Saturday, 10 January 2009

You're wrong, Mr Brumby. Admit it. And begin to lead.

Victorian Premier John Brumby made an extraordinary statement on Tuesday. It's hard to get around what the impact is upon pokie regulation let alone other issues that the Brumby government may have to deal with. Here's his statement:
"At the end of the day that's what a government's obligation is to do in these areas - it's not to make moral judgments about what's right and what's wrong and how people spend their time - that's a matter for mature adults to determine - not for government,"

"What is the responsibility of government though is to properly inform the community, give the information they require and if people do have a problem with gambling to help them get through it and that's exactly what we do."

The Premier avoids an essential point. Pokie gambling is an illegal activity. It was government that let this nasty genie out of it bottle. Having let it out, Mr. Brumby seems not to care about putting the genie back in the bottle.

Pokies are legal because the government made them legal. There would be no pokie gambling if the government did not license it. Prior to the 1990's there was no pokie gambling in Australia outside of NSW league clubs and certain casinos. The government determined the conditions to allow the pokie business to flourish not ordinary citizens.

Local councils fight against new pokie pubs and state government appointed agencies overrule them. This PokieAct blog started with the heroic fight of the Macedon Range Shire to stop pokies coming to the small town of Romsey. The over ruling of ordinary people happened again with the Western Bulldog's Club Edgewater in Footscray where the building of a bistro seems to mean more to these failed appointees than the damage the pokies will cause. The whole issue is even more insane when you consider that the Brumby government encourages and subsidises footy clubs to build more pokie clubs.

If Mr. Brumby sees that the choice to use dangerous entertainment should be to "mature adults" to decide what's right and wrong then should we look forward to him to lifting penalties on drinking and driving. Of course that's ridiculous, but, both driving and drinking are legally licensed adult activities and we don't leave people to make this "mature adult" decision. The vastness of pokie revenue has made governments blind to the consequences of the greed of pokie operators luring children into their pokie places and creating a new generation of pokie addicts. When business shows that it has no morals; it calls for a moral judgement by government.

The Victorian and other state governments did make a moral judgement in allowing pokie gambling. They made the wrong judgement. Wayne Goss, former premier of Queensland, admited his mistake in letting the pokie genie out of the bottle.

John Brumby can show true leadership with a humble admission of a wrong judgement about allowing Victorian pokie gambling. He could accompany his admission of government wrongdoing with an apology for all the harm pokies have caused. This would be a good beginning and would gain him the overwhelming approval of the 70% of his Victorian electorate who disapprove of pokie gambling.

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