Andrew Bolt might be a corrosive influence on society but occasionally he produces an interesting polemic such as Wednesday’s effort claiming that Kevin Rudd is destroying the political careers of numerous ministers.

The ultimate test of this theory would be Labor cabinet ministers losing their seats in an Abbott victory at the coming election.

While ministers Wong, Conroy, Faulkner, Ludwig, Carr and Evans are safely ensconced in the Senate, here are the margins lower house cabinet members will be defending:

  • Martin Ferguson: holds Batman by 25.95%
  • Anthony Albanese: holds Grayndler by 24.93%.
  • Nicola Roxon: holds Gellibrand by 21.46%
  • Tanya Plibersek: holds Sydney by 20.50%
  • Tony Burke: holds Watson by 20.33%
  • Julia Gillard: holds Lalor by 15.53%
  • Peter Garrett: holds Kingsford Smith by 13.29%
  • Simon Crean: holds Hotham by 13.00%
  • Greg Combet: holds Charlton by 12.87%
  • Kevin Rudd: holds Griffith by 12.32%
  • Robert McClellan: holds Barton by 12.10%
  • Jenny Macklin: holds Jagajaga by 8.98%
  • Stephen Smith: holds Perth by 8.85%
  • Wayne Swan: holds Lilley by 8.59%
  • Lindsay Tanner: holds Melbourne by 4.71% from the Greens.

Most NSW and Queensland margins have changed courtesy of redistributions and these have made Grayndler and Sydney potentially close contests if the Greens can finish ahead of the Liberals.

That’s the scenario that makes Lindsay Tanner the minister most seriously at risk, especially given the boost for the Greens expected from Labor’s ETS backflip.

Charles Richardson, anti-pokies campaigner Paul Bendat and I attended the campaign launch of Tanner’s Green challenger Adam Bandt in February.

Richardson wrote this Crikey analysis and the following piece  appeared in Crikey on March 11 suggesting the anti-pokies movement may target Tanner.

The Prime Minister came to the Melbourne Press Club for the first time last Thursday  and enjoyed lunch in the River Room at James Packer’s Crown Casino.

Given the PM was at the world’s largest casino complex, seated with Crown CEO David Courtney, when it came to questions, I was third up with the following:

“Stephen Mayne from Crikey, Prime Minister. Australians have got the lowest smoking rate in the world and you’ve just slugged the tobacco industry. We also have the highest gambling rate in the world on per capital terms. You profess to hate the pokies. For three months you’ve had a Productivity Commission report recommending a series of sweeping changes. Are you going to do anything meaningful with the Productivity Commission’s recommendations?”

The long answer (see video) of full exchange) included this waffle suggesting little will happen:

“On the question of gambling and the Productivity Commission report, we’ll work through that at its proper order. There are a lot of things on the government’s agenda, we take each of these things systematically, we take some months to work our way through complex reports which have been given to us. We were handed the Henry Report at the end of last year, we took several months working our way through that. On the health and hospitals reform, we received the Bennett Commission Report in July of last year. We didn’t reach agreement on future direction for it until early April this year. So there are necessary and logical time frames involved in the proper deliberation on complex policy reports, and this is one of them.”

Some cynics fear the Rudd government will bury a “do nothing” response to the PC recommendations in Budget week.

As finance minister, Tanner has the influence to compensate state governments for meaningful attempts to deal with their addiction to pokies tax revenue.

The most important would be implementing the PC’s $1 maximum bet proposal.

The Tasmanian Liberals under Will Hodgman broke new ground when they took that policy to the recent election and the Tasmanian Greens have now proposed legislation that will probably make it a reality, as Nick Xenophon explained on Lateline last Thursday.

The Rudd government should roll that one out nationally and save billions of dollars for the tens of thousands of low-income gambling addicts who escape life’s troubles and get into the zone with the world’s most lethal poker machines.

If not, stand by for a strong campaign backing an independent anti-pokies candidate in Tanner’s seat of Melbourne, where pokies damage to live music is another very hot issue.

Brit Caroline Lucas became the first Green in the world to win a single member electorate in a general election last Thursday, so Adam Bandt is now aiming to be the second.

Peter Fray

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