NICK’S POKIES POLICY FAILS THE PUB TEST

The Greens have called for SA Best to ‘do better’ on pokies reform, following Nick Xenophon’s announcement today to cut South Australian gaming machine numbers to around 8,000 in contrast with the Greens’ 5 year total phase out plan.

“Nick Xenophon has now gone from the ‘No Pokies’ politician to the 8,000 pokies in pubs and clubs politician,” said Greens MLC Tammy Franks.

“That is not the best plan for SA. Nick’s policy just doesn’t pass the pub test. ‘No Pokies’ was the very reason that Nick entered politics in the first place. But twenty years and three parties later, the ‘No Pokies’ pledge has been watered down to a ‘some pokies’ panacea. I see no reason for Nick to abandon this core value at a time when a total phase out of gaming machines is looking set to happen in Tasmania, where The Greens, Labor and Jacqui Lambie are all on the same page.

“My message to Nick today is: it’s not the size of your balance of power, it’s what you do with it that counts. Today’s SA Best announcement just does not go far enough to stop the damage caused in our community by these machines. The Greens believe we can do better by phasing them out completely over a realistic five-year period.

“Just recently, I sat on a forum panel where an SA Best candidate argued that our policy was ‘not realistic’, but I reject this defeatist attitude. It is only unrealistic if there in not the political willpower to make it happen; and that is not reason enough to abandon a core principle.

“Australia has one of the highest concentrations of poker machines in the world. According the Australia Institute, of all the poker machines to be found in pubs and clubs around the world, a whopping 76% are in Australia. We also have some of the most advanced tech, designed to get people addicted. This is why we need urgent action to remove these machines completely from our pubs and clubs. They can stay in casinos where people go to gamble and we can monitor the harm there and tax the Casino machines more.

“In the past few months alone, lobbyists for the poker machine industry are reported to have donated well in excess of $100,000 to the Labor, Liberal and Australian Conservative parties for this state lection alone.* Meanwhile, after this announcement from Nick today, the AHA are probably thinking their campaign money spent on full-page Sunday Mail ads yesterday against Nick Xenophon has been money well spent. He’s gone to water on pokies today.

“But there’s no place from donations from the pokies in politics. That dirty money that has no place in our democracy. There have been payments totaling nearly $1 million to Labor and Liberal parties in South Australia over the past 20 years. They are addicted to pokies donations. This is why the Greens are also calling for an urgent ban of all political donations from the pokies lobby.

“Giving up any addiction is hard. We don’t dispute that. This is a test of political willpower. The joint policy of the Greens and Labor in Tasmania shows that that we can get there. The question is whether we have the willpower in SA, and that will only begin with getting this dirty money out of our democracy now,” she concluded.

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