It is a good thing Jeff Kennett hasn’t decided to help stamp out smoking.

All class: Jeff unwinds playing some Snap at Crown. Photo: The Australian

If so he could have sought a board position with a major tobacco company so he could change the business from within. Alternatively the former Victorian premier could have been working towards world peace by sitting on the board of British Aerospace or Lockheed Martin, helping to sell intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Instead, Jeff Kennett has decided to do his bit to end the nexus between mental illness and gambling by running a casino.

It’s a bit like the corporate version of what actors call the Stanislavski method, where they prepare for certain roles by performing them in real life, like Robert de Niro driving a cab before appearing in Taxi Driver. Actually, it’s less like the Stanislavski method and more like a lame excuse. It is a sign that Kennett is clutching at the world’s tiniest straw in trying to defend his indefensible conflict of interest between being chairman of the beyondblue depression institute, and helping his mate James Packer run his casino empire.

Kennett can see no reason why he cannot continue as chairman of beyondblue while also seeking the chairmanship of Echo Entertainment, the owner of Sydney’s Star Casino. James Packer’s Crown group is one of the biggest shareholders in Echo. The Crown Group owns casinos in Perth, Macau, London, the USA, and obviously also in Melbourne, where it began with the opening of the Crown Casino when Kennett himself was premier. Packer has masterminded Kennett’s push for the Echo board because it will give him more influence over Sydney’s Star, and could eventually secure him ownership of the biggest gambling den in the Harbour City. That’s the business of it in a nutshell, but it has no bearing on the other business, which is Kennett’s work at beyondblue.

In case you missed it, this was his absurd rationalisation this week for being able to serve both roles.

“I don’t find this a conflict, in fact it might work the other way,” Mr Kennett told 3AW. “It might actually give me - if we are successful - an insight and an influence in terms of the way in which a business like this deals with people who do have a gambling habit or a gambling problem. It might be that this is one of those occasions when being inside the tent, you might be able to have more impact on the policy of a business that is involved in gaming than you can on the outside.”

Kennett has had a real moral and intellectual problem on this gambling and depression issue for almost a year now. Sometimes it seems as if there isn’t a conflict of interests which the bloke won’t embrace with both hands. Such as his absurd comments in his capacity as the president of the AFL football club Hawthon last year, when he said that mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines would destroy the AFL forever more. As if, Jeff. Indeed, his comments about the impending collapse of this multi-billion dollar sports franchise came in the same week the AFL found $1.5 billion in the top drawer to keep all 18 AFL clubs solvent until 2016.

Kennett’s comments had no basis in fact or common sense. AFL CEO Andrew Demetriou was much more measured and thoughtful in his language about the reforms. Not so Kennett. It was all about whipping up voter anger towards the now-extinct pokie reforms being considered by the Gillard Government last year at the behest of independent MP Andrew Wilkie.

If Kennett wants to do that, that’s his right. But it doesn’t just jar with his once-excellent work at beyondblue. It trashes it, utterly and irreversibly. It’s one of the chief reasons why the organisation lost its excellent former CEO Dawn O’Neill last year. O’Neill left in the wake of Kennett’s pro-pokie comments as Hawthorn president. And she did so because she, like any mental health professional, has an acute understanding of how gambling is not just a case of mental illness, but a symptom of it. It’s a perfect circle and a vicious one, in that being addicted to the pokies will make you depressed, and people who are depressed are more likely to get addicted to pokies, in the same way that self-medicating with alcohol or cannabis is used to dull the pain of existence.

Between reading his Echo prospectus or thumbing through the Footy Record ahead of the Hawks’ next match, Kennett should have a quick read of something his former CEO wrote in April last year:

“Gambling is common in Australian society – nearly 75 per cent of Australian adults gamble in any year. However, about 300,000 Australians have a gambling problem that may affect many parts of their lives, including physical and emotional health, relationships, study, finances and work.”

“For every person with a gambling problem, between five and 10 others (e.g. partners and children) also experience serious consequences including emotional distress, the breakdown of family relationships, financial difficulties. This means that more than two million Australians are affected by problem gambling. 

“There is a strong link between problem gambling and mental health problems. We know that nearly three out of four people with a gambling problem are at risk of developing depression. Conversely, those experiencing mental or physical health problems, stress, loneliness and isolation, or loss and grief, are at greater risk of developing a gambling problem.”

For Kennett to suggest that his leadership of a casino empire could help combat the scourge of depression or promote the work of groups such as beyondblue is beyond laughable. It is a farce, and it’s the kind of farce which ensured that a woman such as Dawn O’Neill doesn’t work for beyondblue any more, and has others are now asking why Kennett still is.

Most commented


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      06:42am | 03/06/12

      Hi David,

      Gambling may actually be the cause of depression or the other way around?  Believing that gambling as well as other addictions will make us feel better in any way happens to be a very wrong assumption, on some many levels.  It is very sad that we as a society are still pretending that it is OK play big or small when ever possible can only be misconception.  And to see it as a harmless way of entertainment and enjoyment really tends to send the wrong message as well as being so misguided.

      I don’t mean to be sarcastic at all but this could actually good news for all those who believe in the healing power of anti depressants out there!  Are we also admitting that alcohol and drug use could also be the cause of depression?  I just want to say that just pretending that we are safe with any level of gambling, alcohol and drug use, just simply happens to be very ignorant, childish and uneducated, to say the least.

      Young and healthy human beings surely need other more healthy ways of relaxing and having fun! Lets also not forget the actual power of friendship and socializing without any excesses at all.  “Ignorance does not happen to be bliss”!  The more educated and vigilant we become as a society about certain addictions like gambling, it could actually save us a lot of money and time spent on the treatment of depression and other related mental problems later on life.  Kind regards to your editors.

    • Marilyn Milat says:

      06:52am | 03/06/12

      So can some unmarried and childless person be in charge of a country. Isn’t that a conflict of interest? If you can’t commit to a relationship or look after 1 other person what right have you to look after a nation? Suddenly Jeff isn’t an issue is it?

    • prosperity says:

      11:32am | 03/06/12

      Isn’t a married Prime Minister with children blissfuly unaware of the financial, social and health needs of the over two million single person households in Australia?

    • willg says:

      11:50am | 03/06/12

      Take your immature hate politics elsewhere. (also, going to ban divorcees from power and parlament? Can’t make one work how could you make a nation? Why stop there? Anyone who had a failed relationship…...) 

      This should be a discussion about the damage poker machines do across Australia, and how Jeff Kennett can possibly lead beyond blue when depression gambling linked so heavily. (Cause and affect is a valid debate). He would never be impartial, and no person involved in depression would support casinos, which show’s kennetts lack of compassion for who he claims to care about.

    • devo says:

      02:45pm | 03/06/12

      wilg you talking about hate politics? You really know how to make a fool of yourself. Gillard removed a sitting PM against the will of the people there is no love there. No wonder you are one of the ALP minority who will go np where in life.

    • davo says:

      04:12pm | 03/06/12

      “So can some unmarried and childless person be in charge”
      You left out godless

    • Rose says:

      10:12pm | 03/06/12

      Marilyn and devo you appear to be on altogether the wrong thread, this is supposed to be about Kennett and casinos, your illogical and immature connection to Gillard is absolutely ridiculous.

    • Bill says:

      10:24am | 04/06/12

      Marilyn and Devo, you are taking up valuable space here on this post with your insane little mental connections. Go away and stop wasting everyone else’s time.

    • Thinking Feeling says:

      12:13pm | 04/06/12

      You really can’t be serious with these observations.

    • acotrel says:

      08:07am | 03/06/12

      I started wondering about Kennett long before he was ever elected Premier of Victoria,when he promised a grab of Victorian public servants super.  It must have appealed to many, because he got elected.  And now we have another rabbit in Federal politics who looks like getting up.  Many years ago my brother took his family and moved to Germany because of the cultural differences.  I would never have done that, but now I’m beginning to think he is not stupid.

    • sir ronald bradnam says:

      10:49am | 03/06/12

      When? 1938.

    • Neal says:

      05:39pm | 03/06/12

      Jeff saved Victoria and thereby hundreds of thousands from mental illness. Circa 1990-91 Victoria was imploding. Thousands of economic refugees were streaming into SE Qld. Jeff’s work since has been equally commendable. Would anyone care to nominate a politician who has done more for the community than Jeff in their post-political career?

    • Tedd says:

      06:16pm | 03/06/12

      It was the then lows of the economic cycle and the subsequent highs that accounted for the changes, much more than Kennett per se

    • acotrel says:

      07:50pm | 03/06/12

      ‘Jeff saved Victoria and thereby hundreds of thousands from mental illness.’

      Because there were no mental hospitals left after Kennett sold them all off, it doesn’t mean there are no mental patients left in Victoria.  They ended up on the streets , and many ended up being treated in jail.  The same jails which Ted Baillieu is now enlarging.  It’s his idea of building infrastructure.  When Kennett ‘saved Victoria’ he robbed Peter to pay Paul.  We Victorians are now having the education funding cut to restore the fiscal balance which was damaged by Kennett.. Instead of rebuilding the mental hospitals we are getting bigger jails and improved court rooms. It’s just more of the same old coercive mindset the LNP has always had !  - Reactive crisis management instead of looking at the big picture.

    • acotrel says:

      07:52pm | 03/06/12

      @Sir Ronald Bradnam
      Godwin’s Law, you commie !

    • acotrel says:

      08:10am | 03/06/12

      I find it amusing that people take Kennett (and Abbott) seriously.

    • sandra says:

      10:32am | 03/06/12

      Can’t believe anyone takes you seriously? Thanks to your comments this swinging voter is going to vote for the Coalition. Like Gillard you have a strange way of making Abbott and gang seem like the better choice.

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      11:04am | 03/06/12

      Well said Sandra

    • willg says:

      11:42am | 03/06/12

      So let me get this straight, policy and record, either by politician (local, your representative) or party don’t matter to you, but because someone makes regular comments underneath news ltd articles you will vote the other way? Don’t sound like a swinging voter to me…..

    • Mickey T says:

      12:25pm | 03/06/12

      Sandra the swinging voter is going to vote for the coalition because of what acotrel says…LOL, too funny.

      I’m a swinging voter and I would also vote for the coalition but only if they replace Abbott with Turnbull as their leader, so there!

    • nihonin says:

      12:45pm | 03/06/12

      willg, I bet you’re not an unaligned voter yourself.

    • rod sexton says:

      05:29pm | 03/06/12

      All losers are full of hate.

    • acotrel says:

      07:27pm | 03/06/12

      Sorry to lose you as a Labor voter.  Perhaps you might consider voting for an independent instead of a ratbag?

    • acotrel says:

      07:32pm | 03/06/12

      Mickey T
      Turnbull is very patient.  He’s even allowed his opinions to be stifled by the control freaks who hide in the back rooms of the LNP.

    • acotrel says:

      07:37pm | 03/06/12

      @Greg in Chengdu
      Do you remember those nodding dogs, they used to sit on the parcel shelves in the rear window of FJ Holdens ? - LNP supporters remind me of those.

    • Galooloo says:

      08:42am | 03/06/12

      Once again Kennett has passed his use-by date. This time as chair of BeyondBlue. Lets hope he moves on soon.

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      11:36am | 03/06/12

      Your very quick to dismiss someone who has brought beyond Blue so far and done more to increase peoples public awareness of mental illness than anyone else in Australian history. Just because of a private business decision. Geoff Kennet is a very talented man that has been proved and I have every confidence he can do both roles

    • dravido says:

      12:13pm | 03/06/12

      Hey Greg
      next time you comment you might want to read the article.
      What part of the relationship between gambling and depression don’t you get?

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      03:19pm | 03/06/12

      I read the article davido and I read the other Kennet beat up article as well. this man has done more to further the cause of mental health issues and take the stigma away from that suffer from themthan anyone else in Australia, Perhaps you should do some background research instead of judging a man on ONE article which is far from an unbiased example of reporting

    • Bill says:

      05:55pm | 03/06/12

      Gotta love the Kennet-haters. He’s done more for the great state of Victoria then any other Premier since Bolte.

    • dravido says:

      06:03pm | 03/06/12

      You didn’t answer my question.
      It’s really very simple Greg
      What part of the relationship between gambling and depression don’t you get?

    • Peter says:

      09:35am | 03/06/12

      Most people are whores. We will sell out our ideals for money or position. The only questions that remain are how much money and how lofty a position?
      Can Packer just do a Rupert, renounce his Aussie citizenship and go live somewhere else? What actual “good” does he do for this country?

    • acotrel says:

      07:23pm | 03/06/12

      ‘Most people are whores. We will sell out our ideals for money or position. The only questions that remain are how much money and how lofty a position?’

      Most right wing conservative voters - don’t judge others by your own actions when you scramble up the dung heap..

    • AdamC says:

      09:48am | 03/06/12

      I don’t see what all the fuss is about. It looks like a case of puritanical wowserism strikes again!

    • Gaylord says:

      11:08am | 03/06/12

      You wouldn’t see what the “fuss” is about.
      In order to see the “fuss” you need to take your conservative glasses off.

    • Redmond says:

      10:54am | 03/06/12

      He’s a politician. They’d sell their souls for a few cents.

    • nihonin says:

      12:48pm | 03/06/12

      I think they’d be more interested in selling their souls for votes, the cents come with their pay packet, once they’ve got their arse on a seat in parliament.

    • prosperity says:

      11:08am | 03/06/12

      The problem with any discussion about depression is that most people don’t know what is.  They think depression is feeling a bit low now and again.  They have no idea of the all-consuming melancholia and suicidal thoughts that fester in your mind and soul, intent on destroying any sense of your wellness and normality.

      When, in the face of this reality, this topic quickly slips into forms of political sniping rather than any measured discussion, one can only despair.

    • renold says:

      11:31am | 03/06/12

      Having actual experience working in a casino and know the dynamics that take place there in regards to problem gambling, I actually like to know the actual reasoning behind the claim that Kennett might do both is “beyond laughable”

    • Rose says:

      10:30pm | 03/06/12

      It’s quite simple, having worked in a casino I would have thought it would have virtually smacked you in the head every day!! Casinos promote gambling, i.e., people betting their money on the off chance that they may win something more in return. Now, casinos are set up so most of the winning is done by the casino therefore most people lose most of the money they bet to the casinos. A lot of people are cool with that, they gamble money that they can spare and consider it viable entertainment. There are many however who gamble far more than they can lose, encouraged by casinos to do so. Many of these people find themselves on a gambling addiction treadmill, often if not always accompanied by the black dog of depression.
      If you are following this you may have worked out that in order to perform his duties with the casino Kennett will need to actively support the casino enticing more of these vulnerable people to lose their money and as a result be more than likely fall into depression. That my dear friend is a clear conflict of interest.
      Kennett needs to make a choice, Casino or Beyond Blue, the two are fundamentally incompatible!

    • Iknownothing. says:

      12:25pm | 03/06/12

      Those at the helm of the gambling Industry are nothing more than Legalised Drug Barons, employing different modus operandi to Narco Traffickers but achieving the same result, getting rich and wealthy at the expense of the unfortunate and vulnerable in the community, by providing luxuriously appointed gambling dens designed to give the gambling addict the hit they so crave. Gambling is a psychological addictive behaviour that changes the brain chemistry of the user. Like a heroin user, addicted gamblers will do anything to get that all encompassing fix regardless of the consequences, after all 300.000+ addicted gamblers can’t be wrong, just ask the other 2.000.0000 people affected by their problem gambling in this nation.

    • renold says:

      01:24pm | 03/06/12

      Don’t just blame the gambling industry, take into account the 100’s of millions state governments receive from the tax.

      State governments now use gambling tax as part of balanging the budget.

      The so called “efforts” of the gambling industry and governments are a complete and utter joke.

    • Greg in Chengdu says:

      01:05pm | 03/06/12

      Well then maybe kennet should ban himself from investing in Wineries or brewerys as alcohol also causes depression. And he can never participae in politics again due to the the political depression australia is feeling with Labors performance. And he should resign from his position at Hawthorn incase Hawthorn supporters get depressed when they lose. the RSL and sporting clubs are supposed to be of benefit to the community too but they are biggest protomters of poker machines. How often would the average aussie gambler go to a poky venue more often than a casino?

    • willie says:

      06:01pm | 03/06/12

      “Alternatively the former Victorian premier could have been working towards world peace by sitting on the board of British Aerospace or Lockheed Martin, helping to sell intercontinental ballistic missiles.”

      I’m pretty sure ICBMs have never killed a single person. I would suggest ICBMs and other advanced technology has helped ensure peace. We haven’t seen many world wars since the threat of nuclear annihilation

    • prosperity says:

      11:19am | 04/06/12

      willie:  C’mon, we’ve had continuous war for the last sixty years using fighter planes, missiles and all the other new technologically advanced machines of war, including most lately, drones.  Collectively, they have killed millions.  Who do you think made them? The fairies?


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