E & OE – Proof only
BRUCE GUTHRIE: In view of the significant reform of problem gambling has dominated news headlines overnight and this morning, Jenny Macklin is the Minister for Families and Community Services. She joins me online. Good morning Minister.
JENNY MACKLIN: Good morning Bruce.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: Jenny Macklin why has this Government abandoned problem gamblers?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we haven’t. I don’t accept the way you’ve constructed this at all. The reality is we face a Parliament where the Government doesn’t have the numbers on its own. We don’t have the votes in the House of Representatives for legislation without the support of Independents.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: So you’ve given up?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, we haven’t given up, that’s exactly what we have not done. What we’ve done is talk with the Independents about mandatory pre-commitment legislation. They made it absolutely clear to the Prime Minister and to me that they would not support that legislation. So what we’re doing instead is not walking away from problem gamblers. What we’re doing instead is putting in place for the first time ever, legislation into the Federal Parliament to start dealing with problem gambling. This is legislation that we think will get through the Parliament rather than going down in a blaze of glory and getting nothing.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: But why not put it to a vote? Why not say, well let’s call it on and see which way the Independents do vote?
JENNY MACKLIN: Because we’ve already been told by the Independents that they are not going to support it. What would be the point of that silly political manoeuvre. What we want to do…
BRUCE GUTHRIE: …isn’t it, so it just comes down to political manoeuvres doesn’t it?
JENNY MACKLIN: No, your suggestion does. What we want to do is get real action on problem gambling. That’s what this is all about. Getting action that will get through the Federal Parliament and that’s why the legislation that we are proposing will make real changes for problem gamblers. That’s what you want, that’s what I want. It’s been what I’ve been working on personally for a long time now. I want to see action that will get through the Parliament rather than put up legislation that has no hope of getting through.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: You’ve caved into Clubs Australia and nervous backbenchers in Queensland and New South Wales, haven’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: What we’ve done is recognise the reality of the Parliament that we have. We do not have the numbers in the House of Representatives to get the legislation through that would have seen mandatory pre-commitment introduced. So what we’re doing instead is putting forward legislation that has a chance of getting through the Parliament that will see pre-commitment technology on every machine around Australia. That will see that pre-commitment technology state-linked, that will see limits on the amount of money that people can take out of ATM machines, additional financial counsellors, and of course we will, for the first time, have a major trial of mandatory pre-commitment. This has never been done before in Australia.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: Jenny Macklin with respect, you’ve solved a political problem but gamblers are still shovelling their pay packets into machines aren’t they and you’ve done nothing about that?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well I’ve just indicated to you what we are doing. And what we are doing is…
BRUCE GUTHRIE: …But the only concrete thing is that you’ve put a limit on ATM machines. Really in the life of this Government, that’s all you’ve done isn’t it? I mean, you’re promising a lot for the next Government but that may not be you?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well it was always going to be the case that getting pre-commitment technology on to gambling machines, on poker machines, would take time. Even Mr Wilkie understood that and it was quite clear from the technical advice we have and from the Productivity Commission, that it would take till 2016.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: But Minister you referred this to the Productivity Commission, your Government…
JENNY MACKLIN: That’s right.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: In 2008.
JENNY MACKLIN: Yes.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: The Commission reported in 2010. This just rolls on and on and on. I mean when are we going to get a solution?
JENNY MACKLIN: And let’s have a look at what the Productivity Commission actually recommended. What they recommended was that pre-commitment technology be put on every machine around the country. They said it would take until 2016. That is the legislation that we will put into the Federal Parliament. They also indicated that we should run a major trial of mandatory pre-commitment. That means making sure that people do use the technology and we are negotiating with Clubs in the ACT to do exactly that.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: The Productivity Commission also talked about a bet limit of around $1 per button push. Why haven’t you done anything about that? That was easy wasn’t it? That’s an easy thing to do?
JENNY MACKLIN: No it’s not easy, it might sound easy, but these sort of so called simple solutions really aren’t easy. Let’s just be clear what the Productivity Commission did recommend. They recommended in a primary way that we should use pre-commitment technology, that if we had pre-commitment that we would not need to use other measures for problem gambling. Just to go to the issue of maximum $1 bets, the advice that we have had is that all games would need to be reconfigured, re-designed. There isn’t a game in Australia that would enable a maximum $1 bet.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: What about these high volume machines because the Productivity Commission, Minister, also said, the amount, and I’m reading from their Report, the amount of cash that players can feed into machines at any one time should be limited to $20, currently it is up to $10,000? How is that justifiable?
JENNY MACKLIN: And that’s part of the $1 maximum bet recommendation that they make, you’re right. What I’m saying to you is, if we want to reconfigure the games and reconfigure the machines, the estimate of the cost that we have of doing that is, for the games alone, around one and a half billion dollars. The primary recommendation of the Productivity Commission was to introduce pre-commitment technology. That is what we are going to see done around the country, and while we’re changing the technology over, we’ll have a trial of mandatory pre-commitment which was the major recommendation of the Productivity Commission.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: Which may or may not get up depending on the view of the next Government and that may not be a Labor Government? And why, you strung, your Government strung Andrew Wilkie along on this didn’t you?
JENNY MACKLIN: No I don’t agree with that at all. We have a Parliament which requires us to get additional votes from Independent Members of Parliament to get legislation through the Parliament. We don’t have those votes for the legislation that would have seen mandatory pre-commitment introduced across the country. That is the reality.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: But why make the commitment? Why make the commitment if you couldn’t deliver on it?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well of course what we’ve been doing since we made the agreement is discussing the policy with Independent members of the Parliament and they have indicated to the Prime Minister and to me that they will not support it at this time. They want to see the evidence. They want to see a trial conducted, and that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: It’s nineteen minutes to nine. I’m Bruce Guthrie speaking with Jenny Macklin, the Minister for Families and Communities. What do you think, what do you think about where the Government’s gone on problem gambling? Perhaps you’ve been touched by problem gambling. If so, ring in on 1300 222 774.
Minister isn’t there a message here for anyone out there that opposes Government policy? That if you spend enough money lobbying and advertising, this Government can be turned?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well once again I don’t agree with that, the way you’re construing that Bruce. I know you don’t want to accept the reality of the Parliament that we have but I have to accept that every single day. Not just with this legislation, with every piece of legislation I need to get through the Parliament. It has to be negotiated. Now I could have just said, well this all we’re going to do, if you won’t support this, we’ll just do nothing. But that’s not the approach we’re taking. We’re in fact are not walking away from problem gambling. You and I both know the damage that problem gambling does to, not just to individuals, but their families, their kids. I’ve seen too much of it. That’s why I want to get legislation through that will get the votes in the House of Representatives, not try something that we know will not succeed.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: Just finally Minister. Isn’t the Budget process, now that you’ve put Andrew Wilkie offside, you’ve solved that problem. But isn’t the Budget process now at risk because he’s going to turn against you, isn’t he?
JENNY MACKLIN: Well once again, just as we’re discussing the numbers and the votes in the House of Representatives on problem gambling, of course it has been the case over the last eighteen months for the life of the Government that we have to discuss with Independent Members of Parliament each of the measures that we put through for other legislation. That’s going to continue, that is the nature of the Parliament that we face. But from my point of view on problem gambling, let’s get some real reform and make sure that we can make a difference for problem gamblers.
BRUCE GUTHRIE: Thank you very much Minister. Jenny Macklin, Minister for Families and Communities.