I read the news today, oh boy…
That’s it. Poker machine reforms are dead. Kaput. Finito. Done and dusted. They have ceased to be. At least, so we’re being told.
But it’s not Julia Gillard breaking the bad news. Not Andrew Wilkie either. No, it’s the press that has the scoop; they’re the ones in the know.
After the meeting between Gillard and Wilkie on Sunday, when neither party would comment on what they talked about, the media went into a frenzy. The deal is off, they cried. Wilkie’s trying to keep the agreement alive. Julia’s backed down. Doom, gloom and woe. But that was something of a prelude to this morning’s media blitz.
I knew it was coming; Melbourne’s oppressively hot nights left me awake at 2am, and I decided to check The Age website (as I sometimes do). And there it was: Gillard’s pokies backdown. Bloody hell, I thought, and stumbled back to bed instead.
I was therefore unsurprised at what greeted me when I finally surfaced this morning.
Gillard’s pokies backdown.
The Sydney Morning Herald
Gillard retreats on pokie reforms.
The Courier Mail
Wilkie blinks on pokie law reform.
The Canberra Times
Wilkie agrees to delay pokies trial.
Plenty more where those came from.
Yet for all the articles, for all the words, something’s missing.
I have a lot of time for Richard Willingham and Jacob Saulwick, the co-authors of the Age and SMH articles. I’ve dealt with them before a number of times and they’ve written a lot of good stuff about the poker machine debate. But sorry guys, this is not your finest work.
Instead of definitive quotes, we get “Sources close to Mr Wilkie” and “Mr Wilkie is said to be “stunned”.”
We get “Sources said Ms Gillard told Mr Wilkie” and “Her (Gillard’s) office declined to comment last night. Mr Wilkie also would not comment.”
If this story was a pie, I’d send it back. It’s drowned in unidentifiable sources.
The only quotes mentioned in these articles and others come from Warren Truss, Kevin Andrews, Steven Ciobo… are we spotting a theme here?
“Julia Gillard has betrayed Andrew Wilkie just as she betrayed the Australian people before the last election.” (Truss)
“I think he has been dudded, quite clearly, and he has been told that is the case, he’s no option, he is trying to save face.” (Andrews)
“One thing you can bet on is that Gillard has gone back on her word.” (Ciobo)
Wow. I wonder how the Opposition became so well-informed about the inner workings of the ALP? Or maybe they’re doing what they always do: lashing out blindly. And the media is reporting it as news… which is what THEY always do.
Now, I’m no blinkered optimist. If you read my article in yesterday’s National Times you’ll know that I have grave concerns about the path the reform process is taking and the government’s commitment to it. But this morning I’ve read no fewer than 18 articles telling me that the reforms are dead and buried; I’ve spoken to several people and confirmed a number of points. And the only facts that have filtered down are these.
Discussions are ongoing.
Legislation is still due by May 2012.
Everything else is conjecture. Wilkie has indicated that the implementation of poker machine reforms may be put back to 2016 (from 2014); this is consistent with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission. I always thought the 2014 timeframe was aggressive. But legislation will still need to be in place before the halfway point of this year.
So vent your anger if you will; it’s not a bad thing at all to let our politicians know how much these reforms mean to the Australian public, not to mention reminding them that the clubs and pubs only speak for a minute fraction of the community.
But don’t forget what happened the last time this kind of universal media outrage over poker machines occurred; when the AFL was supposedly joining forces with Clubs Australia and the NRL, and was going to launch an anti-reform campaign during Grand Final week. Every news outlet in the country ran that story, unquestioningly… and they were all completely and utterly wrong.
How quickly we forget.