Friday, 4 February 2011

Michael O'Brien in Disney's Fantasyland

It looks like I made a mistake assessing Michael O'Brien. Given his involvement in exposing the VCGR's error in granting a pokie license to a venue that, on the record, wanted to place a child play area adjacent to the pokie gambling area, I thought that he might be the person to substantively guide the Victorian legislature to measures that will reduce the harm of pokie gambling. I was wrong.In opposing full pre-commitment as recommended by the Productivity Commission, Mr O'Brien has taken Victoria backwards to the aggressive pro-gambling policies of the 90's where there was little regard for the dangerous nature of these machines let alone the harm they cause to tens of thousands of Victorians, their friends, families and workmates.

This is what Mr O'Brien said to the ABC. This minister has clearly left Main Street for Fantasyland.
"Victoria believes that pre-commitment should be available on every single gaming machine in the state, and we want to see that implemented as soon as possible really.

But we do believe that the choice to use the technology should be with the individual player. It shouldn't be a case of a big brother government forcing players to provide personal details to get some sort of ID card to be able to play a gaming machine.

We think that's intrusive and, more to the point, it won't help problem gamblers because all the research shows that that sort of activity doesn't affect problem gamblers.

Pre-commitment works best when people want to modify their behaviour. That means a voluntary system will work where a compulsory system just won't."
Later, in the same interview, one wonders if Mr O'Brien has just gotten off the Mad Hatter's Tea Cup ride when he says:
"What the Commonwealth is proposing will do nothing for problem gambling. It's really borne of their own political necessity rather than good policy outcomes.

So there's no reason why Victoria should have to change our clearly thought-out plan to bend to the Commonwealth's interests on this one."

Maybe Mr O'Brien was stuck on Mr Toad's Wild Ride during the last two years that the Productivity Commission considered all the evidence and, at the end of it all, recomended full pre-commitment. It seems that he has not read Minister Jenny's Macklin's December 2010 speech that simply endorses this recommendation including even the fine detail that truly recreational gamblers will be able to gamble on the pokies outside the system.

He also ignores the recommendation of the Victorian government's own gambling advocate.

Adding to this Fantasyland of ignorance, Minister O'Brien even ignores Professor Delfabbro's submission to the inquiry on pre-commitment based upon work undertaken for the Victorian government:
"From a public policy perspective, voluntary systems do not appear to work very well."

To paraphrase Mr O'Brien, his clearly thought out plan won't work very well according to the Productivity Commission, The Victorian Gambling Advocate and the Victorian government's own study.

In order to return to Main Street, Mr O'Brien owes it to all Victorians to read the Productivity Commission's final report. If he thinks that venues will go the extra step to implement measures that might decrease their losses from their machines, read the Productivity Commission's final report or maybe even Prof Linda Hancock's research on Crown casino that was personally handed to him. They won't. I've tried.

Mr O'Brien, minimisation of the harm of these dangerous machines is not a visit to Disneyland. There are real lives that depend upon you following the considered recommendations of the Productivity Commission reached after 11 years of study. If you can't do even that, at least read Table 1 on page 41 of the final report.


Anonymous said...

I'm interested in your response to Clubs Australia's submission re; mandatory precommitment.
Read it yesterday and am interested in your thoughts.

Anonymous said...

It's curious that Michael Ludscombe (former Woolworths CEO), Grant O'Brien (current Woolworths CEO), Bruce Mathieson Jr & Sr (Directors of ALH, largest pokies operator in Australia 75% owned by Woolworths) and a Michael O'Brien are all listed as approved individual associates on Carlton Football Club's venue operator license.