By Clyde Mooney
The fate of Australian gaming venues hangs in the balance as Labor’s promise to introduce national legislation for mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines looms, although the reality may see the bill fail to get off the ground.
Andrew Wilkie MP helped the Gillard government retain power by pledging his support in return for their backing of his plans to drastically reform gaming machines.
The initial deadline for the states to voluntarily adopt these reforms passed in May, with most state premiers vehemently rejecting the suggestions by the Joint Select Committee on gambling reform.
In accordance with the Wilkie/Gillard agreement, the government must now introduce legislation to override the state’s powers and force gaming venues to comply.
This controversial idea has already been attacked, with state leaders saying they will challenge the legislation – which will result in a massive reduction in tax revenue – all the way to the High court.
However, the Labor minority government stands atop a tiny pedestal with few supporting members.
Some of the key independent MPs that sided with Ms Gillard post-election, as well as opposition MPs and even Labor’s own, are now threatening to block the bill on the grounds that the reforms will do irreparable damage to hotels, pubs and clubs in their electorates.
Liberal MP Steven Ciobo, Federal Member for Moncrieff, says that 'this is Labor’s get-out-of-jail-free card'.
“Julia Gillard and every other Labor MP will be hoping and praying their takeover of state legislation is defeated in the High Court so they can say to Wilkie they tried their hardest,” he said.
Ciobo told TheShout, “There is no doubt the Gillard legislation will be challenged, and the votes of the independents such as Tony Windsor, Bob Katter and Rob Oakeshot will determine if the legislation can even be proposed.”
Wilkie stated on the ABC’s 4-Corners program on Monday night that he remained confident the reforms would become law.
“I’m sure we’ve got the numbers in the parliament and I’m actually confident this will happen, and in my mind it’s virtually inconceivable that this will bring about the end of the government.”