THE PEOPLE HAVE SPOKEN
It is with a sense of relief for the hotel industry that I am able to write about the Lower House wipe-out of SA Best in what is my final column as President of the AHA|SA.
Our industry – and South Australia as a whole – will be the long-term beneficiaries of the electorate’s rejection of the Xenophon movement’s shallow politics.
The election result vindicates our position that whilst a lot of people don’t choose to play gaming machines, they do not actively oppose them. It is not a primary concern of the people.
The issues of job security, power security and power costs far outweigh the general ambivalence about gaming. In fact, I am heartened that there is a growing sense of maturity that gaming is a legitimate form of entertainment for a certain section of the population and that sound harm-minimisation measures are in place.
I acknowledge the fantastic effort of Ian Horne and his team that worked day and night, seven days a week with Andrew Killey and the teams at BlackBock and Boylen on an extremely strategic and disciplined approach.
Our strategy started with a soft presentation to remind people of the importance of our industry in job creation across gender, regions and all ages. Having reinforced that, we then transitioned into a confronting reminder of the damage that would be done to the direct employment of staff, musicians, building contractors etc.
It is not an understatement to say that our industry will be forever indebted to Ian and his team.
The unity and strength of the hotel industry across Australia must also be acknowledged. We are extremely grateful for the significant support provided by our interstate colleagues, who were well aware of the potential domino effect if Mr Xenophon had taken the balance of power with the draconian, nonevidence-based regulations he wanted to impose.
People did not buy SA Best’s cheap shot that spuriously attempted to liken our association with the rifle association in the USA. The people of South Australia sent a message to its political leaders that they can see through stunts and parties that lack substance and sound policy.
Personally, I thought our final full page advertisement (see picture) – My Job Is Not A Stunt – was a powerful concluding line to what was a great campaign.
Congratulations to Steven Marshall on being elected as Premier of South Australia. We will work with the government of the day, as we have done for over 100 years, in the best interests of the hotel sector.
Commiserations to Jay Weatherill on his loss and our thanks for his willingness to work with our industry, even when our positions were starkly different.
As I step down as President, I wish to thank senior bureaucrats and politicians from most parties for their courtesy and access over the years. When I reflect on significant events over the journey, a few stand out.
Following Lion Brewery’s takeover of SAB in 1993, they made it clear that they intended to reduce debt by exiting their portfolio of 104 pubs. They also made it clear they would only deal in one line. In the State’s first $100m deal executed without a contract, every tenant had the opportunity to - in the first instance - enter a five-year joint venture with Lion to purchase the property they were leasing. At the sunset of the JV they had the opportunity to purchase the remaining 50%.
A total of 89 tenants participated and also had to jointly purchase the 15 properties of the non-participants. For 89 mainly family companies it was the best deal of their commercial lives.
Greg Fahey, Peter O’Shaunessy and myself were nominated by the 89 investors to represent their interests in the five-year joint venture.
It was a great honour, with mainly good memories apart from the tensions surrounding the two market rent reviews. Lion, too, were represented by decent and fair people.
The eighty nine investors are indebted forever to the two architects of the structure that enabled the deal in Martin Baily and the late Ian McLachlin.
WINE IN SUPERMARKETS
The Government announced an intention to allow supermarkets (dominated by Coles and Woolworths) to include wine in their offer. It would have been the thin edge of the wedge.
It would have sent many, particularly country pubs, to the wall.
The Bill had been drafted. It was a pledge to the supermarkets.
Ian Horne drove a sensational campaign to win the numbers in the Legislative Council and ultimately it was defeated.
A very significant win in the battle to maintain viability.
XENOPHON’S SA BEST
A few weeks ago, SA Best ran 36 candidates for the Lower House. Their leader said it was to get the balance of power.
Many justifiably believed their leader aspired to be Premier.
They finished with a donut. A big zero.
SA Best’s gaming policy would have sent many members to the wall and reduced the employment capability of all members with gaming in their offer.
Our campaign over four months, masterminded and driven by Ian Horne, was brilliant.
It is 39 years in May since I joined the AHA Council as the representative for Whyalla. I was living in and running the Spencer in Whyalla at the time, which I had purchased from Seymour Mathews in 1978.
Over that 39 years I have served with two generations of the Basheer, Mathews, Fahey, Binns and Moore families.
And three generations of the Briens; Peter senior, Peter junior and currently with Peter’s son, Mathew.
Membership of the Council opened the opportunity to serve on the Sip n Save Board from 1979 until 1994, the last four years as Chair. Over that time Sip n Save grew to become the largest cooperative marketing group in the industry.
I thank all AHA staff, Office Bearers and Councillors for their confidence and support over the 39-year journey.
Congratulations to our General Manager Sam McInnes on joining the AHA Council as the new the Councillor for the South Metro. It is important to us that the Hurley Hotel Group have a voice/ear at these AHA Council meetings.