Peter Slipper is soon to be painted in an official portrait to commemorate being Speaker of the House. It’ll cost some $30,000.

Picture: Peter Nicholson

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.

Twitter: @drpiotrowski

Most commented


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    • GROBP says:

      05:42am | 17/10/12

      It’s already decided.

      Look at the market to work out what sleazy deals have already been agreed made.

      ASX. ALL (Aristocrat)

    • cheap white trash says:

      05:53am | 17/10/12

      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.
      Principles,Yeah he might do,but when it comes to dealing with this Government,Principles dont come into it,its about staying in Office at any cost.

      When I asked her whether she believed the Government was sincere in their promise for pokie reform, she sounded frustrated.

      LOL,I don’t know what to think of these people anymore.
      Really,let me tell you,LIES, LIES & MORE LIES .
      The lie, was refined and perfected by this Government and the groups of elites and some in the MSM.
      Some in the MSM have become nothing more than a public relations firm for the Government,and there Lies the problem.
      “They drag it on and drag it on.
      Yes, until the next election.

    • nihonin says:

      05:55am | 17/10/12

      Wouldn’t it just be cheaper and quicker to hang a Twister mat on the wall instead.

    • BMJ says:

      05:57am | 17/10/12

      Australia’s love for pokies has always been a great mystery for me.

      They are culture destroying.

    • GROBP says:

      07:06am | 17/10/12

      I don’t get it either.

      I figure it’s the welfare recipients equivalent to Hollywood brat’s cocaine.

    • Michael S says:

      07:28am | 17/10/12

      I’ve never understood the appeal of them. There’s no strategy, no reading of form, no way you can work the game to your advantage. You’re playing a machine that is programmed to win. Poker machines are rubbish, and people who play them are complete morons.

      I couldn’t play the pokies for five minutes without getting bored. But they do seem to have a hypnotic effect on some people, and they just keep spending more and more time sinking more and more money into them.

    • Gregg says:

      07:58am | 17/10/12

      For those that do use them frequently, it is probably a bit like being at a carnival with a bar and cheap beer handy all in air conditioned comfort and even some other free entertainment and cheap tucker about.

      Entertainment, booze, tucker, comfort, all Australian culture.
      All good in moderation but then there’ll always be those with less self discipline who have trouble doing anything in moderation so come in the addicts!

    • Mahhrat says:

      07:59am | 17/10/12

      They are addictive.  Studies and studies and studies have conclusively demonstrated it.  They are designed specifically to be it.

      They are just like alcohol, tobacco and illicit drugs.  They can form psychological dependancies, and like most dependancies, they affect individuals in different ways.

      The problem for me isn’t just the people who become addicted to them - though that’s bad enough - but the innocent people who are hurt by the addiction.  Yes, including the kids.  I have to go there.

      Bridgewater is a low socio-economic area north of Hobart.  Remember the $900 bonus?  Well, in the two weeks after that, the local pokie pubs recorded recorded throughput in their machines.

      In the two weeks after THAT, Tasmania Police recorded a huge spike in domestic violence in the area.  Not just a little, but orders of magnitude.  They had to call in more police support to deal with it, from what I understand of the reports.

      It’s not enough to tell people to have control, the machines are designed exactly to override the self-control of as many people as they can, using addictive behaviour triggers.

      Gambling, when done appropriately, is a highly entertaining and social experience.  I love poker, for example.  Poker machines?  They are simply devices to part you from your cash by triggering addiction responses.

      Interestingly, this research is now being applied to computer games. Zynga are at the “forefront”, as are Blizzard Entertainment.  Zynga have long been hated for this behaviour, and Blizzard are quickly eroding their IP credits through it - see “Diablo 3” for more.

    • Terry2 says:

      08:05am | 17/10/12

      Pokie in my experience,as with many forms of gambling, is addictive .Personally I don’t find any entertainment in playing pokies so I don’t bother, but I have a good friend who will sit all night , every night, after work pumping money into these machines .He can afford to lose the money,as he does every night, and he would never commit to pre-commitment. He will ferquently play three machines at a time and this gives him a buzz.
      This addiction, as with drugs, only really becomes a community problem when the addicted person’s lifestyle impacts others (e.g. failing to meet family responsibilities, stealing from friends and employers etc).
      As regards the government and Wilkie, I have always understood that the federal government does not have the constitutional power to legislate on gambling unless supported by the states (hence the trial in the ACT and not Tasmania) and the states will not play ball.

    • Mahhrat says:

      06:48am | 17/10/12

      Wilkie wants to achieve SOMETHING, and he then hopes to be re-elected in a way that allows him to keep working for reform that he believes will greatly benefit the nation.

      He got voted in largely because of his position on pokies, so I’d suggest there’s more support than we’re giving him credit for.  I know I’m behind it - while I am not a huge fan of Big Brother, I could think of many worse things than simply not having pokies any more.

    • acotrel says:

      06:54am | 17/10/12

      Intralot have got the Victorian pokies for ten years, the law might change sooner than expected when the community becomes drained of all discretionary spending.

    • Gregg says:

      08:07am | 17/10/12

      You’d reckon your mob could get some smarts about them acotrel.

      Run discount flights to circumvent the people smugglers on the basis that we’ll let you play the pokies with all the extra cash you’ll save and then give you $3000 to go home.

      It’ll be win, win, win and just lose for the smugglers.

    • Tony of Poorakistan says:

      07:05am | 17/10/12

      Pokies should have been left in sports and community clubs only - where some money could be returned to either the sport or the local community. 
      Instead, all the profits go to a small number of pokie barons ... and Woolworths, who appear to be slowly moving from the grocery business to the gambling business.

      It isn’t too late to put the cork back in the monkey - simply issue no new licenses to pubs.


      07:40am | 17/10/12

      Hi Daniel,

      I have always wondered the actual fascination with poker machines in Australia and rightly so!  When I first arrived in Australia I was amazed by the actual structure a typically Australian suburb which would ideally have a school, a church, a TAB and a pub or a club with poker machines with sort of nice foods served very cheaply!  Does that say a lot about our culture a bit like the Americans’s fascination with winning big and living big? 

      It goes without saying that in the USA especially in such places like Nevada and Las Vegas, you could basically check into a hotel everything provided for you so that you could actually eat and sleepy our way into winning big.  Basically they will make you feel so comfortable that you may never leave the premises until you are virtually broke or you are asked to leave politely.  Has anyone really sat down and thought about the chance of winning big on a regular basis?  It is called “probability” and it is part of Modern Mathematics as taught to young high school children, I presume still.  So at the end of the day chances of winning really big are so incredibly minuscule, that it does not make any sense but why do we still gamble?

      And why do we still all buy into the idea of winning and not losing? I am only guessing since I have ever been into that sort of club with poker machines once or twice in my life with some loose change and when I didn’t win anything, I simply walked out.  So it seems that my fascination with poker machines ended right there and then.  I also wonder if I had won anything would I really go back for more?  It is only human nature and I do happen to have friends with gambling problems, sadly they happen to lose on more occasions rather than winning.

      Apart from all that actually for the Federal and the State governments of Australia, it could be the easiest money ever made, very much like the club owners.  I would like to make another small comparison to the tax revenue from sales of cigarettes of alcohol in Australia and European countries where very good beer is something like 65 euro cents a can and a packet of cigarettes costing about 5 euros.  And I don’t remember seeing so many pubs or clubs full with so many poker machines, so does that mean that Europeans are actually smarter or simply work harder with less time to dedicate to such activities and luxuries? Kind regards to your editors.

    • Gregg says:

      10:34am | 17/10/12

      ” so does that mean that Europeans are actually smarter or simply work harder with less time to dedicate to such activities and luxuries? “

      Seeing as quite a few European countries if not most have much higher unemployment than Australia, asking them about work could be quite touchy.
      As for smarts, once again, if you do get to know a bit more about Australia and Australians, you will find addicts to any form of gambling or consumption are usually a minority of the population, probably just as in Europe.
      Many more people do use clubs for general entertainment and having a bit of the flutter with the pokies may be part of it just as subsidised meals, drinks and other entertainment is, that being smart enough.

      Generally though, the more you move away from comparing Australia to European countries or even the USA, the more you may appreciate we are in deed different.

    • Modern Primitive says:

      07:44am | 17/10/12

      Either ban them outright or leave them alone. Stop trying to save people from themselves and come to terms with the fact that some humans will engage in destructive and addictive behaviour, and design programmes to treat addiction accordingly.

      WA has the right idea, they only allow gambling in casinos over there.

    • acotrel says:

      08:13am | 17/10/12

      I totally agree with your comment.  Pokies are bullshit designed to glean unearned money from people who cannot afford to lose it.  There was a news article a couple of days a go which said that Victorians are losing much more than ever before.  This coincides with Intralot taking over, and the Baillieu government doing major belt- tightening. There is not much productive about pokies, even as a social thing, they are a fail. Most of our venues don’t even run a dance or provide cheap meals and drinks. It is all take , and the ‘return to the community’ rules are a joke.

    • Mark says:

      07:45am | 17/10/12

      Wilkie has one main ambition and that’s not to be a “oncer” and be back to selling rugs in Hobart. His only chance of that occurring is by the Libs preferencing him above the ALP on the HTV card in Dennison. This is the main reason his language towards the Libs has a been a lot softer of late. The Libs have all but said that the ALP will be above the Greens in seats like Melbourne so Bandt is trying to win it on primaries and leakage from Libs. The Libs haven’t indicated which way they will go in Dennision. Wilkie knows without the Libs he has no chance as his primary vote is nothing like the Greens. Politics makes interesting bedfellows. The question is, how forgiving are the Libs for what Wilkie did to them after he was pre-selected?

    • Jane says:

      08:04am | 17/10/12

      The Gillard Govt are “sneaky” and “tricky”. There are so many examples that come to light after the fact with them.

    • Gregg says:

      08:04am | 17/10/12

      You’ve done well Daniel, finding another Julia and such parallels!

      ” 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. “

      Yep, Julia has been doing all sorts of poking around, maybe not so clean though

      ” She understands their entertainment value, but loathes how they suck the life and livelihoods out people. “, yep, yep, just look at the house.

      ” When I asked her whether she believed the Government was sincere in their promise for pokie reform, she sounded frustrated. “
      Yep, just throw in evasive too!

      And classically
      “I’m not sure. I don’t know anymore. I don’t know what’s real or what’s not with these people. “

      Crikey Daniel, you did coach Julia so well!

      “They drag it on and drag it on.

      “I don’t know what to think of these people anymore.”

      I doubt she’s alone.

      Yep, Yep, yep

    • Alfie says:

      08:09am | 17/10/12

      Wilkie has shot himself in the foot, big time. Gillard has played him for the stupid mug that he is. He should be left to wither on the vine.

    • Muzz says:

      08:42am | 17/10/12

      Doing deals with Gillard? I’d say NO!

    • Ren says:

      08:50am | 17/10/12

      “Blow up the pokies and drag them away…”

    • the moor says:

      10:41am | 17/10/12

      Both sides of politics are gutless on this issue.  The irony is that most Australians want poker machine reform but because of the effective lobbying of a vested interest minority group neither side will touch it with a barge pole.  Once again the moral courage of our politicians is found wanting on a straight forward issue.

    • Mat says:

      12:26pm | 17/10/12

      There are hundreds of ways to get their fixes, horse races, football, cricket, internet gambling, on-line poker, casinos, lotteries, card games, who kicked the first goal in a football match, who will win an election, car racing, Keno, dice so on and so forth. Gambling (and it’s accessability) when out of control is the problem here and we need to keep educating just like drugs, violence, alcohol abuse. But keep it real in the sense that what’s after pokie reform (if that ever happens)? do we then follow everyone around the track and ensure they don’t bet more than a dollar on each race? Do we take over the problem gambler’s banking details and control their incomings/outgoings? Question every person when they enter or leave the casino? Every time I turn on the idiot box we have non-stop ads from the likes of Sportsbet or Tom Waterhouse betting. And the Government (any Government State & Federal) clips the ticket on the way through and they love it. We hope that people can awaken from these issues and we have to support wherever possible, but personal responsability is where it starts. That’s how it is. The problem pokie (gambling) addicts suffer from an array of other issues that need assistance/attention, putting coins in the slot is just one of the effects. The original reforms ( not watered down after backflipping) that Wilkie wanted where never going to happen and our P.M knew that from the outset. On one hand I feel for Wilkie as he did try to make a difference (albeit over the top and poorly researched) but he assumed (like other independants) that he had the monkey over the barrel but didn’t understand he was dancing with the Devil. Be a smarter politician Wilkie would be my advice and don’t underestimate the Rat Cunning of the ALP. 

      P.S serving alcohol at gaming venues can’t help

    • Nikki says:

      01:01pm | 17/10/12

      ‘Pokies’ should be a state issue, not a federal one. I resented Wilkie holding the entire nation to ransom with a half-arsed, tunnel-vision policy that could easily be solved by other means. Here in WA our State Govt long ago legislated against pokies being anywhere other than the casino and it works just fine. We have successful sporting clubs and pubs still make money. There will always be problem gambling, and limiting poker machine abuse will only push people into the TAB or online. Shit, you could lose your week’s pay on scratchies and Lotto tickets but I don’t hear Wilkie crying about that.

    • Willie says:

      01:59pm | 17/10/12

      How about plain packaging. A drab green box you feed your money into.
      Or maybe graphic warnings “WINNING IS STATISTICALLY IMPOSSIBLE” with some time series data.

      It shouldn’t be that hard to stop people playing.


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