I loathe poker machines and the clubs that install them. Evermore and more, eating the money of people who have bought the idea that gambling is “a bit of harmless fun” and then, of course these problem gamblers we hear about but don’t see that much on our streets. The ones we never see in those disgusting advertisements and other pronouncements made by the uncaring parasites of Clubs Australia, Clubs NSW, the RSL, the NRL, Channel 9, various AFL clubs. In addition, whenever I see a Catholic Club in NSW, I think of the Bible verse from the Gospel according to Matthew that they seem to have conveniently forgotten – the one that said “And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves”. They call themselves a “Catholic” club – but if Jesus came back, he would be as disgusted with them as he would have been back in the day.
This is a culture that was fed by the NSW Labor Government of the 90s and 00s. More and more poker machine licences and a government wanting more and more royalties from them. Clubs ripping money out of working class areas – predominantly Labor seats. The government didn’t display much social responsibility for their constituents. Instead, what we have seen in the degradation of so many lives in those electorates. Therefore, it really shouldn’t come as any surprise that the Labor Party in Canberra have acted to dodge and weave with the poker machine reforms suggested by the Greens, Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon.
We know that the original request from Wilkie was the Green policy of having a $1 limit on bets from the poker machines. What we also know was that it was Gillard’s side that suggested this convoluted, expensive pre-commitment dog’s breakfast that has been so easy to target. And, one that was doomed to fail. Now Rob Oakeshott is talking about the scheme requiring “seven different cards” across the states, showing just how convoluted the system is. The $1 limit would be a lot cheaper to implement and would damage club profits a lot more than this current dog of a policy.
The cynic in me – the one who has watched The Thick Of It and The Hollowmen suspects that this pre-commitment idea was designed for failure. A sop to an independent whose vote they needed. And now they don’t need that vote, it’s a scheme that will be allowed to unravel. We haven’t seen the Government really go hard on this reform – instead letting the line be “it’s Wilkie putting a gun to our head” out in the media. The number of times 2GB and their ilk talk about “this one man from Tasmania” is the ALP’s fault. They should be showing better moral leadership on this issue. They should be the ones to say “we think this is necessary – we aren’t doing this to satisfy Wilkie, we actually agree with it”. But they aren’t. That is because they like poker machine money going to NSW and Queensland’s coffers. They like it that clubs support sporting endeavours that, in reality, should be funded by governments. Clubs and their pokies are an integral part of the ALP’s financial past – being significant contributors to their cause.
But moral leadership is not part of this Labor Government. We see it with offshore processing. We see it with the Fair Work Act, which, for many industries, is WorkChoices Lite. We see it with equal marriage. And I think we will see it with this issue. This is a cynical government playing a game to stay in power, in order to hold off the Tory hoardes. The truth seems to be that they aren’t that much different. The main difference is that with the Tories (and, under Abbott, they really are Tories), at least they always say no, instead of saying yes and meaning no.
The ALP can talk about “moving forward” and “getting things done” and “passing all our pieces of legislation” – but what has it all actually meant for people. Not a lot. Policies like pokie reform will actually benefit a lot of people. But the ALP don’t seem to care about people all that much, just power for power’s sake. What aggrieves me the most is that this mendacious double dealing that seems to be playing out by the ALP machine is that it might render as pointless the hard work being put in by reformers – especially Tom Cummings, a champion bloke who has campaigned ceaselessly for reform to the subterranean pit that is the world of clubs and poker machines.
I hope I am wrong about this government. That we will see some form of poker machine reform put in place. However, I really don’t think we will. I think it, like much of this government’s actions, will fail due to a lack of care or interest for the people who need our society to improve.
I am intending to take an extended break from political blogging – the one I thought I was taking before heading to Melbourne and getting involved in a range of adventures. Now I am back in the home space, I am more and more detached from the toing and froing of the Twittersphere and Blogosphere. It depresses me that television and newspaper political coverage is thrown over to the same people as ever – wonks from the inner city who only drive out of their insular world city for a holiday, talking in earnest about “the people”, but really not displaying a great amount of knowledge of them. And I mean from both “sides”. These IPA people who are achieving some kind of brownie points for their backers for appearing on The Drum are no different from the leftist celebrities who scuttle off afterwards and listen to Wagner, the latest Hipster Band or drink with their fellow leftists at the latest faddish bar. Neither have much of a clue about worlds outside Northcote, Hawthorn, Glebe or Marrickville. It depresses me that the politics of the country is a repetitious Beckett or Pinter play. It depresses me that Canberra seems to be just a repeat of the film In The Loop, full of cynical baby boomers manipulating power as well as Generation Y political staffers and journalists just after their own second of glory. I know there are exceptions to this blanket statement. However, there are so many repeated examples that serve to fit this perception. Just read who is published in The Drum every week. Who appears on the television version of The Drum, News 24, Sky News, Q and A. Better that I cease trying to make any sense of it all and stop writing the blog about such things.