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Jan 18, 2012

Welching on Wilkie: Labor plays percentages on pokies

Labor has judged the benefits of welching on its deal with Andrew Wilkie outweight the costs. Will it be proved right?

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From the agreement between the Prime Minister and Andrew Wilkie, September 2, 1010:

The government … further commits to the following additional measures:

a) Implementing a best practice full pre-commitment scheme — that is uniform across all States and Territories and machines — consistent with recommendations and findings of the Productivity Commission. Implementation of pre-commitment arrangements will commence in 2012, with the full pre-commitment scheme commencing in 2014, with States and Territories to achieve this outcome …

If required, the government will support Commonwealth legislation through the Parliament by budget 2012.

Well, that’s not going to happen, despite the government’s “commitment” to Andrew Wilkie. At best it seems he’ll get a trial, in Canberra and Queanbeyan, assuming the ACT’s problem gamblers don’t drive over to Yass or up to Goulburn to throw their money away. Tony Abbott might have a problem with anything not written down, but the government, apparently, can’t even stick to what it has written down.

In policy terms, abandoning a rush into mandatory pre-commitment in favour of a serious trial is actually a good outcome: pre-commitment is an intrusive, unjustified interference with individuals’ rights, so the very least a government can do is test whether it will work before imposing it. And it enables Labor to end the frequently hysterical campaign being run against it by the hospitality industry that would have made the next election even more difficult than it already will be.

It also takes pressure off Wilkie, who no longer has the dilemma of determining whether, as he insisted he would, bring down the government in the event it tried, and failed, to get mandatory pre-commitment through the Parliament and tapped the mat on the issue. Instead, he’s tapped the mat, recognising that Peter Slipper has significantly reduced his bargaining power.

Still, I wouldn’t like to be Labor in the event Craig Thomson, or another MP in a marginal seat, falls under a bus and hands the Coalition an extra number, putting Wilkie’s support back in play. Having welched on its previous deal with him, Labor might find him reluctant to be made a fool of twice. It has now left Wilkie in the difficult position of explaining his own shift. He won’t forget in a hurry, if ever.

And then there’s Julia Gillard’s reputational problem — the perception that promises and commitments don’t matter to her if they get in the way of her political interests. It was a killer in relation to the carbon pricing package and abandoning her deal with Wilkie simply reinforces voters’ perceptions about her lack of trustworthiness — bearing in mind, of course, that at last count two-thirds of voters supported mandatory pre-commitment.

You could call it political ruthlessness, which it is. But it also looks a bit like yet another half-smart political play that this government excels at — moves that at first blush look clever politics, but eventually yield a host of problems. It might be the right political move in the short-term, but there are some serious longer-term risks.

The Gillard government may be lucky if this doesn’t come back and bite it.

Bernard Keane — Politics Editor

Bernard Keane

Politics Editor

Bernard Keane is Crikey’s political editor. Before that he was Crikey’s Canberra press gallery correspondent, covering politics, national security and economics.

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150 thoughts on “Welching on Wilkie: Labor plays percentages on pokies

  1. Liz45

    @HUGH – You conveniently omit to take note of the reality, that as I stated, many wealthy individuals either pay no tax or don’t pay all that they should. Too many others also pay accountants (clever?ones) to ‘help’ them ignore their obligations to the country and their compatriots.

    It’s also a fact, that millionaires receive some family allowance payments; there are wealthy retirees who also receive a proportion of the pension. If these people didn’t receive public monies, those who rely on pensions and/or benefits would be able to receive more, and bring their standard of living up a little – not so they’ll be rich, just so they can survive and provide themselves with the necessities of life without all the angst. I find it incredible that anyone who’d probably think they believe in justice, equality or just common fairness disagree.

    Our taxes pay out billions in subsidies etc to the fossil fuel industry. Big companies receive all sorts of lerks and perks when they rake in huge sums in profits.
    We have a Federal Govt who’s extended the defence budget/security etc to record highs. $85 million dollars per day on defence, while people caring for loved ones with disabilities have to beg and plead. Schools have raffles for library books etc? Even the education system is not focused on the betterment of the human person, it’s all geared for providing ‘bums on seats’ or on the assembly line in order to make more money for the rich. I find this repugnant! All citizens should be encouraged to seek learning for its own sake, and it should be paid for by all the community! Gough Whitlam had the right idea! It’s shameful that it was a Labor Govt who introduced HECS! Another example of placing finances etc above all else!

    Our priorities are out of whack! The West priorities are to do with money and those who have it, not with those who make it or who aren’t part of the very small minority who have wealth and power. The people who are left most vulnerable and who suffer most from this attitude are women and their kids. They have about a very small amount of the worlds wealth! That is a fact! I think it unfair and unjust!

    The payment of the GST for all citizens is only fair and just if we all have the same or similar amount of money to spend. If one group has heaps less, it stands to reason that they are always going to struggle, go without, while the rich can buy all they wish – particularly essentials of life – shelter, food and warmth etc. I’m not talking about expensive salmon or caviar, or having rows of expensive alcohol on the shelves of the bar, which is situated in the ‘mcmansion’!

    I’ve already stated that I consider myself more fortunate than many others – but I’d like not to have to experience angst every time I make a choice to buy things or seek comfort(heating/cooling) that others take for granted!

  2. Edward James

    @ CML Posted Thursday, 19 January 2012 at 3:30 P M.
    I missed this earlier comment from you. No I don’t think its OK, that any MP once elected on a know Party platform, should go off on a frolic of their own! as you put it. Why would you think I do? What I know from my own experience, and you CML appear to agree with is, Party politicians are blocked from representing their constituents, unless what those constituents bring to the elected their representative is an issue which asks the MP or councilor for that matter, to exercise their influence in a direction he or she as a party member is already pre determined to go! You wrote. All of them answer to powerful business, financial and/or religious masters FIRST. I believe far too many constituents make up their minds about who to vote for while standing in the line outside the polling booths on polling day. Then cast their vote and forget all about their political entitlements and civic responsibility for another three or four years. We are accommodating a political environment which is dysfunctional. Party politics being offered to us by the two parties not much preferred is perceived by many to be damaged, certainly it is not what it once was. The Parties are not doing anything overt to correct that perception. So the job falls to individual thinking voters. The more we make the effort to exercise our own votes by numbering boxes below the line, directing own own preferences and numbering lazy dead wood politicians last. So they finish out in the street with the unemployed. The sooner we may return to honest open representative government. I am not saying this will happen after one election. In NSW the job is only half done, but we must resolve to vote for change and change again to arrive at what we want. Keep in mind all of our politicians collected together are no more than just another noisy minority, until we give them our votes in trust that they will exercise their interest in our best interest. We can see as you point out they are more interested in doing the bidding of powerful cashed up interest above the proletariat. Edward James

  3. Edward James

    @ CML a very biased idealist. Well thanks but you would be wrong! I see the Liberal National Coalition as simply the best tool for the job. People who want change need to get rid of as many Labor Party Politicians as possible. Not just out of government power. They must be throw right out of our Parliaments and into the streets without any more easy income. Make room for new independent people who have not had their backbones removed as part of a party process. We the people have always held the power to shake the base of politics. By simply exercising our votes and numbering all the boxes below the line making sure to put Labor last. We can begin to break up the Labor Party Nationally. reducing their voter support will take away a lot of their public funding, removing the money they get for every vote they attract. The Labor Party has proven it is simply incapable of cleaning out the members who are bringing their Party and our Parliamentary process into disrepute. Craig Thomson is the last in a long line with Labor as a Party. It is time for constituents nationally to rise up and reject everything to do with Labor in their States and territories and at the local level of government. Everyone who has been disrespected and lied to for decades. Take matters into your own hands and begin the change you want! When sock puppets tell readers the LNP are just as bad all the other politicians. They are saying don’t please do not act to destroy Labor! Do nothing things will change just wait till after the next election. Well yes they will change if people exercise their votes and break the Labor party apart. Why settle for big swing against Labor which sends a message? When voters may if they choose send a bigger message to political allsorts everywhere serve us honestly openly and effectively or you wont last past one term, no indexed pension for life. It is time to act, to dismantle Labor. Exercise your vote, bring about real change, as the first step in returning to honest open government. We won’t get change without doing something with our votes to bring it about. Right now Labor politicians are blocking change. Edward James

  4. CML

    @ EJ – So you think it is okay if MP’s, once elected on a Labor platform, just go off on a frolic of their own and vote according to their particular bent on any legislation that comes before parliament? And don’t try to tell me that any of them represent their constituants – if that was the case, euthanasia (for example) would have become legal eons ago. All of them answer to powerful business, financial and/or religious masters FIRST, particularly on the conservative side of politics, but increasingly on the so-called left as well. Frustrating, isn’t it?
    Incidentally, expulsion from the Labor party for voting against the platform is nothing new – it has been going on for over 100 years. If you think the tories are any different, then you are living in cloud cuckoo land. They just get rid of any members who do the same thing, just in a different way, usually by not re-endorsing the said member in their seat for the next election, or disendorsing him/her at the time, or forcing them to resign from the Liberal/National party (if the “crime” threatens the government). It is still all about numbers.
    Contrary to popular opinion, the current independent members of parliament are probably the most principled in this regard. They don’t owe allegiance to any party, so vote according to what they see as giving the most benefit to their individual electorates. I would venture to say that most of the opprobrium heaped on these guys is coming from outside their electorates – hence the great need to get rid of them, particularly on the part of the conservatives. They (the Indies) are challenging the “top order” – can’t have that, can we?
    For the record – I do not live in an electorate represented by an Independent member.

  5. Edward James

    People pay the same GST on their purchases. 10% someone wrote. The rate of GST is the same for everyone because it is tied to the amount you spend. There is no way someone spending twenty thousand will ever pay the same amount of GST in dollar terms as someone spending three hundred thousand!
    @ Gavin Moodie Some people, too many to support! Are comfortable existing on the dole in housing commission houses. Some people simply work to survive and enjoy self respect. Others work to improve their lifestyle, get a house attract a wife and build a family together. Some of those people who work to improve, may be happy and comfortable locked into a hand to mouth existence like PAYG taxpayers. Not that bad while they were able to plan ahead based on the spending power of their wages, and stable interest rates and life time employment. Others may aspire to something more than that. Get a Trade qualification with their families help, start a business employ people grow and grow some more employ more people. Nothing wrong with that. And they will strive to get what they want in as many different ways as there are people wanting to get on. Trying to argue for people to pay a flat rate of tax on a flat rate of pay was laughed at. I could understand that penalty rates and overtime were just great when workers were lining up for day labor, job and finish. Now we are reading about restaurants who want to ditch penalty rates, we are aware casual hire is the go now. No penalty or holiday loading. It is a mess I do not care to understand it. I will be dead before I need to work again! But consider this a flat rate of pay and tax could be great equalizer for the PAYG taxpayer. Get rid of penalty rates across the board. Right now we have two peak hours when traffic clogs our transport system. This happens because daylight and penalty rates tell employers when they get the most value from their investments in factories. I think it is interesting that so many factories only work one perhaps two shifts. A flat rate of pay would change that. If I owned a factory again I would only be too happy to have it working around the clock employing more people. My and our governments investment in infrastructure would be money well spent. Right now taxpayers have billions of their hard earned money invested in roads, tunnels, trains, ferries and busses which are put to bed around eleven P M so they are not running twenty four seven, they are being wasted for one third of the time. It would go some way to removing the 2 peak hour congestions which cost Australia money. Don’t kid yourself that the clogged roads will get larger and better! There is just not the space time and money to do! What a flat rate of pay and taxes could do for Australia. More importantly young people with energy to spare could work eighty hours instead of forty, earn double the wages and only pay double the tax. While young and fit they could work toward building a happy future perhaps secure in the knowledge. Tax and wages would stabilize and balance out. As I understand it now, if you work double the hours you will pay perhaps three times the tax, removing the incentive to work longer. The so called shortage of jobs would be addressed. Even the amount of paper used to publish the tax act would be reduced. Edward James

  6. CML

    @ BB – I see you don’t understand logic either. (See my post @ 4.05am). If one government member disappeared, for whatever reason, you would still have the same scenario because of the “defection” of Peter Slipper. However, if two ALP members were to go, then unless the Indies continued to support Gillard, there would be a change of government. So, that puts Abbott in power with less than the required 76 votes to have ANY legislation passed. He would be in exactly the same position as Gillard is now – having to negotiate with the non-major party MPs in the lower house. And that is before we get to the Senate, where it is most unlikely the Greens would support the vast majority of Coalition policy. So what would be so great about the Coalition gaining power in the present parliament? Of course, Abbott could always attempt to call an election, but he has to have a half-decent reason to do that, and the Governor General has to aquiese.
    As I attempted to point out before, the business of parliament is ALL ABOUT NUMBERS – if any side doesn’t have them, then it is usual that most legislation is subject to amendment, to accommodate the wishes of various members whose votes are required. That is how democracy works – whether you like it or not!
    At the risk of repeating myself, Abbott like Gillard has ONE vote, and unless he is going to become a dictator (wouldn’t put it past him), has no power to compel any other member in the House to vote as he (Abbott) wants them to. In fact, the Labor party has more control over their members than the Coalition, simply because the former demand majority rule in their caucas. In other words, once the party decides (democratically) on a particular course of action, then all members must follow that decision or risk expulsion from the party. While this practice is often criticised, it does, in fact, protect the voting public to some degree. What you see is what you get. That doesn’t mean it is set in concrete because sometimes things must be altered to deal with changing circumstances, both nationally and internationally, during the three years or so a government is in power. To do otherwise would be a dereliction of duty on the part of the government.
    I do wish people would engage the brain before opening the mouth or utilising the digits. And could everyone stop commenting on the inane nonsense from SB and the other trolls, please?

  7. Edward James

    @ SUZANNE BLAKE I was naive when I first tried to defend my father over ten years ago from what may be identified as the abuse of power and predatory actions of our local council. Somehow I believed if I stood up and exposed the councils actions, in accepting a development application which was misleading in no small way, in both the plan over view and accompanying statement of environmental effect. Published for the consideration of the ratepayers. Because it completely denied the existence of my fathers residential house to any person reading the development application. The house is because of its existing use rights a barrier to the aspirational development proposed on the neighboring property. Those responsible would be pulled into line by the council hierarchy! When that did not work, I went to the State Minister for Local Government Harry Woods who referred it back to my State MP. When that did not work I went to the opposition. And so on up the ladder of complaint, in the process I began reading the Environmental Planning and Assessment Act and its regulation. Then the Local Government Act and the Gosford Planning Scheme Ordnance. I am much older and wiser now. There is no statute of limitations on the complained of corrupt conduct. With several political scalps on my belt. Only two councilors remain from the ten who insisted on accommodating the misgovernance of the local council. While they are politicians answerable to a different standard of conduct, they still have always had a civic responsibility pursuant to Section 232 of the Local Government Act to conduct the business of the peoples within the law. I tell you Police and Ministers of the Crown are not as diligent as we would expect them to be. When you take the trouble to read some law books right up front you may be reminded of a loop hole, the Ministerial prerogative which means the Minister may choose not to act on the legislation as he or she sees fit. Edward James http://bit.ly/EJ_PNewsAds

  8. CML

    Last time I looked, this country was supposed to be a democracy with an elected government who appoints the PM. Australia is NOT a dictatorship – what do you all want the PM to do? Torture the Independent members of parliament until they vote “the correct way” on the anti pokies legislation? Surely in a democracy, each member of parliament has a free vote. If you don’t like the way your particular representative votes on any issue, then don’t elect them next time. In the current hung parliament, it is not only the government and PM who are responsible for passing or rejecting bills introduced into either house of parliament.
    As I recall, after the last election, PM Gillard agreed to support Wilkie’s move to do something about the terrible problem of gambling addiction. Well she and her party can give him all the support they have – it still isn’t enough to get the legislation passed, so why is it Gillard’s fault? The “numbers” would suggest that putting this interpretation on the current question isn’t even logical. To extend that logic a little further – it wouldn’t matter how many millions Club Australia spends on some crappy advertising campaign, this legislation will not get up in it’s entirety because not enough MHR’s (other than Labor) will vote for it. That is a fact!! So again I ask – how is that the fault of a PM who leads a democratic country? If those of you (including Bernard) want someone to blame, look at the voters who elected the current parliament. Maybe they are not always “right”?
    And it would be really good if a few people remembered that “politics is the art of the possible”. But then again, maybe that is asking too much of some!!

  9. Edward James

    @ SUZANNE BLAKE. I like to call them the two parties not much preferred. This noisy minority scattered throughout the Australian population even fewer making up a collective of representative politicians at Federal, State and Local government have lost track of what it is they are supposed to be doing for their constituents, those people who right or wrong always pay! Unless a constituent brings a problem to their elected rep, which that rep is already predisposed to do something about. The constituent will find them selves being dealt with by staffers and often be given email contacts for staff not the MP. Most constituents complaining about systemic corruption not being addressed by their councilors at local government levels will get nowhere. Because the Premier or Local Government Minister they go to as part of the political, not legal process. For example Labor Barbara Perry before the State election, now Liberal Don Page will be a member of a party which has party members on the dodgy council. A change of government in NSW has not altered one bit the clear conflict of interest between a Local Government Minister and that politicians fellow party members on problem local councils. Last NSW State election Labor deservedly came close to being broken apart and destroyed as a party in NSW, that job is still to be finished! There are still Labor Party Members doing their Labor Party thing while taking RnR at our expense. Consider MP Robert Furolo till recently he was also the Mayor of Canterbury Council which came to the attention of the NSW State Ombudsman in the matter of Malone v Canterbury City Council. Reported in the Ombudsman’s report 2009 2010. While the council was exposed as the reason a legal fight cost two property owners hundreds of thousands of dollars. The best the council could come up with after having their arse kicked for years of malfeasance was a piss weak “sorry”. There is no doubt Labor Party members like the Minister for Local Government Barbara Perry was ever going to name the member for Lakemba, Robert Furolo on the floor of State Parliament as a political sinner. Politicians are first and foremost team players. They have a history of uniting across party boundaries to combat anyone who threatens their position on the taxpayer funded gravy train. Have a look at the matter of Milton the horrible Orkopolous the failed member for Swansea. Wonder at the fact that people, some of them family members of Orkopolous victims were complaining for years about his later proved to be criminal activities, to Police at Charlstown and anyone else who would listen. Some of you will recall Nathan (scurried like a rat) Rees, now enjoying RnR, was the Chief of Staff in that Swansea Office! Edward James

  10. Scott Grant

    There may not have been an official announcement yet, but it sounds pretty clear that there has been a back down within Labor. To quote the Sydney Morning Herald: “Sources close to Mr Wilkie told the Herald Ms Gillard revealed the backdown in a meeting on Sunday.”.

    Oh well. The only politician I can think of that I have never heard lying is Malcolm Turnbull. Pity about the company he keeps.

    I find it sad that the supposed lie that Julia Gillard is pilloried for by the flat-earth brigade was not, in my opinion, a lie. Silly, yes. Stupid, yes. But not a lie. She did not want and has not implemented a tax on carbon dioxide production. More’s the pity. I think a simple tax would probably have been more effective, and less easy to rort, than a trading scheme.

    But this. This IS a broken promise. Oh well. A lying politician is a tautology.

    I thought she was a hopeless minister for education, and her spineless back down to the mining lobby was unforgivable. But I had hopes that, with the discipline of minority government, she might yet rise to become a good prime minister. The government achieved a lot in 2011, including putting a price on carbon dioxide pollution – a small attempt at making the polluter pay for the cost of the pollution.

    But she is, in the end, a creature of the Labor party, whose relevance must now be coming to an end. Its attempts at internal reform have come to nothing and so, more and more, they represent nobody. The best they can manage is that they may not be quite as bad as the other lot. Yet this week’s events leave even that proposition as doubtful.

  11. Steve777

    Money wins again. If wealthy and powerful interests don’t like a policy, it has been demonstrated again that they can get rid of it. All they have to do is fund a shrill disinformation / scare campaing, they’ll have the Murdoch media and shock jocks on their side providing lots of free support and the Government eventually caves.

    The Gillard government is heading for a very bad fall. This is partly due to its incompetence in matters of implementation and in getting its message across, but also largely because of the very powerful interests that it is running up against – to name just a few the mining industry, the clubs, News Limited and the fossil fuel industry.

    From next year or earlier we will enter a decade or more of rule by the conservative parties. Fair enough if that’s how people vote. But the lesson that many will take from the Rudd/Gillard years will be that no one in Australia can take on any moneyed interest (i.e. one that can mobilise tens of millions of dollars to its support) and hope to prevail. This won’t be a big problem for the conservatives who will be mostly onside. And those battlers now wailing about the carbon tax or a licence to punt had better hope their interests do in fact coincide with ‘big money’ – business leaders calling for ‘reform’ (read lower wages & conditions, less job security) for example; a windback of things big money doesn’t want want to pay for (Medicare and public education, for example).

  12. Liz45

    @OSCAR JONES – Thank you. Perhaps you could put in a good word for me. A wage would be great – better than the pension, although I’m grateful for the increases, Kevin and Julia!

    @SB – What happened to the adult concept of communicating, listening to the other person, accepting what’s possible and what’s impossible, and then reaching an ADULT compromise that will obtain POSITIVE outcomes? As opposed to denying reality; absorbing community responses(even those lies told by vested interests)hurling insulting comments at those who oppose you, and engaging in brattish behaviour in the media? I have an aversion to Abbott’s foot stamping behaviour when he doesn’t get his own way. When he puts on his sulky face it reminds me of my kids when they were under school age? Their was an excuse for them – but, he’s supposed to be a grown up!

    The present make up of the Parliament is a reality because 13+ million of us voted for it. It’s childish and churlish to carry on now. You are as much responsible for it as I am. Grow up and live with the reality. In fact, if our system of voting in the House of Reps was just and fair, there’d be more Greens people in Parliament – not just one! One in 6 people voted for the Greens, and yet they only got one Seat? Perhaps that could be your next challenge – fairness in the democratic system of elections!

    Abbott promised Wilke over ONE BILLION dollars to set him up in The Lodge? Have you, along with many others forgotten that little bit of reality. Would he have lived up to that promise? Probably not! He’d plead that he didn’t know the state of the funds blah blah! Like he did over that broken promise re Health Insurance rebate of 2004?

    From what I’ve read and listened to, the $1 poker machines sounds like a good approach, and it would appear the cheapest in the long run. I understand that this was the FIRST proposal put forward by Andrew Wilke – Julia Gillard and her colleagues should’ve done some homework on this proposal before this!

    The Clubs? They don’t want any change. They’re as hooked on the monies as the State Govts are. They need assistance too, via a good ‘psychiatrist’ so to speak! A sense of decency would be good in the interim. They can’t have it both ways. They deny the reality of how they get their profits(40% by problem gamblers) and yet complain that they’ll be ‘rooned’ if these people cease their destructive habit? It doesn’t make sense – it’s illogical and stupid, and too many of their ‘followers’ believe this nonsense – and too many in msm drum up more lies to support them. How can people be so stupid as to believe them?

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