The Problem Gambling mob are moaning about muzzling but maybe others can do their job better

It looks like the Salvation Army had a better hand.

It looks like the Salvation Army had a better hand.

Running a business always has risks, the more so should it become dependent on Government money.

In that case, you might say, there is an element of a gamble about maintaining the business’s cash flow, because the bosses can never rule out the tap being turned off at some time by the politicians, the bureaucrats or both.

The same goes for providers of social services.

We should bear this in mind while listening to bleats from pinkos, lefties and other assorted hand-wringers that the Problem Gambling Foundation has had its Government funding cut off because it opposed the controversial SkyCity convention centre deal.

The bleating began today and was reported (among others) by TVNZ.

The foundation this morning confirmed it has lost almost all of its Government funding and will be closing its 12 offices around the country, with most staff losing their jobs.

The Ministry of Health told the organisation it had a better offer to provide the health services that it currently provides, and most of PGF’s services would not be funded after June 30.

That “better offer” was from the Salvation Army’s Oasis service, which will receive most of the funding cut from PGF.

So there we have it.

It’s called competition and the Sallies can give taxpayers a better deal.

But tell that to Labour grouch and Internal Affairs spokesperson Trevor Mallard who is banging on about the shutdown being the consequence largely of the organisation’s opposition to the Government’s controversial SkyCity convention centre law.

The bill was passed in November last year (helped on its way by Alf’s “aye” vote) and allows the casino operator to build an international convention centre in exchange for an extension of its gaming licence.

This means it can have more pokie machines and gaming tables, which means it can do more business, which presumably means more business for the Problem Gambling Foundation except they didn’t have the wit to recognise this.

But Mallard sees something scandalously wrong.

Mr Mallard said: “The foundation has made itself particularly unpopular with the Government around the SkyCity convention centre deal. This decision is a blatant attempt by the Government to silence its critics.”

It is pleasing to be able to report that Associate Health Minister Peter Dunne denies this, saying the Ministry of Health made it clear in 2012 that it would be looking for organisations to provide gambling harm minimisation services.

“This is the outcome of that process,” he says.

“The Ministry of Health has been particularly mindful to keep the process clearly separate from any perception of political interference.”

Let’s look for flaws in the process.

A panel of six – three Ministry of Health staff and three external evaluators – considered tenders for the contract.

This looks acceptable enough to Alf.

Second, as Dunne pointed out, the Salvation Army was also critical of the SkyCity convention centre deal.

Dunne said, according to the NZ Herald (here ):

“I am aware that the Salvation Army has been critical of the government in certain areas over the years, including the SkyCity convention centre, but I see no reason why this should prevent them from being contracted to provide the excellent services that they do.”

He said that the ministry had clearly signalled in 2012 that it was reviewing its gambling harm minimisation services.

“This review had been on the cards for some years prior to this, as the development of the sector has to a large extent been undertaken in an ad hoc manner, with duplication of services from national providers simply not achieving best value for money that clients of services are entitled to expect,” he said in a statement.

The Herald account, for the record, notes that the three external evaluators in deciding who should get the contract were from the Department of Internal Affairs, the Health Promotion Agency and a Pacific health consultant.

It also brings the bloody Greens into the picture, on the side of the bleaters.

Green Party gambling spokeswoman Denise Roche also said that the organisation had been persecuted by National for its stance on SkyCity.

“The decision to cut its funding seems to be motivated by the fact that the Problem Gambling Foundation is actually doing its job too well,” she said.

She said that the foundation had been the only group big enough to stand up to the gambling sector.

“Smaller problem gambling service providers haven’t been able to challenge the gambling industry for fear of losing their funding.”

Did she pay any attention to Dunne before making those remarks?

Maybe she did but a diet of muesli and other morsels of the sort that Greenies tuck into – or rather, nibble at – is apt to interfere with sound reasoning.

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