A (Portentous?) Statement From Andrew Wilkie

Andrew Wilkie, the independent member for Denison, has issued the following statement about his negotiations with the government over its National Gambling Reform Bill.

Wilkie’s reference to “the uncertainty and changing circumstances in the Parliament” is intriguing.

A Statement on Poker Machine Reform

Andrew WilkieI wish to correct a media report today that I’ve extended my deadline for the Federal Government to address my concerns with the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012.

I gave the Families Minister, Jenny Macklin, a deadline of Friday April 20 to respond to my concern the Bill did not deliver on the Prime Minister’s promise that ‘we are ready to flick the switch to a best-practice mandatory pre-commitment system’ on Australia’s poker machines. I received a letter from Minister Macklin late Friday April 20 so that deadline was met.

I am now considering Minister Macklin’s response and taking advice in light of the uncertainty and changing circumstances in the Parliament. In Canberra today I’ve met with representatives from both the Government and the Opposition.

Today’s statement should be read in conjunction with Wilkie’s earlier statement on March 22:

DISCUSSIONS CONTINUE ON GOVERNMENT POKIES REFORM

The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, continues to work with the Federal Government to try and ensure the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 is a stepping-stone to meaningful poker machine reform.

Mr Wilkie has had numerous meetings this week with Minister Jenny Macklin in an attempt to resolve two key issues.

“Progress has been made on ensuring that the proposed ACT trial of mandatory pre-commitment is credible, and that the trial conditions will be enshrined in the legislation,” Mr Wilkie said.

“But so far we’ve been unable to resolve that the Government’s Bill explicitly state that all poker machines must eventually be capable of mandatory pre-commitment.

“This is all about giving a future government the option of turning on mandatory pre-commitment with minimal effort and at minimum cost.

“It wouldn’t be enough for a future government to legislate that all players be registered to play a poker machine. Also required would be that no machine could operate without the player being registered. And that functionality needs to be built into the machines or network system as they’re replaced or upgraded.”

On Saturday, 21 January, the Prime Minister walked away from her written commitment to Mr Wilkie to introduce mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines by 2014 and instead announced a watered-down package.

This included a trial of mandatory pre-commitment and expanding voluntary pre-commitment technology to every poker machine across the country that could then be used for mandatory pre-commitment if it is supported by a trial.

In the Prime Minister’s words, “rolling the technology out to every machine now ensures that we will be ready to flick the switch to a best-practice mandatory pre-commitment system if the trial results support it”.

Mr Wilkie said he was working to ensure the legislation unambiguously reflected the Prime Minister’s “flick the switch” commitment.

“It’s important not to rush this and make sure the legislation does what was promised and provides a stepping stone to meaningful reform,” he said.

“I have always favoured the introduction of $1 maximum bets on poker machines. But the Government refuses to implement such a limit so I remain ready to support the Government’s watered down reforms if the sticking point can be resolved.

“Some critics say the Government’s Bill is worse than nothing. I feel that the amendments I’m insisting on will improve the Bill significantly and make the reforms worth supporting.

“I’ll continue discussions with Minister Macklin who I do believe is genuinely committed to achieving poker machine reform.

“And I and many others can be counted on to continue campaigning even if the Bill is successful because the Government’s watered down package would be just the start of meaningful pokies reform.

“Poker machines ruin lives and we owe it to problem gamblers and their families to get this reform right and make sure it’s a stepping stone to meaningful change.”

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