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Pokies, politics and the need for principled public leadership
· December 11, 2013 11:00 AM
The politics of poker machine reform have been playing out in the last two weeks of Parliament before it rises tonight for the Christmas break.
A combination of the power of the clubs’ lobby and the addiction of State Governments to gaming revenue make it almost impossible to achieve progress.
Meanwhile, 95,000 poker machine addicts lose a staggering $5 billion per year. Social carnage accompanies this.
There was a whiff of opportunity in the last Parliament when Tasmanian Independent Andrew Wilke secured an agreement with Julia Gillard to install systems in poker machines which would limit losses.
But that was in a hung Parliament and Labor needed Wilke’s vote to hold government.
When the opportunity came to install Peter Slipper as speaker and Wilke’s vote was no longer needed, Labor reneged on its promise in January 2012.
As a consolation, legislation was passed last year to make all poker machines loss-limiting-ready with mandatory pre-commitment technology.
A trial was to be conducted in the ACT of mandatory pre-commitment technology before the switch could be flicked on machines at a later date.
ATM’s at gaming venues were to be limited to $250 limits and a national gambling regulator was to be established.
All of these very modest reforms are now being repealed by the Abbott Government and Labor has now agreed to back the repeal in the Senate.
Social services minister Kevin Andrews has foreshadowed reforms in the future that would include more counselling for problem gamblers. This is welcome but it is widely accepted that tougher measures to limit losses such as mandatory pre-commitment or limiting machines to $1 bets are what is needed to help addicts.
These are vehemently opposed by the clubs who are major donors to both sides of politics and are very good at mobilising grass roots campaigns.
State governments have also become addicted to poker machine revenue and this further dilutes political will.
This issue is an example of where principled public leadership is needed in the face of powerful vested interests.
ACL is pleased to be part of Tim Costello’s Churches Gambling Taskforce and he is right to draw a comparison with Nelson Mandela’s courageous leadership.
Andrew Wilke went as far as chipping members for saying the Lord’s Prayer in parliament but not caring about the victims of poker machine harm.
The problem with both of these examples is it applies a selective morality. Mandela-like leadership and Christian compassion is also needed for a range of other seemingly intractable public policy problems.
Human rights for the unborn come to mind as do the rights of children who will be removed from biological parents through technology as part of same-sex marriage ideology.
There are many good people on both sides of the political divide. As citizens we need to do more to encourage them to stand against powerful forces which stymie truth and evidence-based policy making.
This is my last contribution to the ACL blog for this year. Thanks for your support and may I wish you and your family a holy and happy Christmas.
MR: Pokie reform bill should be just the beginning
· November 29, 2012 11:00 AM
For release: Thursday, November 29, 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby has welcomed tonight’s passing of legislation putting modest curbs on harmful poker machines.
Managing Director Jim Wallace said ACL hoped today’s reforms would be just the beginning of meaningful reform to stop the harm of poker machines to people suffering from addiction to them.
“While the reforms are modest, it is significant that the Parliament has recognised the damage poker machines do to our community.
“It is disappointing that the Government reneged on its promise to Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilke for more meaningful reform, as integrity in public life is paramount.
“It is also disappointing that the Opposition opposed this legislation.”
Mr Wallace said it was important that the major parties were able to stand up to the vested interests of the industry which profited from problem gamblers and State Governments which were addicted to taxation revenue from poker machines.
$12 billion goes into 200,000 poker machines each year, half of which are in New South Wales. $5 billion of this comes out of the pockets of problem gamblers.
The reforms force owners to make machines ready for mandatory pre-commitment in the future, limit withdrawals from ATMs in gaming venues (excluding casinos) to $250 and mandate warnings on machines to gamblers.
MR: ACL welcomes federal gambling reform
· November 01, 2012 11:00 AM
For release: Thursday, November 1, 2012
The Australian Christian Lobby welcomes the introduction of gambling reform legislation which will require all poker machines to be fitted with pre-commitment technology by 2016, and will introduce ATM withdrawal limits of $250 from next year.
ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said the legislation establishes the important precedent of federal intervention in poker machine regulation.
While the legislation will go some way to addressing the issue of problem gambling in Australia, it is only a small step in the right direction Mr Wallace said.
“Pre-commitment technology and ATM withdrawal limits are an important start, but it will only go so far in alleviating the destructive force of poker machine addiction,” he said.
“Problem gamblers will not be required to commit to how much they will lose, and it will not be difficult to get around the ATM withdrawal limits.”
Mr Wallace echoed Independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s statement that the legislation lays the groundwork for further government intervention and reform in this area.
He joined Mr Wilkie as well as the Australian Churches Gambling Taskforce in calling for mandatory pre-commitment and $1 maximum bets.
“There are 95,000 problem poker machine gamblers who lose $5 billion each year on poker machines,” he said.
“$1 maximum bets would limit losses to $120 per hour, but this is still far more than most problem gamblers can afford to lose.”
“Taking this first step is important, but we must continue the reform to address this national tragedy,” Mr Wallace said.
MR: Fourth gay marriage bill making a farce of Parliament
· August 24, 2012 10:00 AM
Friday, 24 August, 2012
The fourth same-sex marriage bill to be tabled is a farcical attempt by Green-Labor politicians to give false prominence to an issue they know doesn’t have Parliamentary support, according to the Australian Christian Lobby.
The bill follows an identical private member’s bill by Labor’s Stephen Jones, and similar bills by Adam Bandt and Andrew Wilkie in the lower house, and a further bill by Greens’ Senator Sarah Hanson-Young in the Senate.
“The longer this drags on, the more farcical it becomes,” ACL Managing Director Jim Wallace said today.
“What an insult to MPs that activist have loaded the Parliament with four bills, and that parliamentarians would become complicit in such an obvious waste of Parliamentary time.
“All this follows three Parliamentary inquiries in the past two years, none of which presented evidence of any discrimination against same-sex couples,” Mr Wallace said.
”Labor should think about the damage this is doing to their brand and put some distance between themselves and this shameful Greens-inspired activism,” Mr Wallace said.
Wilkie pokies deal – what does it mean for problem gamblers?
· September 14, 2010 10:00 AM
[caption id="attachment_2931" align="alignleft" width="150" caption="Andrew Wilkie"]
The implementation of a major recommendation from a study into gambling forms an essential part of newly-elected Independent federal member for Denison Andrew Wilkie’s agreement to back the government led by Prime Minister Julia Gillard. The agreement is set to establish a pre-commitment system for all of Australia's 198,000 poker machines by 2012.
Productivity Commission released a report
in June, which showed that of the $11.9 billion Australians spend on poker machines each year, 41 per cent comes from problem gamblers. Although it is difficult to determine an exact figure, it also found that up to 160,000 Australians were suffering severe problems from their gambling.
What the Productivity Commission’s pre-commitment system recommendation entails in practice is the use of smart card technology to either allow or force players to set their spending limits prior to playing poker machines. Once the limit has been reached, the player is shut out of the system for a designated period of time.
World Vision CEO and long-time anti-pokies campaigner
Tim Costello has welcomed
the pre-commitment agreement struck between Mr Wilkie and the Prime Minister, saying, “This is a very good deal”.
Naturally gaming interests have been
of the arrangement. Hotels associations, for example, argue that the revenue from poker machines is necessary for employment in the industry, and clubs are said to feed money back into the local communities, particularly through sports.
Yet whatever ‘good’ can be spun from the recent proliferation in Australia’s suburbs of what has come to be known as the ‘one arm bandit’, is significantly outweighed by the harm poker machines are causing Australian families.
Certainly the pre-commitment system is not a silver-bullet solution to the issue of problem gambling, but it is a positive step forward in addressing a growing community concern. It does however have to overcome a massive obstacle in the form of the Constitution, as gambling regulation is the responsibility of state governments.
As part of the agreement with Mr Wilkie, Ms Gillard ask will state governments to adjust their gaming laws to make the changes sought, or “look for a legislative way to force them”,
according to Mr Wilkie
That is sure to cause an intriguing and contentious battle, with state and territory governments addicted to the constant stream of revenue generated through gambling, and in particular poker machines. This level of government derives about 10 per cent of its annual revenue from gambling tax, which equates to $5 billion.
The motivation to reform the use of poker machines, therefore, is not strong among the states and territories, but it is a battle worth fighting for the sake of problem gamblers and their families.
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