Sunday, October 26, 2008

Xenophon gets serious with gaming, by Jamie Walker - The Australian - 25th August 2008

SO, it's all Kevin Rudd's fault. Nick Xenophon, the former No Pokies MP who carved out a political career by being a thorn in the side of state governments in South Australia, and is now honing his act in Canberra, revealed yesterday it was the Prime Minister who had inspired him to jump to federal politics.

Senator Xenophon shared this insight with what might be regarded as a hostile audience: a room full of gaming industry movers and shakers, who had gathered in Sydney for their annual convention.

He began by saying what he wasn't. "I am not a zealot," Senator Xenophon said, kicking off a week which, with parliament's resumption, will see him finally take up the Senate seat he won at last November's federal election.

"I am not some religious type who sees the world in terms of black and white, good and evil.

"I am not some Supernanny of the nanny state who's here to tell the poker machine barons to sit on 'the naughty chair'."

Then it was time to tell his audience a few home truths, Xenophon-style. While they might use the terms "entertainment or gaming" to describe their industry, he preferred to call it "obscene". Poker machines were unsafe and caused untold harm, he said.

And, worse, everyone in the room knew that.

"How can you pretend for a moment that a poker machine addict's money is better spent making you rich, than feeding their children," Senator Xenophon said, addressing the Australasian Gaming Expo.

"The charade is over. I am calling you on it (and) I am not willing to accept that you don't see the harm that you do.

"I honestly believe that you know the harm you do ... yet you choose to do it anyway."

As for the Prime Minister, who is yet to meet the new independent from SA with a share of the Senate balance of power, credit where credit was due.

Senator Xenophon said Mr Rudd's pre-election declaration of his "hatred" for poker machines helped him decide to switch to federal politics.

"I believed if I could get to Canberra, I could achieve what state governments never would ... an end to the misery your industry causes," Senator Xenophon told delegates at the gaming conference, who heard him out in polite silence. "Your machines are inherently unsafe ... and ultimately you know your position is untenable."

When "common sense prevailed", the industry would be shut down for good. "I hope the federal Government joins me in my efforts," he said.

"I want to work with the PM to achieve his goal to wind back your influence and to tackle the damage caused to families."

But Mr Rudd had to lead by example. And, according to Senator Xenophon, he might start by having the Labor Club in Canberra get rid of its banks of pokies.

"After all, how can you be opposed to something your own party profits from?" Senator Xenophon asked.

Additional reporting: Sanna Trad