Australian minister denies breaking rules with gambling donations

Crossbenches had called for Rowland’s removal for accepting donations from Sportsbet.
Crossbenches had called for Rowland’s removal for accepting donations from Sportsbet.

But Michelle Rowland says she won’t accept donations from gambling companies again.

Australia.- Federal communications minister Michelle Rowland continues to deny having broken any rules by receiving gambling donations but says she won’t do so again. Nine Newspapers had revealed that Sportsbet paid AU$8,960 for a dinner in support of Rowland’s election campaign last March and another AU$10,000 just before the poll.

Speaking on ABC’s Q+A programme, Rowland said she will not accept future donations from gambling companies and acknowledged that the public expects better from her and other politicians. She argued that she had not violated any political donation rules but conceded that her reputation had been called into question.

Rowland stressed the importance of transparency and accountability and called for reform of political donation disclosure rules. She also highlighted her track record as communications minister, including her efforts to introduce a national self-exclusion register for individuals seeking to exclude themselves from gambling services. 

The Australian Electoral Commission (AEC) Transparency Register showed that Sportsbet made donations to the Liberal Party, National Party and Australian Labor Party amounting to over AU$278,000 in 2021-2022. The Coalition received AU$143,000 while Labor received AU$135,000.

When asked if the Coalition would continue to accept donations from gambling companies, shadow communications minister David Coleman, who was sitting next to Rowland on the panel, suggested that the Joint Standing Committee on Electoral Matters should be allowed to review donation rules and make recommendations.

When the news came to light, independent MP Andrew Wilkie, who has been advocating for stringent gambling reforms, called for Rowland to be sacked for her “shocking errors of judgment.” He said it was incomprehensible that Rowland accepted donations from an online gambling company while seeking to become communications minister. However, Anthony Albanese backed Michelle Rowland and said she had his “absolute and total confidence.”

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