the coalition’s outsourced gambling policy debacle

A few weeks ago, when it was revealed that a tent company had paid for Coalition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison’s trip to Nauru, I joked that the Coalition would probably end up outsourcing their gambling policy to Clubs Australia. It was a throwaway line that got a few laughs.

I’m not laughing any longer… because that’s exactly what has happened.

Two weeks ago, the Coalition launched their gambling policy. This launch took the form of a joint video presentation by shadow gambling minister Kevin Andrews, and Clubs Australia CEO Anthony Ball. In his introduction and conclusion, Ball made it clear that he and his organisation were firmly behind the Coalition’s policy.

Of course they are. They wrote it.

The policy, also known as “The Coalition’s Policy To Help Problem Gamblers”, is a condensed version of Clubs Australia’s “Part Of The Solution” pseudo-policy which was launched in June 2012. There is practically nothing in the Coalition policy that hasn’t already been covered in the industry manifesto.

Coalition and Clubs Australia gambling policies

Voluntary pre-commitment for poker machines? Tick.

More counselling and research? Tick.

More and better self-exclusion? Tick.

Maintaining the ban on online gambling? Tick.

Banning credit betting? Tick.

Both the Coalition and Clubs Australia documents stress the need to tackle all forms of gambling, despite the fact that poker machines take more money out of the community than all other forms of gambling combined, and despite the fact that it’s poker machines that are propping up the clubs industry in this country. They both do everything they can to draw the reader’s attention away from poker machines.

In fact, there is just one part of the Coalition policy that hasn’t already been covered by Clubs Australia, probably because they thought it was too outlandish, even for them:

“The Coalition will establish an industry advisory council, comprised of representatives of clubs and gaming venues, that will meet quarterly with the responsible Minister. The industry advisory council’s priority will be to develop a detailed plan for the roll-out of adequate and appropriately targeted counselling and support services for problem gamblers at gaming venues”.

Yes, the Coalition plans to put the gambling industry in charge of looking after problem gamblers.

You can’t make this stuff up.

No wonder the Rev Tim Costello was quoted (in this Richard Willingham article from The Age today) as saying “This is Dracula in charge of the blood bank”. It’s like putting drug companies in charge of our hospitals… or giving the inmates the keys to the asylum.

It’s madness.

Of course, we should have seen it coming. Back in the heady, frantic days when poker machine reform was still a possibility and being “un-Australian” was still a thing, Tony Abbott got up on stage at a Clubs NSW pro-poker-machines rally (at Campbelltown RSL in October 2011) and said:

“We don’t help problem gamblers by seriously damaging important community institutions.”

“Some people put too much money in the pokies and yes those people ought to be helped but I tell you what, if that RSL wasn’t there, there would be no bushwalking club, there would be no fishing club, there would be no ballroom dancing society. The RSL sub-branch wouldn’t operate.”

“Let’s do more to help the problem gamblers of Australia, but let’s not do it in a way which risks renting the social fabric of this country.”

One thing is clear. Tony Abbott has been on the side of the clubs industry since day one. He’s seen what they can do to protect their profits, and he’s prepared to do anything to avoid that kind of backlash.

Don’t forget that as the peak industry body behind registered clubs in this country, Clubs Australia oversees over 115,000 poker machines. That’s almost 60% of all poker machines in Australia, and more than any other single organisation in the world.

And they’ll be in charge of looking after problem gamblers.

Labor may have made an absolute mess of their gambling reforms, but whatever deals they cut and promises they broke, at least they gave it a go. In the words of Greens senator Richard Di Natale, “At least they tried.”

The Coalition won’t even do that.


3 Responses

  1. jane says:

    Well, I’m absolutely astonished!!!!! Who would have thought that the Noalition would be so corrupt?

    After all, Liealot has assured us that his staff’s “blunder” over that silly rort won’t happen again. Next time they’ll cover their tracks more carefully.

    Although if voters are stupid enough, sorry err gullible, no wrong word. Oh bugger it! If his mob gets the nod, he won’t have to worry & will be able to rort the system to their hearts content, just like they did when Howard was PM.

  2. Tim Falkiner says:

    Interesting the announcement comes at the same time as a report on “Retailers hit by our thirst for overseas shopping trips “.

  3. Kate Sommerville says:

    I think it was not unexpected but I still feel very sad.

    Abbott is one for ‘small government’ and little regulation of the private sector. Pokie Clubs are the private sector just as much as the hotels.

    Abbott also has a limited understanding of the scope and nature of the pokie gambling problem in Australia.

    “Some people put too much money in the pokies and yes those people ought to be helped but I tell you what, if that RSL wasn’t there, there would be no bushwalking club, there would be no fishing club, there would be no ballroom dancing society. The RSL sub-branch wouldn’t operate.” – quoted from your above post.

    Does Abbott feel that problem gamblers should fund even some of the RSL’s ‘other community activities’?

    Does Abbott understand that pokie gambling is essentially another version of the ‘poor tax’ on people who often can least afford it?

    Would implementing compulsory pre commitment or maximum $1.00 bets and limited jackpots have such a deleterious effect on Club finances?

    Does Abbott even have the legal right to instruct the States that they stop funding Gamblers Help Services and give the funding to the Clubs to provide counselling services?

    How is it all going to work?

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