Thursday, 18 September 2008

Justice Bell Delivers. Guess who went AWOL?

Day 4 of the Romsey hearing started poorly.

The court heard more from Mr. Whitehead of Tattersall's. But not too much on the grounds that it would be 'commercially sensitive' - the catch-all excuse not to publicly debate something that might be really embarrassing. The court also heard that one of his underlings put forward a revenue model to the Romsey hearing of 2005 despite the admission by Mr. Whitehouse that he had doubts about the model Tatt's were suggesting as good evidence.

Mr. Whitehouse should never play Texas Hold 'Em. That soft voice is a dead giveaway.

Then it got a lot better.

The morning shift ended with an insightful discussion between Justice Bell and counsel for the Gambling Commission after the commission presented its very scanty case.

His Honour again reminded the Commission about the guidance given to it in the Supreme Court decision and how the Commision's counsel should have been instructed to present a view. What followed was a terrific discussion between the Commission's counsel and His Honour on the points applicants and objectors should prepare and present in any pokie application.

All the applicable phrases in the gambling laws were dissected. The questions Justice Bell asked and the observations he made were most valuable given the weight of his judgement as a member of the Appeals Tribunal charged with reviewing the Commission's decisions.

And who came but left before the substance? If you've read any of the previous posts, you've guessed it by now.

The boss. Ian Dunn, Chairman, Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.

What he missed was a discussion on how to properly weigh the net benefits and negative effects that the introduction of pokies might have on a community. The benefit of having a pokies parlour in Romsey, the extra employment, the donations to sporting clubs and the improved amenity were all noted. The negatives of the possibility of problem gambling and pokie expenditure above state averages were noted.

Most important was the lengthy discussion about the introduction of pokies into Romsey being "so disconcerting that it would have a negative effect on the community" And finally what I perceived to be an observation from Commission's counsel that consistent with the original findings of the Commission, the findings of the Supreme Court and the evidence before the Tribunal at this hearing, years later, Romsey still finds it so.

Too bad Mr. Dunn wasn't there to even listen.

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