Just at the moment here in Australia gambling and poker machines are a big issue. In the negotiations leading to the formation of the Gillard Government, critical support from independent Andrew Wilkie was conditional upon the Government taking action to curb problem gambling on poker machines.
The Government's plans here have become yet another problem for it, with Clubs Australia launching a reported $A20 million dollar advertising blitz against Mr Wilkie's proposals. However, the Government's real problem is not this but a far simpler issue, one that means that independent MP Tony Windsor is highly likely to vote against the legislation and may be joined by others.
Many smaller country communities have seen loss of jobs and services through centralisation. In all cases, the justification has been that lower costs to consumers as a whole or higher profits to firms outweigh the local costs. Many communities complain as well that new structures mean that local savings cannot be invested in local projects.
In many of these communities, the local club has become not only a significant employer but also the main, in some cases the only, source of facilities such as restaurants and sporting facilities as well as donations to community activities. The viability of these clubs has been under pressure for some time as state governments seek to milk the gambling cash cow through taxation, while also imposing controls on clubs that increase costs.
All this acts to reduce local benefits. Now, the new proposals are one step too far. One result has been protest meetings throughout Mr Windsor's electorate. It's fine to argue that the greater good justifies adverse results to the few, but that really doesn't wash if you are one of the few.
In theory, those adverse effects could be remedied by the provision of some form of compensation to those affected or, alternatively, by some quarantining mechanism. Here I have long argued that the costs imposed by decisions should be specifically accounted for and, where appropriate, compensated for. In practice, this is hard to do in part because it is seen as special pleading or subsidisation. There is, in fact, no mechanism available for this type of approach.
In his role as an independent, Mr Windsor has already demonstrated that he is prepared to take a broad view even if it creates local anger. I don't think that he can in this case, because the costs are specific and local. Unless the Commonwealth Government can work out some form of compensation package, Mr Windsor will have to vote no, and the legislation is likely to fail. Mr Wilkie will then have to decide what to do.
I have read or listened at length to the debate on this issue on media. I have also listened to discussion around me here in Sydney. Get real, chaps. As they say in legal documents, chaps included the female gender. If you don't at least recognise and account for adverse results, then you cannot expect your desires to be acceded too where, unusually, those adversely affected actually have some political power.