on families and increasing homelessness.

“Jesus was very clear about our responsibility to the poor. Caring for the poor must be a high priority for us, and we should support parties and candidates who give them a high priority.”

Bishop Condie wrote that “in seeking to be a church for Tasmania, making disciples of Jesus, we need to be wise in our decision-making, especially as we vote for our next Government”.

“We need to be faithful in commending Jesus and his teaching as the basis for human flourishing. We need to be less concerned with what we will get, and more about how to serve others, especially the weak and vulnerable.”

He commended to his readers the words from Proverbs chapter two, verses 1-8, and concluded his Pastoral Letter: “I pray that we may we be faithful, informed and prayerful in approaching this State election, asking for God’s wisdom as we decide, and for righteousness and integrity to be evident in our State’s leaders and their policy decisions.”

Premier Hodgman, in office since March 2014, is defending a rare Liberal majority in the House of Assembly and needs to lose only three seats for Tasmania to return to minority government. New Opposition Leader Rebecca White is considered unlikely to lift Labor’s representation from seven to 13 seats to form a majority government, while Tasmania is a Greens stronghold and is also home to former Senator Jacqui Lambie, who is running candidates.

Unlike other states, Tasmania uses the proportional Hare-Clark electoral system. The State’s five Federal electorates each return five members to the lower house of State Parliament under a form of proportional representation similar to that used in Senate elections.