Andrew Wilkie has withdrawn his support for the Gillard minority government.
The independent member for Denison says the problem gambling proposals announced today by Julia Gillard are in breach of the agreement he signed with her after the 2010 election.
However, Wilkie said he will support the government’s problem gambling legislation in the House.
Wilkie said Gillard put the proposals to him last Sunday. He said he wanted to be “a man of my word” but that he didn’t want poker machine reform to “slip through our fingers”.
On the question of Supply, Wilkie said there were measures he didn’t support last year but he was bound to support the Budget bills in Parliament. “I can now provide no certainty when it comes to budgetary measures. Previously, the government could rely on me in matters of confidence, now it can’t.”
Wilkie said he still believes the numbers were there in the House to pass mandatory pre-commitment. He said it wasn’t a threat to the government but his relationship with the opposition might now be “warmer”. He said: “I can now be more independent than ever.”
Wilkie said he felt very let down, “very disappointed”, with the Gillard government, as did many Australians.
- Listen to Andrew Wilkie’s press conference in Hobart (16m)
- Download a copy of Wilkie’s 2010 agreement with Gillard (PDF)
This is the text of a statement released by Andrew Wilkie:
ANDREW WILKIE WITHDRAWS SUPPORT FOR GOVERNMENT
The Independent Member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, has withdrawn his support for the Federal Government due to the Prime Minister’s failure to honour her agreement on poker machine reform.
“I can no longer guarantee supply and confidence for the Government because the Prime Minister has told me she can’t honour the promise to introduce mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines by the end of 2014,” Mr Wilkie said.
“Consequently I regard the Prime Minister to be in breach of the written agreement she signed, leaving me no option but to honour my word and end my current relationship with her Government.
“Frankly, a deal’s a deal and it must be honoured. Our democracy is simply too precious to trash with broken promises and backroom compromises. So I will walk, take my chances and so be it.
“As someone said to me this week, millions of people are concerned about poker machines, but everyone should care about politicians being true to their word.
“Moreover the Government has failed to seize the opportunity to enact genuinely meaningful poker machine reform. This Parliament presents a remarkable opportunity to finally do something about poker machine problem gambling and its devastating social and financial damage cost. But instead the Government took the easy way out.
“The Government’s explanation that it doesn’t have the numbers is simply wrong. The legislation should be debated in the Parliament and tested on the floor of the House. After all, that’s what democracy is supposed to be about.”
Mr Wilkie acknowledged that the Government is pursuing limited reform and expressed the hope that this first step would lead to meaningful reform.
“I will not stand in the Government’s way because I do feel that in the circumstances it would be better to achieve at least some reform.
“The push for pokies reform has not failed,’’ he said. “Poker machine problem gambling is now a hot topic, polling shows a strong groundswell for reform and the Commonwealth is set to intervene in gambling regulation for the first time in our history.
“But our foothold is small, so it’s more important than ever that pressure is kept on the Government to deliver the reform package announced today and eventually much more.
“Some people will ask why I would still withdraw my support for the Government when it’s progressing reform.
“But the issue is not that the Government is not progressing poker machine reform. Rather the issue is that the Government has decided it can’t deliver on the reforms it agreed to, which I’ve insisted repeatedly were the basis for my ongoing support and which I’ve honoured since the agreement was made some 16 months ago.”
Mr Wilkie added that in relation to matters of confidence, it’s in the public interest for parliaments to be stable and go full term.
“I will only support motions of no confidence in the event of serious misconduct and not support politically opportunistic motions. I will consider budget measures on their merits.
“As far as I’m concerned it’s still early days in the campaign for reform because too many people are being hurt by the pokies and the vast majority of people are looking to their elected representatives to do something about the problem.
“This and future governments must be forced to understand that this is just the start. The millions of people affected adversely by poker machines now and in the future deserve nothing less than our full support to minimise the damage.
“I will continue to push for mandatory pre-commitment and $1 maximum bets.”
The Gillard government has announced a year-long “large scale trial” of mandatory pre-commitment technology for poker machines in the ACT from February next year. The trial will last beyond the next election.
The government says it will “expand 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”.
The Cabinet decision, announced in Melbourne today, represents a cave-in by the government and a victory for the clubs industry and nervous Labor backbenchers.
The decision breaks a deal with Andrew Wilkie and could result in the independent member for Denison withdrawing his support for the government. The post-election agreement Wilkie made with Julia Gillard stipulated legislation of mandatory pre-commitment before this year’s May Budget.
- Listen to Julia Gillard and Jenny Macklin at their press conference (26m):
- Download PDF government statements on problem gambling:
This is the text of a government statement:
Tackling Problem Gambling in Australia
The Gillard Government today announced its plan to tackle problem gambling, helping the five million Australians affected by problem gambling in this country.
This plan means the Gillard Government will do more to tackle problem gambling than any Commonwealth Government in Australia’s history.
The Government will act to:
- Undertake a large scale trial of mandatory pre-commitment;
- Expand 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.
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.
We believe this evidence-based pathway to help problem gamblers and their families will gain the necessary support to pass the current Parliament.
It is our intention to introduce legislation in the first Parliamentary session of this year which will require that:
- All new poker machines manufactured from 2013 must be capable of supporting pre-commitment; and
- By 31 December 2016 all poker machines must be part of a state linked pre-commitment system, except eligible small venues which will have longer.
We will also continue to work on pre-commitment technology through the COAG Select Council on Gaming Reform. At this forum in May last year, state and territory gaming ministers agreed to support the required infrastructure for pre-commitment technology in all jurisdictions.
The Gillard Government understands that many Australians enjoy gambling responsibly. But for others it can have devastating consequences.
Problem gambling ruins lives.
That’s why in November 2008 we asked the Productivity Commission to inquire into problem gambling in Australia.
The Productivity Commission found that problem gambling affects up to five million Australians, including friends, family and employers of people with a gambling problem.
These far reaching impacts are why the Australian Government is delivering genuine, long-lasting reforms to help problem gamblers and their families.
The Government is also taking a range of other actions to support problem gamblers and their families including:
- Introducing a $250 daily withdrawal limit from ATMs in gaming venues (excluding casinos) by 1 February 2013;
- Electronic warnings and cost of play displays on poker machines by 2016;
- Additional counselling support with 50 new financial counsellors to work with problem gamblers, and expanding the reach of Gambling Help Online;
- Strengthening self-exclusion arrangements; and
- Improving training for staff in pokies venues.
Further, the Government recognises that gambling online and sports betting are a growing concern, and we will:
- Ban the promotion of live odds during sports coverage;
- Extend pre-commitment to online betting services;
- Crack down on online sports betting companies offering credit and introduce stricter limits on betting inducements; and
Increase the powers of the Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) to enforce these new rules.
The actions the Gillard Government is taking will be the most significant and far reaching national reforms to tackle problem gambling ever seen in this country.
- Queensland Premier Anna Bligh held a series of press conferences today to provide information about Cyclone Yasi. This one was at 2pm. (16m)
- Bligh held another press conference at 4.30pm with Commissioner Ian Stewart. (9m)
- Leader of the House Anthony Albanese brief the media on arrangements for next week’s return of Federal Parliament. (14m)
- In light of the government’s agreement with Andrew Wilkie, Families Minister Jenny Macklin released legal advice provided to the government on its powers to deal with problem gambling. (8m)
- Assistant Treasurer Bill Shorten spoke about flood insurance. (5m)
- Prime Minister Julia Gillard addressed CEDA on her vision for Australia. (25m) – Transcript of Gillard’s speech is here.
- Stephen Smith and Jason Clare made a series of announcements about Defence procurement. (36m) – Transcript of Smith and Clare is here.