Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Poker machine reform

Program: The World Today, ABC

E & OE – Proof only

ELEANOR HALL: The Minister for Community and Family Services Jenny Macklin says she’s disappointed with Mr Wilkie’s actions.

Minister Macklin told Sabra Lane that Mr Wilkie is jeopardising the whole reform package.

SABRA LANE: Jenny Macklin, when did Mr Wilkie tell you that he couldn’t support the Government’s planned legislation, and what was your response?

JENNY MACKLIN: I met with Mr Wilkie on Monday this week and he raised his concerns about the design of the ACT trial.

This morning he has indicated that he is prepared to put the national poker machine reform at risk and I am extremely concerned about any suggestions that this may be the case.

This would see him moving away from his previous support for the Government’s legislation.

SABRA LANE: Well Mr Wilkie and the Greens say that they can’t support your legislation for the trial, saying they believe that based on expert advice, the trial is flawed, it’s too short, that the ACT isn’t a typical poker machine town, and that gamblers can easily skip the border into New South Wales instead.

Can you negotiate on any of these points?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well Mr Wilkie raised some of these concerns with me on Monday and I indicated to him that I was happy to work through any issues that he had in relation to the design of the trial. And we agreed to speak again next week. So I was very surprised to hear this morning that he is now moving away from his previous support of the Government’s legislation.

SABRA LANE: Can you also incorporate Queanbeyan and New South Wales in this trial?

JENNY MACKLIN: I’ve spoken with the New South Wales minister about these issues and we’re still in discussions with them about how the matters around Queanbeyan will be addressed. They obviously are important.

But I would draw Mr Wilkie’s attention and your attention to the fact that Mr Wilkie made it very clear earlier this year, in January, that he would support the trial with clubs in the ACT, saying ‘I would support that as well.’

He has said publicly, on the 21st of January, that he will support the Government’s reforms when they come into the parliament. ‘They are still worth voting for’ – that’s Mr Wilkie’s quote.

SABRA LANE: Well Mr Wilkie supported the Government on the whole basis that you would introduce pre-commitment technology by the budget this year. He says you tore up that agreement full stop.

JENNY MACKLIN: And the facts of that matter, of course, are well known to everyone, which is that we do not sufficient votes in the House of Representatives to get that legislation through.

So what the Government has done is not just thrown everything up in the air and said it’s all too difficult, what we’ve said is that we will put legislation into the Parliament that will get support in the House of Representatives. And up until today that not only included Independent Members Oakeshott and Windsor, but Mr Wilkie had also indicated his support.

I hope that he will reconsider.

SABRA LANE: Mr Wilkie has support of the Greens here on this one, and also the Independent Senator Nick Xenophon. He says the planned legislation that you’ve put forward is a complete con.

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I call on the Greens as well to support the legislation in the House of Representatives and in the Senate. I understand that it’s not everything that they want. They can’t get what they want through the House of Representatives; there aren’t the votes for it. Let’s be very clear about that.

Let’s make a start rather than saying it’s all too difficult and just throwing everything out, which is what both Mr Wilkie and the Greens are risking.

SABRA LANE: Is it possible that today, the 29th of February 2010, might be the day that pokie reform legislation died?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I certainly hope not. I hope that Mr Wilkie will meet the commitment that he gave me, that he gave the Prime Minister, that he gave the Australian people that he would support the Government’s legislation and the trial and… so that we can all move on together to take these actions in the interests of problem gamblers.

ELEANOR HALL: That’s the Minister for Families and Community Services Jenny Macklin speaking to our chief political correspondent Sabra Lane.