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01 October 2011

Australian Pokie Wars: Abbott VS Wilkie, by Greg Tingle - 1st October 2011

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The Coalition's decision to oppose slot machine reform has made "independent" Andrew Wilkie even more gun ho in pushing the law for change even if it comes to bringing down the unpopular Gillard Government.

"I will not budge on mandatory pre-commitment on high intensity poker machines," he said.

It goes something like this...

Prime Minister Julia Gillard promised to introduce curbs on problem gamblers in return for his support of the minority Labor Government. He has set the budget in May as the deadline for the delivery of the promise, either by voluntary agreement by the states and territories or by overriding federal legislation.

The Federal Government is trying to work out how to implement the mandatory pre-commitment technology, with the states and territories unlikely to agree on firm action by Wilkie's deadline.

The tech would basically force poker machine players to register before playing and to use a card to choose how much they wanted to gamble in one session. It's understood some punters will find loopholes around the mousetrap, such is their desire to play.

Some Labor MPs are disturbed by the aggressive campaign being waged by clubs...a key Labour support area...against mandatory restrictions on problem gambling.

Opposition leader Tony Abbott advised this week the Coalition would vote against the legislation if the Government decided to bring it to Parliament.

Although independent Tony Windsor has concerns about the move, Wilkie believes the legislation would be successful.

"I think the numbers are there in the Parliament for this to pass into law but I have obviously made it the Government's challenge to out and get those numbers," he said.

Wilkie is super determined to act if the legislation hasn't been approved, even though this would result in mayhem, something Labour is used to by now, and would not actually achieve poker-machine reform.

"The next morning I'd call a press conference and tear up my agreement with the Prime Minister," he said. "If I was Opposition Leader, I'd probably move very quickly to bring on a no confidence motion in the Government on its inability to deliver poker machine reform, which, on the fact of it, I'd probably support.

"Mind you, the new Opposition could then turn around and bring on a no confidence motion in Tony Abbott on poker machine reform and I'd have to support that as well, because he is not going to help me out there. But the Government has made things a bit simpler for me, because the Labor Party now has a worse policy than the Coalition on irregular immigration. I assume Tony Abbott would race to an election ... I reckon he'd go out to Government House that day and say the situation is unstable."

Wilkie predicted the Coalition would win an election held next year in those circumstances.

"I don't think the Labor fortunes are going to turn around for some time yet," he said.

What party are you going to gamble on? Make your vote count.

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