personal responsibility (guest post)

Guest post time. Andrew Tiedt is a good friend of mine from the wide world of Twitter, where he is better known as @mrtiedt. He blogs about NSW politics at mrtiedt.blogspot.com, and he was kind enough to contribute the following for cyenne.com.

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Personal Responsibility. It’s a funny old concept.

House getting repossessed? Should have managed your finances better. Low on cash because of the cost of raising a child? Shouldn’t have procreated if you can’t afford it. Unemployed? Go out and get a job!

Losing all your money on the pokies? Don’t gamble! You can’t expect me to care about that, can you?

There is a broad and deep river of antipathy towards people with addictions in our community. Whether the addiction is alcohol, drugs or gambling, many people are not interested in the “sob-story” – they are able to walk out of a pub or club with money in their pocket, and the fact that you can’t means that you are simply weak-willed.

I’m not going to go into just how addiction works – if you’re a regular reader of this blog you’ll know all you need to know about how insidious and how utterly irresistible the compulsion to gamble is. What I do want to write about is the idea that if you gamble, it’s your problem and no concern of mine.

The fact is, gambling affects everyone in the community. Some people are directly affected – the gambler themselves, and their family rendered destitute.

Others are affected because the gamblers don’t spend their money elsewhere. No doubt there are countless businesses that would have a sudden upturn in sales if their potential customers stopped putting all their money into pokies.

But what I think people don’t realise is the number of people turning to crime to fund their gambling habit.

My day job is as a criminal defence lawyer. I have acted on sentence for a number of people who have committed frauds of a startling size for one reason – poker machines.

One client stole tens of thousands of dollars as she tried to pay bills and “win back” her losses after losing enormous sums of money down at her local club. She stole from her employer.

That business may never get that money back. Certainly she doesn’t have the funds lying around to repay them. That company is out tens of thousands of dollars. I don’t have access to their books, but for any small business that kind of loss must be devastating. If the business is owned by a single person or perhaps a family, then that money comes right out of their pockets.

Big companies are able to absorb these losses, but the cost is passed on through higher prices. Small companies often have to borrow money or are even sent under after large amounts are stolen

That client is in gaol now, at enormous expense to the state. When she gets out of gaol, she might find a job. She might also end up on the dole, because she has a criminal record for a dishonesty offence. Who would want to hire her?

I’m not saying that she shouldn’t be punished. She committed a crime, and she deserves the penalty she received. What I am saying is that if not for pokies, her employer would still have the money, she would still be a productive member of the community paying taxes, we wouldn’t be funding her incarceration, and we would be spared the cost of supporting her on release.

You may not know any problem gamblers. You may never have put a cent through the pokies in your life. But you’re still paying for them, one way or another.

Is that worth it?

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