not dead yet

This morning, Labor’s Harry Jenkins resigned from his position as Speaker of the House of Representatives. It was an unexpected move that has thrown the Opposition into disarray, and has journalists clamouring to point out that this could be the end of Labor’s support for poker machine reform.

This is a shortsighted view, driven by a fundamental lack of understanding of the nature of this minority government. In my opinion, nothing could be further from the truth.

The argument is this. With Jenkins’ resignation, Labor has an extra vote in the House of Representatives. Therefore, they no longer rely on Andrew Wilkie’s vote, and can drop their pokie reform agenda without losing their combined majority.

This is a simplistic view, designed to create speculation and sell papers. Nothing more.

Consider this:

Harry Jenkins is a strong supporter of poker machine reforms. Just last month, he made an “extraordinary entry” into the ongoing debate, speaking out strongly in favour of the reforms and stating: “If there’s an issue I feel safe on being able to have a comment about, it’s this issue.” To suggest that he would contribute his vote in order to allow his party to drop the reform agenda is absurd.

Many senior Labor figures, including Julia Gillard, Wayne Swan and Jenny Macklin have consistently backed the poker machine reform agenda, saying publicly time and time again that it needs to happen… not just to ensure Wilkie’s vote, but because of the incredible damage poker machine addiction is causing to our society. Believe them or not, to turn away from the reform process now would be to contradict everything that has been said to date, which in turn would erode much of what public support they have, and trigger massive internal upheaval.

And poker machine reforms are popular. This minority government has done incredible things over the past twelve months, passing desperately-needed legislation repeatedly in the face of howling opposition in parliament, in the papers and on the radio. To back down on a policy that the majority of voters across the board actually support would be political suicide.

Gillard’s government is well used to operating with their backs to the wall, negotiating furiously and effectively, and have consistently carried the day. Now, they have strengthened their position in the form of an additional vote; one that strongly supports poker machine reforms. To drop these reforms would be to alienate that vote, which would make a nonsense of the events that have transpired today.

The reality is that Labor’s substantially consolidated position gives them the ability to stare down the industry that has been lobbying mercilessly against them for so long. It gives them renewed confidence that they can achieve their goals no matter what shenanigans the clubs, pubs, casinos or opposing parties try and pull from this point onwards.

Poker machine reforms? Not dead yet.

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4 Responses

  1. gregor says:

    The reforms are dead. Even if Gillard etc were publicly supporting them, many privately were not. Without Wilkie’s gun to their heads, there is no chance of this stupid legislation being supported.

  2. Libby Mitchell says:

    Gregor I do not agree with you. Obviously you have not been following the Woolworth’s / Pokies GetUp petition, where over 70,000 people signed to object to Woolworth’s NOT supporting the pokies reform. All achieved in about a day or two? I think that you are under-estimating the strength of will of the Australian people who DO want pokies reforms by their own evidence…so long as it is firmer…not softer! The Facebook Woolworth’s site shows the many conversations from unhappy citizens re pokies and Clubs views etc.

  3. Libby Mitchell says:

    Another thought:

    For months now people have been discrediting Mr Wilkie, to accuse him of making the agreement with PM Gillard for his own political advancement etc…as if he had dreamed up the pokies reforms to use as a bargaining chip. Alternatively, PM Gillard has been accused of ‘buying Wilkie’s favor’ to get power unfairly….to win at any price. She has been portrayed as a ‘glutton who pulled a political swiftie’…without a mandate to govern.

    At all times the idea that the ALP did NOT support pokies reforms ‘really’, has been promoted especially by Clubs.

    Well now there will be no reason to accuse either PM Gillard OR Mr Wilkie of any underhand dealings. So let’see who still supports the reforms when no guns are held at any heads?

    My guess is they ALL will in the end…as the Woolie’s debacle if nothing else has clearly shown that it would be very wise right now…to listen to the Australian people.

    Now all we need is a pokies reforms plebiscite to reinforce the fact that the national government is serious. Carbon tax is getting one and pokies are more impacting….so why not push to get the hard evidence that the public is crying out to give us?

  4. scott eagar says:

    The reforms are dead. Unless xenephon and wilkie can find two more indipendant or liberal votes in the house, then labour is going to poo poo or water down any reforms on pokies put to them Jenny maklin is already saying she will look at pre commitment cards only, and even then its only for above 1 dollar machines which is pointless.
    This horse has bolted ladies and gentlemen, Xenephone and wilkie are negotiating with a party that ” DOES NOT WANT ANY REFORM ” what ever they get now is all window dressing.

    Im still going to appear at the committee in feb apparently, but the horse has bolted now.

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