Some of you may think that my recent silence here is because I have nothing to say. Others, that is those who actually KNOW me, will know that’s unthinkable!
Frankly there is so much happening in Australian politics at the moment that enrages me, I’m never really sure where to start. I want to write a thesis on the carbon tax, the mining tax, the National Broadband Network and the poker machine reforms. The Government is trying to deal with big issues, and trying to tackle social problems, but everywhere they turn they’re faced with the usual half-baked propaganda and the usual cries of “businesses will close and people will be put out of work”. The Opposition as usual says they will overturn everything when they next get in power.
The latest and loudest cries at the moment are coming from the clubs in Australia. These are difficult to describe to a non-Australian but the nearest I know to them anywhere is probably the working men’s clubs in the North of England. They’re huge places with bars, restaurants and gaming rooms, with sometimes hundreds of poker machines.
Gambling is a major issue in Australia and at long last the Government is trying to tackle the problem. They’re trying to introduce a pre-commitment system on the larger machines (ie those where the bet is high and the winnings can be very hgh). The clubs (and the Opposition) are up in arms.
The clubs claims that:
1. Income on these machines will be reduced by 40%.
2. They currently give a percentage of their profits to sporting and community groups, particularly those for young people. That would have to be cut drastically and some of these groups would close.
3. It won’t work. They’ve even launched a campaign and a website called “Won’t Work – Will Hurt” and are spending $40 million on it.
This has of course raised many thoughts in my head, such as:
1. If gambling in poker machines is reduced by 40% that sounds great to me (and will show that the initiative is working).
2. One club in Sydney has a $69.4 million a year revenue from poker machines. They gave away $1.2 million. About 1.72%. Stop pretending you’re great philanthropists.
3. Won’t Work, Will Hurt?? If it doesn’t work, their income WON’T be reduced. If their income isn’t reduced, who will it hurt (except for the addicted gamblers)?
The donations and sponsorship argument is the one that I find the most offensive. Does this mean that if I’m found peddling heroin at the school gates, I would be able to argue that 1.72% of my profits are going to help the underprivileged? How about 100% of my profits? The Mafia always looked after the widows and orphans – that didn’t legitimise their activities one iota.
One journalist recently put it rather well in a Sydney paper “They are arguing that the continued enslavement of poker machine addicts is central to their business model”.