Does The Lucky Country Ban Pokies?


The term "un-Australian" is, I feel, thrown around far too infrequently these days. Every day it seems I come across literally dozens of situations that could easily be dubbed un-Australian with just a little bit of pluck and imagination. Long queues at McDonald’s, people driving at 85 in a 100 zone, Indian restaurants — all of these and more seem to me to be getting off lightly.

Fortunately, however, we do retain SOME standards, and it’s pleasing to see that there are still citizens willing to stand up and call an un-Australian spade an un-Australian spade, as in the case of the federal government’s proposed poker machine reforms, or as they are officially known, the Raping The Country Act 2011.

Is there anything more un-Australian than interfering with a fellow Australian’s right to play the pokies? Is there anything more antithetical to the freedoms upon which this nation was founded than standing in the way of good honest commerce and throwing a spanner in the works of the traditional Aussie larrikin’s gambling spirit? How soon we forget the words of Henry Parkes, who said in 1883, "I dream of a united Australia, in which a man is free to enrich himself by the strength of his arm, to improve himself by the sweat of his brain, and to entertain himself by putting money in a slot and watching lights flash for a few hours". So the question really must be, what does Julia Gillard think she will gain by urinating on the Constitution and vomiting blood on the memory of our founding fathers?

But let’s all pause and take a deep breath here. Not the gamblers, of course, you keep playing; but the rest of us, let’s stop a minute. It would be unfair, although justified, to criticise the pokie laws without fully understanding what they’re all about. So, what will the Raping The Country Act mean for me and you?

Well, what it’s all about is "mandatory pre-commitment", which means that before playing a poker machine, you have to decide how much you’re willing to lose, and swipe a card. Then, under careful watch of a squadron of armed Marxist guards, you can play up to your limit, and then you will be thrown out onto the streets and kicked in the head and knees by Greenpeace volunteers.

So let’s examine that proposal.

First of all, if you want to have a bet, you’ll need a CARD. I don’t think I need to demonstrate the powerful parallels with Nazi Germany here — they are self-evident and I suppose if Julia Gillard wants to introduce such a blatantly anti-Semitic reform that’s up to her.

Secondly, think about the consequences of not being allowed to punt without deciding how much you’re willing to lose. How that will cramp our styles! Who knows how much you want to lose before you start? So often I sit down at a pokie thinking, I’ll just drop in a quick tenner. But a few days later I realise that actually I want to lose $50,000. This legislation will rob us of the ability to CHANGE OUR MINDS. In other words, thought control. In other words, the government is trying to steal our brains. In other words, 1984.

But the restriction of individual freedoms and the blighting of the simple pleasures in life is not even the worst part of this plan. There is also … the COMMUNITY. If these reforms pass, the COMMUNITY will suffer. According to professional estimates, mandatory pre-commitment technology will cost the average club up to two billion dollars to implement, and will slash up to 95 per cent from club revenues. Many clubs will be forced to close. Many other clubs will be forced to whine.

And this means that the rivers of gold which clubs bestow on local community groups and sporting organisations will run dry. Is that what you want? Do you want everyone to be poor and all our kids to grow fat and greasy because the pokie cash didn’t come through to pay for their hockey rink? It would seem the federal government does.

Apparently the Gillard Government loves to see doughy, idle children, stuffing their faces with jelly snakes and never going near a squash court. Make no mistake — this is a government that hates sport. Take note of the comments of public intellectual and social researcher Battlin’ Eddie McGuire, who very rightly denounced the pokie reforms as a "footy tax", putting his finger on the crux of the problem: illiteracy.

No, sorry. I mean the crux of the problem is footy. We all like footy, don’t we? Do we want to return to the dark days before 1992, when poker machines were legalised in Victoria, followed shortly afterwards by the invention of football? Do we want to effectively kneecap the AFL, which without poker machine revenue will be unable to pay the massive fees to the television networks to broadcast their unpopular and little-watched games? Do we want to cripple the NRL, which without poker machine revenue may have to discontinue its highly successful Respect For Women and Where’s The Toilet education programmes? Can we afford to just ignore the words of noted man-about-town and mental health advocate Jeff "Missionary Position" Kennett, who is as wise on the subject of why we need to support pokies as he is on the subject of how to prevent depression, or keeping gays away from children.

So given that the new poker machine reforms are objectively bad, immoral, un-Australian, and will cause diabetes, why is the government so keen on them? Do they just hate people having fun? Do they want to crush the dreams of those who are trying to better themselves through judicious gambling? Are they out to weaken community ties to the point that resistance will be feeble and ineffective when they send the helicopters in to firebomb the steel factories and make us all marry our dogs?

Yes, probably. But the main reason, of course, is that due to the cunning collective scheming of the Australian electorate, we ended up with a minority government, forcing Gillard to rely for power on the support of Andrew Wilkie, a man who wouldn’t know a good night out at the Tabaret if it leapt out of his trousers and conducted a brutal military bastardisation ritual on him. This prune-mouthed recreation-Nazi is intent on ruining everyone’s life just to satisfy his own perverted sense of "social justice". He claims he wants to help the "gambling addicts", but I say, Andrew Wilkie, it is YOU who is addicted: to MEDDLING. You are an interference-addict, and it’s time we staged an intervention. First, we make you play the pokies for a few hours. Then, we take you to the V8s. Finally, a duck-hunt. He’ll get the message.

I hope we can resist this tide of do-gooding — if there’s one thing that’s un-Australian, it’s doing good. And if there’s one thing that IS Australian, it’s sitting in front of a machine for hour upon blissful hour, watching the lights, listening to the bleepy noises, and shovelling in dollar upon dollar before going home sometime the next day with a happy feeling of money well-spent and a warm glow in the pit of your stomach that is more satisfying than any prosaic "food" you could theoretically have purchased with your money.

This un-Australian un-Australianness must be stopped. Don’t let a jumped-up little Taswegian regulation-monger ruin it for everyone. It’s our right as Australians to gamble, and it’s our right as Australians to do it as much as we want, and it’s our right as Australians to have no money. Stop trampling our rights, Julia, and let us have our pokies without let or hindrance.

We honestly have nothing better to do, seriously.

Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.