Finally, things are getting a little interesting. Gillard, Abbott and co are still keeping very very quiet about any gambling reform policies they may, or may not, have… but now there’s a new player in town. Stephen Mayne, shareholder activist, former journalist, founder of crikey.com and current City of Manningham Councillor, has announced that he’s going to run as an Independent for a Victorian seat in the Senate. What’s more, he’ll be campaigning on an anti-pokies platform.
It’s about bloody time!
Sadly, Mayne admits he probably won’t get elected, but as he will be directing his preferences to whichever party takes the toughest stance on poker machines, his presence in the electoral landscape could very well shake things up for the major parties.
Mayne spoke to Jon Faine this morning on 774 ABC Melbourne about his tilt at the Senate. Following is a full transcript of that conversation.
Jon Faine: Stephen Mayne, shareholder activist and occasional contributor to 774 ABC Melbourne programs, has overnight announced that he wants to be a senator. In fact, in a campaign that in some ways seems to be modelled on the South Australian anti-pokies senator Nick Xenophon, Stephen Mayne says, “Vote for me!” Stephen Mayne, good morning to you.
Stephen Mayne: Hi Jon.
JF: It’s not the first time you’ve tried to run for parliament, is it?
SM: Well, it’s the first time for the Senate… so I’m keen to try and leverage the pokies issue. I’ve been on that issue for 4 or 5 years and nothing really much has changed, we’re still the world’s biggest gamblers so… I’m going to use the democratic processes to try and leverage something out of the major parties to get some change.
JF: You’ve been one of the most unsuccessful political candidates that I can think of, and for public office and corporate office as well, so why do you think this time it will be any different?
SM: Well I think there’s a lot of community concern about the pokies, I mean we lose $3 billion a year, Julia Gillard in her own seat has the biggest pokies venue in the state where punters lose $20 million a year, and the Labor Party itself runs four pokies venues in Canberra. They are the only major political party in the world which runs pokies venues. And the Liberal Party, for the Senate, are putting up a pokies operator in Julian McGauran. So –
JF: His family business, in which he has an interest, owns pokies –
SM: His family business, in Julia Gillard’s suburb of Altona. His family owns the Miller Inn, where punters lose $14 million a year. So it is so entrenched in Australia that you’ve got the government party running their own venues, you’ve got the alternative government putting up a pokies operator as well, we’re the world’s biggest gamblers… it’s an absolute scourge on society and, you know, Nick Xenophon’s a real hero of mine, he’s done a great job in raising this issue –
JF: So you’re forming, like a party, an alliance between the two of you, if you get in?
SM: Look, he’s a hero of mine but he’s fiercely independent, I’m independent. So look, there’s no group, he’s not running my campaign or endorsing me, but… I’ve known him for a long time, I think what he does is fantastic and I’m keen to support him. I hope he can support me in this campaign and I really want to try and leverage an outcome on the pokies, because the Productivity Commission recommended all these great things and Rudd absolutely wimped it, even though he said he hates the pokies, and we’re still yet to hear from Gillard. So I’m simply saying: “Julia, what’s your pokies policy? My preferences are up for grabs; the Senate outcome will be influenced by what you decide on this.” I’m confident I can get two or three per cent, I’ve beaten the Democrats, I’ve beaten Family First, I’ve beaten the DLP in the past in elections, so I think I can the determinant of the last spot.
JF: Do you really seriously think you’ll get elected?
SM: I don’t think I’ll get elected, but I think that my preferences will decide ho wins the sixth spot, I’ve no doubt about that, and I will directing my preferences based on which party makes the strongest moves on pokies and the starter for the ALP is to commit to sell their four pokies venues that they operate in Canberra… which they tried to do earlier this year. But then the factional hacks stepped in and said, don’t sell them to the CFMEU. So they’re still running four hundred machines themselves to help fund this campaign.
JF: Are you a single issue candidate?
SM: Well, primarily. I mean the pokies is my number one issue in this campaign. I’m also appalled at the anti-immigration position which is being put up by both parties. I know that’s incredibly… it’s not going to win you any votes, coming out and saying I’m for immigration, but I think –
JF: Why not?
SM: Well… I’m saying it. It’s not popular, but I think we should support immigration; I think that the race to the bottom we’re seeing from the major parties is a disgrace.
JF: It’s astonishing that the failure of state governments to be able to effectively construct infrastructure is being blamed, and therefore used as a reason, to cut the essential immigration we need to create a sustainable economic base for the future.
SM: Look, I agree. I’m a councillor in the City of Manningham, we’re the only council in the whole state without rail or tram, we’ve got four thousand six hundred septic tanks. If the state government can’t even put the sewer through, can’t even get a tram extension from North Balwyn to Manningham, and then the same party comes out and blames immigration. I just think it’s appalling and it poisons the well, it damages our multicultural community. All those migrants out there who expect the Labor Party to stand up for them, are being sold out by the cynical factional hacks. I think I’m happy to stand up and say I’m proud to support more immigration for Australia.
JF: Couple of quick text messages for you; one saying “I’ll vote for you Stephen,” another saying, “You have an addiction, it’s not to pokies but to trying to be a public figure.”
SM: Well I am a public figure. I’m an elected councillor, I’m a shareholder activist, that’s what I do. This is democracy and I’m engaging with the democratic processes. I’m going to try and leverage an outcome on the pokies.
JF: Good luck, we’ll keep in touch on it I’m sure, and see whether or not you make any progress. Thaks for coming in today.
SM: Thanks Jon.
JF: Stephen Mayne, occasionally called a serial pest but no, he’s just a serial candidate.