Andrew Wilkie, Tara Moriarty (and Karl Bitar)

Andrew Wilkie is an independent federal MP from Tasmania. His pet concern is problem gambling. He wants to make it compulsory to have gambling machines fitted with technology which makes gamblers decide upfront, the upper loss limit.

Problem gambling can destroy lives and families. I know.  On the other hand, we have someone like Tara Moriarty. Tara sits on the ALP national executive and is a vice-president of the NSW branch of the party. She is the secretary of the NSW liquor and hospitality workers union called United Voice. Tara thinks fitting gambling machines with the sort of technology Andrew Wilkie wants will endanger thousands of jobs. Unemployment can destroy lives and families too.

Leave aside Tara’s nexus with Karl Bitar. Karl Bitar may appear to be just someone who used the unions and the ALP as a stepping board to enrich himself. Having climbed the echelon of the ALP on the back of unions (and killed Kevin Rudd when he got there), he now becomes a corporate fat cat with Crown Casino, leveraging off his insider knowledge of government policies, including on problem gambling. No doubt no one should trust this opportunist mercenary but leaving that aside and assuming Tara is fair dinkum about protecting jobs, what should be the community’s priority?

Should the community protect jobs by allowing gambling machines to be unprotected? Or should it protect problem gamblers by capping their losses? I’m sure there are studies out there to consider how much of the gambling industry’s revenue is made up of problem gambling – if indeed the gambling industry is dependent on problem gambling proceeds, whether the industry should be shut down altogether? Surely society shouldn’t be protecting jobs which are dependent on making money from feeding this destructive addiction?

On the other hand, would sacrificing these jobs reduce the problem of problem gambling? Would these gamblers simply resort to other forms of betting? There is nothing to stop the problem gamblers from switching from a poker machine to the counter on the TAB outlet, is there? If fitting these technologies on machines would not go very far in reducing these addicts’ problems, sacrificing jobs would have been for nothing.

Andrew Wilkie and Tara Moriarty probably need to sit down together and exchange notes to take this one further. Karl Bitar may also be interested.