Donald Trump’s reaction to the Florida school shooting, suggesting teachers now be armed in the classroom, must have sent raptures through the upper echelons of the National Rifle Association. Talk about the knee jerk wisdom of a ‘stable genius’. What it did demonstrate was Trump’s almost unflagging alignment with America’s most powerful lobby group, one that sunk over $50 million dollars into getting him elected.
Here in Australia the so called gun lobby is very much a minority voice but we do have an ‘interest’ group with all the power, political clout and financial resources of the NRA. It’s not a badged up organisation like the latter but many would argue its authority is almost absolute. We are talking poker machines, those filthy, money grabbing, family wrecking, soul destroying electronic addiction devices that are so fanatically safeguarded by the clubs and pubs lobby in cahoots with the various state governments.
The power of this lobby is no better demonstrated than in the current Tasmanian election campaign where the Labor Party has made the brave promise to rid the Apple Isle of virtually all pokies by 2023, removing some 2,375 poker machines from 97 Tassie pubs and clubs. The unofficial NPL (National Pokie Association) has thrown everything into a massive scare offensive, claiming that hundreds of jobs will be lost, pubs and clubs forced to close and the State plunged into an epidemic of hardship.
Nothing of course to match the current malaise that the machines inflict on essentially working class Tasmanians with most of the revenue going offshore to the Sydney based Farrell family owned Federal Group who enjoy a monopoly of pokie licences throughout the state.
It’s no secret that Australia has the biggest number of poker machines per capita than any other country in the world and state governments here reap millions in gambling taxes from their ever increasing proliferation. Politicians such as Andrew Wilkie and Nick Xenophon who campaign continuously for poker machine reform are few and far between but maybe hope lies with the younger generation.
In the same way that smoking in pubs, clubs and restaurants became socially unacceptable pokies need to be painted as pariahs, as out of place in modern society as the toxic fumes that smokers once blew through nearly every commercial space. We need to celebrate and reward those pubs and clubs (and admittedly there are very few at the moment) who have chosen not to include gambling dens despite forgoing an obvious revenue source.
Take the Petersham Bowling Club, a thriving community club and live music venue in the inner west which purged the one armed bandits many years ago. And then there’s the East Sydney Hotel in Woolloomooloo where the long time publican Harald Muller set the standard by refusing to have pokies in what was then a working class area, a policy which has been steadfastly upheld by the current owners.
Perhaps the relevant councils could reward these venues with some kind of financial grant as they are indeed doing a community service. Meanwhile movements and websites such as www.proudlypokiesfree.com are the groundswell in promoting venues without the wretched money sucking machines.
It’s common knowledge that many of the executives of the big American tobacco companies never touched cigarettes, worried no doubt that they might end up with cancer. Likewise many of those at the forefront of the National Pokie Lobby (i.e. politicians, club presidents, pub owners and the cashed up Farrell family from the Federal Group) would never consider punting their pay packet through a machine. Despite their supposed concerns for addicted gamblers they seem to have little problem with an industry that causes such enormous social havoc and financial distress.
In the USA, Trump, the NRA and the slavish upholding of the Second Amendment may well see every school teacher armed in the classroom. The gun lobby there seems insurmountable. The result of the Tasmanian election will be an interesting one and regardless of the result, the impetus of the anti-pokie campaign may well spread nationally. Let’s blow the bandits away forever!