Will pokie laws be revived? Might just be hokey
Peter Slipper is soon to be painted in an official portrait to commemorate being Speaker of the House. It’ll cost some $30,000.
Fitting, because Labor engineering Slipper into the Speaker’s chair was hailed as a masterstroke at the beginning. But it cost them a lot.
And it could just cost them more.
Putting Slipper in Harry Jenkins’s seat neutralised the immense pressure the Gillard Government was under trying to legislate independent MP Andrew Wilkie’s demands for gambling reform.
The reforms had put the Government in an uncomfortable position, wedged between a hung parliament, an electorate that wasn’t sold on Wilkie’s plans and a Clubs industry with a lot of money and influence. By installing Slipper, a member of the Coalition, Labor had an extra vote and didn’t need Wilkie’s anymore.
So Labor scrapped plans to introduce mandatory pre-commitment, a kind of pay-to-play system. In other words: Get stuffed, Andrew.
Instead, they put forward a much-less contentious set of gambling reforms. After the fury, Wilkie folded and reluctantly backed the plans.
And why wouldn’t he? The Government had all the leverage.
But, as many commentators predicted, it was inevitable that the Slipper arrangement would backfire on the Government. Hello, sex scandals; hello, schoolboy text messages.
So it’s surprising that in the aftermath of the Slipper case, Wilkie has shirked away from pushing the Government harder on the ideas he’s so passionate about. From bullying them into doing what he wants.
Since Slipper slid onto the crossbenches, Wilkie’s vote on the floor of the House is more important. Particularly given the latest swirl of controversy around Dobell MP Craig Thomson. He already told us after the Government’s betrayal that he bore no allegiance to the Government anymore.
Instead, it seems like he’s given up on getting the package he’d wanted, despite all the fight he’s put in for it. He’s settling for a quarter of a loaf of bread instead of the thick, full sourdough one he was after.
Wilkie has pledged to back the Government’s reform package, which includes electronic warnings programmed pokie machines and opens the door for states to introduce their own pre-commitment policies.
Either the Greens or the Coalition need to get on board for the legislation to pass the Senate. The Greens are locked in negotiations with the Government over the policy.
Late Friday arvo, Wilkie slammed the Greens – who are locked in negotiations with the Government – for holding out on supporting the package until $1 bet-at-a-time pokie laws are introduced. A policy he supports.
Without the Greens giving in, Wilkie said: “We run the very real risk of seeing no poker machine reform in this Parliament”.
It’s a line that echoes the Government’s. A spokesperson for the minister in charge of gambling reform, Jenny Macklin, said they just wanted to get on with getting their legislation passed.
The Government called Wilkie’s bluff well earlier this year. Now he just wants something that might help.
At least he has principles on the issue.
The Punch spoke yesterday to a reformed pokie addict. Julia Karpathakis has been clean of the devices for eight years and is now the head of the organisation that saved her from them, Pokies Anonymous.
She understands their entertainment value, but loathes how they suck the life and livelihoods out people.
When I asked her whether she believed the Government was sincere in their promise for pokie reform, she sounded frustrated.
“I’m not sure. I don’t know anymore. I don’t know what’s real or what’s not with these people.
“They drag it on and drag it on.
“I don’t know what to think of these people anymore.”
I doubt she’s alone.
Read all about it
Up to the minute Twitter chatter
The latest and greatest
Good morning Punchers. After four years of excellent fun and great conversation, this is the final post…
I have had some close calls, one that involved what looked to me like an AK47 pointed my way, followed…
In a world in which there are still people who subscribe to the vile notion that certain victims of sexual…