Saturday, 24 March 2012

Hear No Evil

"And he said, Go, and tell this people, Hear you indeed, but understand not; and see indeed, but perceive not.
Make the heart of this people fat, and make their ears heavy, and shut their eyes; lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and understand with their heart, and convert, and be healed."
-  Isaiah 6:9-10
"Anyway, no drug, not even alcohol, causes the fundamental ills of society.  If we're looking for the source of our troubles, we shouldn't test people for drugs, we should test them for stupidity, ignorance, greed and love of power."
-  P.J. O'Rourke

This week Jenny Macklin, Australia's Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs and Minister for Disability Reform completed Australia's leading trio of poker machine supporters by telling Dr Charles Livingstone  he was not welcome to accompany members of the Christian Gambling Task Force at a meeting  held in her office on 22 March.

"Hear now this, O foolish people, and without understanding; which have eyes, and see not; which have ears, and hear not"
-  Jeremiah 5:21

The full story was broadcast ABC Radio's AM programme. Click hear to read the transcript and listen to the broadcast.

Dr Livingstone was to attend the meeting for the purpose of providing knowledge on technical issues.
"I was there to provide some technical advice and assistance to people who'd asked for that and who aren't themselves experts in the field"
This extract from the interview is informative:
SAMANTHA HAWLEY: The independent Senator Nick Xenophon says Dr Livingstone's advice shouldn't be ignored.

NICK XENOPHON: What an independent expert such as Dr Charles Livingstone has told the Government about their proposed trial is unpalatable to the Government; they don't like a truth-teller saying to them that this trial is deeply flawed.

SAMANTHA HAWLEY: I assume there's other experts in this field though, they don't necessarily have to get advice from him?

NICK XENOPHON: Well I think it's interesting to actually exclude an expert who has raised in writing serious concerns about what the Government is proposing smacks of shooting the messenger. It's a case where the Government is saying we don't like the fact that you have exposed the flaws in this trial.
Who are the two other members of those who don't want to hear the evil of any view contrary to their own? Here they are, flanking Jenny Macklin, a triumvirate of Australia's most effective poker machine supporters whose actions seek to stamp out not only debate but also meaningful reduction of the harm caused by these dangerous machines.

On the left is Peter Newell OAM. Mr Newell is the Chairman of ClubsNSW.

On the right is Hon Michael O'Brien. Mr O'Brien is the Victorian Minister for Gaming, Minister for Consumer Affairs and Minister for Energy and Resources.

Peter Newell - Clubs NSW

Mr Newell has either directly or indirectly threatened legal action against me to stop publishing news advertisements concerning the conduct of NSW pokie clubs as it relates to children and providing the NSW public with a balanced truthful account.

I have recounted told the story of my legal issues with Mr Newell and ClubsNSW on this blog. You can see the ads they tried to stop publishing, read the nearly contemporaneous account and their threats. Click here to read about the "Truth" advertisement. Click here to read about the Children in Pokie Clubs advertisement.

Mr Newell was to attend a meeting with Nick Xenophon. I was asked by Nick to attend. When told I would be at the meeting, Mr Newell refused to attend.

On 29 January 2010 (months before the release of the Productivity Commission's report) I emailed Mr Newell with a cc to ClubsNSW CEO Anthony Ball. Here's the exact text of that email.
As a matter of courtesy, I have attached a pdf file of the advertisement scheduled to appear in the Illawarra Mercury on Monday, 1 February 2010.

My objective is that pokie clubs voluntarily adopt the same standard that protects children from the sights and sounds of pokies as exists with respect to NSW pokie pubs. You would agree that Clubs' status as mutuals is not an excuse for the conduct of irresponsible pokie gambling activity.

I would be grateful for the opportunity to meet with you to discuss a plan whereby the standard can be implemented.

At such time, I would also like to discuss the immediate measure urged by the Productivity Commission to bring in the $1 button push / $120 per hour loss restriction and $20 cash acceptor limit. This measure will target addicted gamblers and, as you are likely aware, there is substantial research that supports the fact that recreational gamblers will not be affected.

I did not receive the courtesy of a response. My offer was ignored. I was given the silent treatment. I wonder if the refusal was out of revenge. This would have been a great starting point for dialogue with the industry. The fact of ClubsNSW and Mr Newell's refusal to have any contact reduces the weight any reasonable person should attach to this ClubsNSW recent release.

Michael O'Brien - Victorian Gambling Minister

Michael O'Brien presides over the state with the worst problem gambling prevalence in Australia. He often claims a mandate to act based upon his 2010 pokie platform. Yet when it is pointed out that he has failed to honour this policy, he will hear no evil.

Here's a paragraph from that policy:
  • Enforcement: laws designed to ensure probity and minimise harmful gambling practices must be enforced if they are to deter illegal behaviour.
On 19 June 2011, Rev Tim Costello, Sen Nick Xenophon, and I wrote to Mr O'Brien pointing out 7 different matters where the Victorian government had failed to enforce existing laws. I wrote to him again on 3 August reirterating these breaches by him and the Victorian regulator. I asked to discuss the matters raised including the evidence based recommendation of adoption of the $1 bet limit and $120 per hour loss restriction on volatility.

The best Mr O'Brien could do was to direct me to meet with the Victorian gambling commission. Here's Page 1 of his letter.

I duly met with the Chairman of the Commission on September 29 and emailed the Chairman on 3 October.

The email was lengthy and covered a number of breaches by the Minister and the Commission. I will reproduce item 1 below.

1. Online and Telephone Wagering

Given the Minister's recent media release relating to online gambling and the expensive media campaign now being conducted, the failure to enforce the Minister's directions of 8 October 2009 is of immediate concern. Paragraph 8 of Part A of the Minister’s directions of 8 October 2009 provides:
8. Pre-commitment strategy
Other than a code of conduct applying to a commercial raffle organiser, a code of conduct must specify what the relevant person will do to:
(a) assist a customer to make a pre-commitment decision
(b) support a customer who has made a pre-commitment decision.

Examination of Tabcorp Wagering web pages reveal only this provision:
“From 1 January 2010, it is anticipated that Tabcorp Wagering will be in a position to offer the ability for account customers to set gambling limits on their accounts, subject to any technical limitations that may delay this anticipated commencement date.”

This provision has been in place since 2009 and remains a part of the Tabcorp code despite the fact that it is clearly outdated.

With respect, your written response indicates a number of practices none of which responds to this matter. When signing up for an online account there is no procedure to set a binding limit let alone any mention of the word "pre-commitment".

The inaction of Tabcorp in Victoria can be contrasted with Tabcorp's actions in South Australia indicating that their stated qualification as to technical limitations has no substance. Reproduced below is the web page relating to their South Australian practice. I attach a screenshot of this web page that indicates the practice.
It would seem that any technological limitations were overcome in South Australia some time ago but not applied to compliant practice for Tabcorp Sportsbet in Victoria. As such it would seem that Tabcorp have breached a condition of their license.

It is essential that any limit set by the gambler be binding upon the gambler otherwise there is no commitment having regard to the normal understanding of the word.

This information unequivocally evidences a breach of existing Victorian gambling legislation. The Victorian government is spending considerable $$$$ on an online gambling campaign yet unwilling to act on existing legislation.

No response.

I then wrote to Michael O'Brien on 14 November 2011 enclosing this unequivocal evidence of his and his Commission's breach of a statutory obligation. Compliance with the law could reduce the harm of Victorian online betting. I copied the email to Premier Ted Ballieu.

No action.

No response.

"There are none so blind as those who will not see."
-  John Heywood 1546

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