Independent Member of the Australian Parliament Andrew Wilkie has pledged to fight for new action to tackle problem gambling in the country, working with vocal gaming industry opponent Nick Xenophon to achieve his goals.
Wilkie, a former soldier and intelligence analyst, has served as the Independent Member for Denison since 2010, and has pledged to work alongside Senator Nick Xenophon and Reverend Tim Costello of the Alliance for Gambling Reform “to discuss the need for urgent action on problem gambling in the new parliament.”
Australia’s federal elections, held on July 2nd, have been described as the closest ever, with Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull hanging onto power with a much-reduced majority, after only being confirmed as the winner in recent days.
The election was the first for Xenophon’s Nick Xenophon Team party, through which the Senator held his seat. Wilkie, meanwhile, held onto the seat for Denison, marking six years in the position as an independent MP.
However now the new parliament has been established, with both Wilkie and Xenophon in key crossbench positions, the MP believes it is the “perfect opportunity” to put gambling reform back on the national agenda and “finally achieve meaningful action.”
As crossbench politicians they may be required by the government to ensure bills have the required support to pass into law, meaning they have a chance to gain support for their proposals.
Wilkie has identified a number of key areas of focus, namely the re-establishment of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform that operated during the 43rd Parliament.
The pair will also introduce legislation to limit the harmful effects of poker machines, including a AUD$1 maximum bet limit suggested by the Productivity Committee.
“We’ll also be focusing on the scourge of gambling advertising and will be calling on the Government to ban sports betting advertising during G-rated [General - suitable for all ages but not necessarily intended for children] television periods,” he said.
Wilkie explained that problem gamblers in Australia lose “billions of dollars a year” and deserve meaningful reform.
“So too do the between five and ten people per problem gambler who are adversely affected. Not to mention the millions of Australians who want reform,” he explained.
“Let’s not forget that every one of these problem gamblers is a human being. They are fathers and mothers, sons and daughters, husbands and wives, brothers and sisters, and work colleagues.”
The fact that no reforms have been introduced to date is “a shocking indictment of the [main] Labor and Liberal parties, he said, but added that this was “no wonder” considering the donations each party receives from the gambling sector.
“If the Labor and Liberal parties won’t stand up to the gambling industry, the crossbench will,” Wilkie concluded. “Doing nothing isn’t an option.