Tuesday 22nd of September 2020

promise overboard .....

promise overboard .....

The Gillard government has conceded for the first time that poker machine reform agreed to with the independent Andrew Wilkie in 2010 will struggle to pass the Parliament.

Mr Wilkie last night met the Prime Minister, Julia Gillard, to discuss the reforms and will meet her again today in Melbourne.

He reiterated his threat to withdraw support for Ms Gillard if reform was not legislated by May 8 but failed to detail what that would mean inside the Parliament.

''I'm not going to mince my words ... if the government fails to honour its agreement with me then I may well walk away,'' he said.

Mr Wilkie said the only compromise he was prepared to accept was a $1 maximum bet limit on all pokies.

In a signal that he may withdraw his support for the government, Mr Wilkie said last night he would reconsider his pledge to back Labor's flagship policy of means testing private health rebates.

''Because of a lot of time has passed since then, I now need to look afresh at that issue and look afresh at the evidence I had then and see if there is any new evidence,'' he told a newspaper.

The Herald has learnt more details of Ms Gillard's offer to Mr Wilkie, including voluntary pre-commitment on all new machines from next January, with all pokies to have the system by 2016.

Ms Gillard is believed to have offered a trial of mandatory pre-commitment in a single jurisdiction, paid for by the federal government, with Tasmania raised as an option. If the trial was successful, all machines would include mandatory pre-commitment technology by 2016.

It is understood one of the arguments the government is likely to use to counter the $1 maximum bet proposal is that it would be more expensive than mandatory pre-commitment. However, gaming experts reject this and say taxpayers could save tens of millions, or more, from the simpler $1 bet option.

The Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, yesterday said while the government acknowledged the findings of the Productivity Commission that mandatory pre-commitment was an effective tool, it was unlikely to pass the Parliament.

''I can say to you very clearly we will not be walking away from problem gamblers,'' Ms Macklin said

''We are committed to act to help problem gamblers but we have to act with the Parliament we have.''

Mr Wilkie will be in Sydney today for the launch of the Stop the Loss campaign by a coalition of pro-reform campaigners who have banded together to counter the pokies lobby's anti-reform push.

The group is releasing research it says quashes the clubs industry's claim the set-up cost of mandatory pre-commitment and $1 bets would be $2.5 billion to $5 billion.

Clubs Australia is also releasing results of an 800-person poll by Crosby Textor which found 55 per cent support for the government to renegotiate poker machine reform to lessen the impact on clubs.

The survey found only 19 per cent of respondents thought a push to mandatory pre-commitment should continue.

Labor Concedes Pokies Reform A Losing Game


a real sacred cow .....

Julia Gillard today announced a back-down on poker machine reform.

Even though enough politicians were prepared to support the Productivity Commission's recommendations to slow down machines to $1 maximum bets, the Prime Minister chose the weakest of all options on the table - deferring action to beyond the next election.

Today's announcement of another broken promise is a far cry from the meaningful reforms that were recommended by the independent Productivity Commission, based on 11 years of research & is an insult to the millions of Australian families who were counting on genuine reform.

PM Unveils Compromise Deal Over Pokies Reform

Julia Gillard plays the role of Labor’s “sacred cow” brilliantly … always ready to break any promise; rip-up any deal; betray any colleague; lie at will … this woman has no principles: she is a lawyer through & through … she & those she speaks for will never have my vote … Labor has come to this & willingly.

who cares .....

Embattled Labor backbencher Craig Thomson has applauded the government's new approach to pokies reform, saying launching mandatory pre-commitment without a trial would have been "improper".

The government on the weekend backed down from its deal with independent MP Andrew Wilkie to introduce the scheme by the end of 2014, announcing instead a one-year trial in the ACT from February next year.

Mr Thomson, who has kept quiet in the media while an investigation into the misuse of a union credit card continues, had an editorial published in the Daily Telegraph this morning which backed Labor's about-turn.

"It is something that I and many NSW Labor MPs have been calling for - a comprehensive trial so that ultimately any legislation that comes before parliament is backed by scientific research," he wrote.

Significantly, Mr Thomson also said Labor's previous stance - mandatory pre-commitment without a trial - would have "flown in the face of proper policy making".

Defence Minister Stephen Smith chose not to elaborate on Mr Thomson's comments, only to say that he was entitled to his view.

"But it's frankly an academic view because we have long since passed that," he told ABC Television.

He defended the government's "sensible" decision to change tack on reform, saying the previous deal would not have received enough support in the parliament.

I would much rather us see progress on a very difficult social issue than go down in a screaming heap and achieve nothing."

Ms Gillard this morning was standing by decision to back away from the deal on poker machine reforms, saying there was no point to Parliament engaging in political argy-bargy over the issue.

Ms Gillard said there was no point in putting Mr Wilkie's measure to the Parliament because it does not have the support of the coalition and key crossbenchers.

"We can have all sorts of political argy-bargy and end up with nothing," she told ABC Radio this morning.

"Or we could get a piece of legislation through the Parliament that will deliver real change."

Other government measures will include limits on ATM cash withdrawals at gaming revenues. Ms Gillard also flagged the government may be prepared to consider a trial of $1 bet limits on low-intensity poker machines.

But she said that measure, proposed initially by Mr Wilkie and backed by the Australian Greens, was the most costly option to address problem gambling.

The Prime Minister has defended the decision to pay ACT clubs at least $37 million to take part in the mandatory pre-commitment trial. The government will pay clubs a monthly compensation fee for the year, and is also offering a total of more than $1 million for training, specialist workers and business planning.

It has not ruled out there could be more compensation as the trial is reviewed.

"We need the cooperation of the clubs to have the trial," Ms Gillard said.

Ms Gillard said the lead-in time to the ACT trial and possible national roll-out in 2016 was due to the need to install new technology to poker machines.

New software was also needed to link all the machines, she said. "We have taken very careful advice on how long that will take," Ms Gillard said, adding it was all about practical reality.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson said Ms Gillard had made the right call on pokie reform because the legislation would not have made it through the Parliament.

"If she brought it into Parliament it was going to get rolled. (Independent MPs Rob) Oakeshott and (Tony) Windsor aren't supporting it," Mr Richardson told the Seven Network.

"If you can't get it up, why do it? It's disappointing whenever she has to break her word. But the truth is if you can't get it through... I've been pretty hard on her, but I can forgive her."

Thomson Breaks Silence To Claim Credit For Pokies Backdown