ClubsNSW terminates Josh Landis as CEO with immediate effect following comments about Dominic Perrottet’s faith
ClubsNSW chief executive Josh Landis has been sacked following a series of controversial comments about Premier Dominic Perrottet’s faith.
The representative body confirmed in a statement on Tuesday afternoon the Board had decided after “careful consideration” to terminate Mr Landis’ employment with ClubsNSW with “immediate effect”.
A council meeting was held earlier in the day to discuss the comments Mr Landis made about the Premier of New South Wales.
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The boss of the powerful clubs lobby group and the Premier are locked in a dispute ahead of the March 25 election, where gambling reform will be a cornerstone of the Liberal Party’s policy platform.
In a sharp escalation of the ongoing row, Mr Landis told the Sydney Morning Herald the Prime Minister had “very little understanding” of the issue and was simply acting on his “conservative Catholic gut”.
“What he has done is create hyper-anxiety among the industry and among people who go to clubs, and hyper-excitement among those who want reform,” Mr Landis told the paper, in comments published on Tuesday .
Mr Perrottet hit back in response, calling the comments “incredibly inappropriate and offensive” to people of faith in New South Wales in an interview with Nine Radio this morning.
He defended his approach to gaming policy, saying he took a harder line because he thought it was “the right thing to do” rather than because he was Catholic.
“If you replaced the word ‘Catholic’ with ‘Islamic, Jewish or Hindu,’ you would have resigned before you got to work this morning,” he said.
In the face of mounting backlash to the Prime Minister’s criticism, Mr Landis issued a wry apology for the comments made to the Sydney Morning Herald.
“I want to make it clear that I spoke incorrectly in answering the question and should not have referred to the prime minister’s faith. This was not a premeditated comment or a deliberate attack on the Prime Minister personally,” Mr Landis said on Tuesday afternoon.
“Rather it was a poor attempt to explain that there is a lack of evidence for the policy and the Prime Minister is a moral person who intrinsically wants to help those who harm themselves.”
Independent MPs, senior cabinet ministers and religious groups have all called on Mr Landis to resign in the wake of the comments.
Prominent independent MP Alex Greenwich – who represents the seat of Sydney – was one of those voices.
After Mr Landis’ resignation was announced, Mr Greenwich told Sky News Australia the ClubsNSW board had made the “right decision”.
“It wasn’t just the statement that Josh Landis made yesterday, which attacked the Premier for his faith … there was a real pattern of behavior from him,” Mr Greenwich told Sky News Australia’s main anchor Kieran Gilbert.
Mr Greenwich is also a supporter of game reform and has previously compared ClubsNSW to the National Rifle Association in the United States.
Mr Landis is of Jewish heritage and previously served on the Executive Council of Australian Jewry, which is the peak organization for the representation of Jews in Australia.
The Premier has pledged to reform the gambling industry in the state to the chagrin of many industry groups.
He has committed to looking at cashless poker machines and a ban on political donations from bars and clubs.
The RSL and Services Club Association and Clubs NSW launched a campaign against the proposed changes in response.
The head of RSL Australia – the charity arm of the RSL Group – said he personally supported the NSW Government’s push for mandatory cashless poker machines.