Labour MP Michelle Rowland accused of being “wined and dined” following A$19,000 donation from Sportsbet in 2022
Australian Labour Party’s communications minister Michelle Rowland has been accused of being “wined and dined” on her birthday last year by gambling lobbyists, according to business newspaper the Australian Financial Review.
Responsible Wagering Australia (RWA), Australia’s independent trade association which represents the country’s online wagering industry, hosted the 16 November soiree at the lavishly high-priced Society Restaurant in Melbourne.
The communications minister has policy responsibility for gambling laws and is a key figure in the ongoing debate around the advertising ban in Australia, stating back in May that there was “serious concern about gambling ads across the community and it’s obvious the status quo isn’t good enough”.
Gambling lobbyist RWA represents operators including Flutter Entertainment-owned Sportsbet, Entain, Ladbrokes and bet365, among others.
The birthday meal was labelled a “policy briefing”.
Last year, Rowland was forced to defend a A$19,000 donation from Sportsbet on the eve of the 2022 Australian federal election.
Australian crossbenchers called for Rowland’s resignation at the time, with the MP forced to argue that she’d broken no rules, but conceded that people expected better of their ministers and confirmation she would no longer accept donations from Sportsbet.
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie said: “She has poor judgment, has conflicts of interest and should not spend a moment longer as the minister.”
House leader Tony Burke MP defended Rowland, adding: “There is no argument that … the minister for communications has made life easier for gambling companies.
“The only actions the minister has taken are the opposite to what those donors would have wanted.”
Rowland has previously accepted hospitality from gambling firms including two tickets from Tabcorp to the horseracing at Royal Randwick Racecourse in 2022 and a dinner for four paid by Star Casino, according to the Australian Financial Review.