i read the news today, oh boy…

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.

The Daily Telegraph
Andrew Wilkie folds on pokies threat to PM Julia Gillard.
Julia’s porkies on pokies should end Wilkie’s gamble.

The Age
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.

Clubs confident of watered down pokies pact.

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.


8 Responses

  1. DMW says:

    Thanks Tom for helping me see the ‘wood for the trees’ a little more clearly

    … and for giving a good laugh:
    ‘If this story was a pie, I’d send it back. It’s drowned in unidentifiable sources.’

    Pure Gold

    Keep up the good fight

  2. tflip says:

    The key is still the independents. Oakeshott and Windsor have built a reputation for taking good policy seriously but they also have seats in NSW where the Clubs propaganda is strongest and most targeted. Without at least one of them the legislation can’t get through the lower house.

    Yet Labor does seem to remain adamantly opposed to the more politically saleable $1 bet option. In the end one doubts they have the commitment to really get on board the issue. Silly, since all polls show popular support for reform is there and thus campaigning might even increase Labor’s vote. But that would require courage of convictions.

    Sadly the ALP mainly seems to stand for staying in government and not much else. This is a sure route to opposition but the talent and vision to counter this thinking appears in short supply.

    The Libs do know what they stand for, being in office and carrying out the agenda of wealthy vested interests. Neither conscience nor a concern with good policy are likely to get in the way of that.

  3. Evan Dently says:

    Thank you,
    Yes we have noticed the patern.
    We have also noticed the lack of voices suggesting it isn’t good enough.
    So let’s keep it up.

  4. Min says:

    Cynne, great article. I’m with DMW, best laugh for the day came from that line.

  5. NCR says:

    Yes, it’s conjecture, but journalists don’t sit around making these stories up. Just because the information is not on the record does not mean it’s not true. The bottom line is the pokies deal was doomed the minute Labor had Peter Slipper on its side. I’m afraid there’s little honour in politics.

  6. PCB says:

    Let’s face the facts. Pokie reform is probably needed but opposed by the strong, who trot out the usual excuses just like when RBT, the Sydney Casino, increased pokie taxes, etc. were introduced. As for our Prime Minister, Andrew Wilkie should have been aware of the name of a well known gaming machine – K.G. Bird.

  7. Robert Williams says:

    I actually live in Rob Oakeshott’s electorate tflip and have noticed little in the way of clubs propaganda. I am also subscribed to Rob Oakeshott’s news feed and I can assure you that he supports gambling reform. One thing I will tell you about Oakeshott and Windsor they vote with their conscience although I am sure this is already evident. Very slow news day to have to make a story of hypotheticals.

  8. Familyman says:

    I can’t believe Julia and co only got into government because of Mr Wilkie and they have the nerve to not honour thier deal with him. A deal that is good for Australia and all those long time suffering battler families who have a member addicted to poker machines.Julia it seems like Mr Wilkie is the only one knocking on doors while you and Jenny just sit back and rub shoulders with Casino owners and club corporation while the carnage continues. Seems that the clubs, pubs and casinos want a licience to bankrupt and decimate as many Australians as they can.Perhaps photos of the MP’s who are shaking in thier boots from the clubs bs campaigne should have thier mug shots in the news and newspapers with the caption ” we are scared of losing our jobs so we can’t stand up for the Australian families losing thier homes, kids and in many cases thier lives to the poker machine corprations”.

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