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Wednesday, 2 November 2011
Page: 12576

Mr WILKIE (Denison) (19:54): Observing the pokies industry's campaign against the government's poker machine reforms leaves me feeling like I have stumbled into the pages of George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four. It is a world where two plus two equals five and where people are asked to believe that black is white; a world where letting people blow their life savings and then their brains out is Australian, while trying to intervene and help problem gamblers is somehow un-Australian; and a world where nothing is wrong with using people by whipping them up with fear and herding them into staged events.

The fact is that the pokies industry lies every time it claims that all poker machine players will need a licence to punt. The truth is that only those people wanting to play hard on high-intensity machines will need to use a card and predetermine their loss limit, and it will be no more a licence than you need a bank card to take money out of an ATM, a video card to rent a DVD or a library card to borrow a book. It will be no more onerous than getting one of the loyalty cards carried by millions of poker machine players in Australia already.

Moreover, the pokies industry lies by omission every time it fails to mention the introduction of $1 maximum bet machines. The truth is that such machines will be outside of the mandatory precommitment system and accommodate the 88 per cent of players who currently gamble $1 or less per spin. The pokies industry lies every time it claims that the cost of implementing the reforms will send venues to the wall. The truth is that the industry has said that it is happy to put precommitment on every machine so long as it is for voluntary use, even though the cost of doing so will be virtually the same as fitting the system for mandatory use.

The pokies industry lies every time it claims that the cost of the reforms will cripple the industry. The truth is that the Commonwealth Treasury has determined that there will be little financial downside. The pokies industry lies every time it claims that the reforms will cause large job losses. But the fact is that research commissioned for the Tasmanian government found that poker machines are job killers, not job creators.

The pokies industry lies every time it says that mandatory precommitment will not work. The truth is that the reform is backed up by lengthy and detailed research by the Productivity Commission and by the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform. Moreover, mandatory precommitment in Norway has proven unambiguously that the system diminishes problem gambling. The pokies industry lies every time it says that voluntary pre-commitment is the solution. But the truth is that the industry has been unable to produce any evidence to back up their claim, instead stumbling badly by conceding that venues with voluntary systems experienced virtually no change in their cashflow when such systems were introduced. That this actually proves the uselessness of voluntary precommitment is obviously lost on the pokies industry.

The industry lies about this being a nanny-state reform. The truth is that it will be the individual's choice whether or not to play on one of the machines fitted with mandatory precommitment and what limit to set. The industry lies about the amount of money they return to the community. The truth is that most return bugger-all. Take a look at any club's accounts and you will commonly find community contributions running at one or two per cent of turnover. I could go on, but time is short and I think that I have made my point.

The fact is that the pokies industry is being lead and represented by people who are dishonest and uncaring. All they are really interested in is money and stopping any threat to the $5 billion they harvest each year from problem gamblers. To that end, they are thrashing around, prepared to say and do anything to serve their financial self-interests. There are no limits to their behaviour. They have misrepresented the Salvation Army. They have misrepresented the AFL. They are bullying local members of parliament. They are even threatening to sue me. Yes, it has come to that—the multibillion dollar pokies industry even thinks it is okay to try to shut down our democracy by threatening members of parliament. The truth is that the government's poker machine reforms will genuinely help to stop problem gamblers losing everything, including their jobs, their family and friends, their homes, their minds and even their lives. The industry needs to get on board or get out of the way.