A Poker Machine Stimulus?

This week, the Senate has continued debate about the ‘urgent’ $42 billion spending package proposed by the Rudd Government. We are in the committee stage which is the time when amendments are introduced and debated before a vote is made on the final package.

Clearly the Government is caught in a bind because not a single amendment was moved yesterday. Instead the entire day was spent on Government filibustering while it desperately tried to negotiate with a very frustrated Senator Fielding, an anxious Senator Xenophon and the deep green movement.

Sometimes talking to eat up time reveals some interesting perspectives. One such moment arose yesterday whilst I was on chamber duty.

During the debate about the effectiveness of the last Rudd spending package – which saw a large rise in poker machine income and an unseasonal increase in alcohol sales – the Labor Party went into attack mode.

One Senator lambasted the Opposition for claiming the stimulus was wasted by many on pokies and alcohol.

She said: “There are some families where the only little bit of luxury they have available to them is to have a drink and celebrate the festive season. Some of them may visit poker machines but that does not mean they all have a gambling problem.”

Whatever you think about gambling and drinking, one should remember that Kevin Rudd himself has declared that “I hate poker machines and I know something of their impact on families.”

I also recall that he declared one of his many wars was on drinking, placing a prohibitive tax on a range of popular ready-to-drink products.

Doesn’t it then strike you as strange that Labor is now defending giving away taxpayers’ money knowing a large part of it will go into gaming machines and alcohol?

Yes, many families are doing it tough. Government support to assist with food, shelter and clothing is warranted in many instances. However, handing out money, under the guise of helping families so they can drink and gamble, is bad policy.

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