TRANSCRIPT OF THE HON. TONY ABBOTT ADDRESS TO THE CLUBS AUSTRALIA RALLY, BRISBANE
Well Donna, it’s great to be here. It’s great to be here in Queensland. It’s great to be supporting the clubs industry of Australia and it’s great to see so many decent Queenslanders here to support those institutions which are such an important part of our communities, right around Australia.
You know, I look out and I don’t see before me seasoned political activists. What I see is decent Australians who are saying to the federal Government: do not mess with us and do not mess with the clubs that are an important part of our lives and our communities. That’s what I see. I deeply regret, Donna, the fact that I don’t come from Queensland – all non-Queenslanders do – I do come from Sydney and in my part of Sydney the most important institution is the Forestville RSL. It’s not just an RSL club – although that’s a very important part that it plays in our community – it supports the bowls, it supports the cricket, it supports the Aussie Rules, it supports the soccer, it supports the netball, it supports the bridge, it supports the fishing club, the bushwalking club, the ballroom dancing society, the Rotary Club, the Lions Club have their meetings there because that’s where they can get a good value meal. This club is an important part of the social fabric of my community. And, yes, some people play the poker machines there. Most people play the poker machines there because it is a form of entertainment, a form of relaxation. And, yes, some people are problem gamblers and we all want to do the right thing to help problem gamblers, but we need smart policies to help problem gamblers, not dumb ones and mandatory pre-commitment is a dumb policy because it is not going to help the problem gamblers of this country, but it is going to do serious damage to the clubs that are such a significant part of our social fabric.
Now, we need, as I said, smart policies not dumb ones. The smart policies are obviously more counselling – mandatory pre-commitment is not going to get us where we need to be; voluntary pre-commitment by contrast gives the problem gambler an opportunity to put his or her hand up and say, ‘I need help’, and that’s what we need, we need individual solutions for individual problems. Problem gambling is a problem for the problem gambler. Let’s not think that by changing the world we’re going to help the problem gambler, let’s help the problem gambler and let’s not try to do it in ways which damage this great country and this great society that we live in.
Now ladies and gentlemen, I am going to say something that might be a little unpopular. I don’t think Andrew Wilkie is the problem. You know any Member of Parliament is entitled to go to a party leader, to a Prime Minister with what he or she thinks is a good idea to help. Andrew Wilkie is not the problem. There is nothing wrong with Members of Parliament coming forward with their ideas. It’s the job of the Prime Minister to sort out the good ideas from the bad ones and only to promote the good ideas, not the bad ones. So, it’s not Andrew Wilkie’s fault that we have this mandatory pre-commitment threat to the clubs of Australia, it’s Julia Gillard’s fault for agreeing with him – because if it wasn’t for the Prime Minister we wouldn’t have the problem.
The difficultly that we’ve got is that we have a Prime Minister who put her political survival ahead of sensible policy. We have a Prime Minister who was prepared to sell out the clubs of Australia to keep herself in The Lodge – that’s the sad truth about the situation in which we find ourselves today. And I don’t say that, if I may, in a partisan spirit. It’s great that we’ve got Phil Reeves from the Labor Party because I don’t believe sensible Labor people support this measure. I think this is a measure that they have had foisted upon them by a desperate Prime Minister and I hope that the message will go out from you to Labor Members of Parliament. I hope Phil you will take the message to Queensland Labor Members of Parliament. This is a very bad idea and it should not be further embraced by our federal Government. That’s the message that needs to go out today.
And I am a little disappointed that Wayne Swan is not here. I suspect many of you are a little disappointed that Wayne Swan is not here because when Prime Minister’s do silly things, they should have a Deputy Prime Minister who’s there to pull them back to common sense. What did Wayne say to Julia when Julia said I am going to embrace this mandatory pre-commitment? And if as I suspect he said nothing I can understand why. When they poll the people of Australia on who should be the Labor Prime Minister, they mention 10 names, including the leader of the Greens, including your very own Kevin Rudd, including even someone who is a member of the Liberal Party, but they never mention Wayne Swan.
So ladies and gentlemen, I am here to tell you that as far as I am concerned the clubs of Australia do a very good job. There are ways to tackle problem gambling, we should embrace them, but we shouldn’t do it in ways that damage the clubs of Australia. Thank you so much for coming out today to support your community clubs. The Liberal National Party in Queensland is with you, the Liberal-National Coalition federally is with you, let’s stand up for those institutions that are doing so much for the Australian people.