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.
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Andrew Wilkie has okayed a lame version of the government’s pokies legislation, which he yesterday called a “stepping stone to meaningful reform in the future”.
The guts of the deal is that club ATMs will be able to spit out just $250 worth of pokie playmoney per day, and that pre-commitment to an amount you’re willing to lose will be optional rather than mandatory.
The legislation is now toothless on two fronts. Firstly, optional pre-commitment is like offering a drunk the choice of ejecting himself for obnoxiousness. And secondly, the legislation fails to address the burgeoning arena of sports gambling.
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If there’s one thing you can count on in Canberra these days, it’s that nothing is guaranteed. As the government dances along the knife edge of minority support, the balance of power seems to be shifting on a daily basis.
Such is the case with Andrew Wilkie. Only a few months ago it appeared that his influence with Labor had been dealt a serious, almost terminal blow, with the role of Speaker moving from Harry Jenkins to Peter Slipper. Indeed, it was only a short time later that Julia Gillard reneged on her agreement with Wilkie, which in turn led to him withdrawing his support for her government.
Yet here we are just a short time later, with Slipper on the cross-benches and embattled Labor MP Craig Thomson joining him. Anna Burke has stepped into the Speaker’s role temporarily, reducing her influence to that of a casting vote. And amidst all the turmoil, while allegations and sordid details are replayed endlessly in the media, Wilkie has found himself once more in a position of power.
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