I’ve held off on commenting too much about this over the past week or so, but here we are. Two weeks out from the Federal Election of 2010, and to date neither of the major parties have said a word about problem gambling. Nothing. As far as they’re concerned it’s a non-issue.
This is a disgrace. We have communities such as Jan Juc, Mansfield and Beaconsfield fighting to stay pokie-free, we have proven links between pokies and crime, pokies and depression, pokies and suicide. We have independent candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives who are actively campaigning against poker machines. We have local councils drawing up plans and commissioning studies to protect their residents from further pokie venue developments. And we have a procession of state governments who seem to think that this is a small problem that’s only getting smaller… the billions of dollars of pokie revenue must be blinding them to the truth.
What is it going to take to get Gillard and Abbott talking about gambling reform? Are they content to lead a nation that is recognised as the most gambling-addicted country in the world? I’ve said it before, but we have far and away the highest number of poker machines per capita than any other country. We have more pokies than some countries have people. And we have an underclass of pokie addicts who are destroying their lives and those of the people around them, just to line the pockets not only of the government, but of the gambling industry players. Tatts and TABCorp, Mathieson and Woolworths, they’re all getting rich off the pain of others.
There’s two weeks until election eve. Two weeks where maybe, just maybe, someone will grow a spine and tackle this issue with authority. Two weeks to promise action will be taken. It’s not like they have to think too hard about it; the recent Productivity Commission report has done all the hard work for them, has given them a series of recommendations that they can take on board and call policies.
Julia, Tony… you’ve got two weeks to confront this issue. Prove to us that you are leaders in fact and not just by intention. Take a stand on an issue that impacts the lives of so, so many people. Give us a reason to believe that you can make a difference.