Federal independent MP Andrew Wilkie has accused some sections of the poker machine industry of bullying the Salvation Army into opposing his gambling reforms.
On Thursday the Salvation Army’s eastern territory of NSW, Queensland and the ACT said it wanted further trials of pre-commitment technologies before fully endorsing the mandatory pre-commitment legislation.
Mr Wilkie says he has been told some clubs are denying Salvation Army officers access to their venues for fundraising.
“Today Clubs Australia and Clubs NSW have truly plumbed new depths,” he said.
“To be bullying the Salvation Army, threatening the Salvation Army, misrepresenting the views of the Salvation Army of all organisations, an iconic organisation in this country.”
The Salvation Army says when the reforms were announced, some individual committee members at local clubs had told the charity it was no longer welcome to raise funds on their premises.
“Some people said, ‘We don’t agree and the Salvation Army shouldn’t be coming here if it’s not in support of the clubs,'” Salvation Army spokesman Major Paul Moulds said, adding there had been a couple of incidents in NSW clubs.
“It was like, ‘If you’re going to ruin our business, you’re not welcome to come here’.”
But Major Moulds says the charity’s current position on the reforms is not because of pressure from Clubs NSW.
A Club Australia spokesman says community clubs have continued to support the Salvation Army’s great work with donations and access to premises for fundraising, despite its stance on pokies reform.
He says NSW community clubs donated $503,000 to the Salvation Army in the past financial year.
Mr Wilkie has rejected Opposition claims the reforms do not have enough support to pass Parliament.
Opposition Leader Tony Abbott says a lack of support from regional independent MPs means the changes would not become law and should be abandoned.
However, Mr Wilkie says he believes the reforms do have enough support.
“I remain as confident as ever that these harm minimisation measures will be brought in; that in fact, the Parliament will by May next year pass into law the necessary legislation to force poker machine venues throughout the country to implement these poker machines reforms,” he said.
Feeling the heat
The Government must introduce the gambling reforms next year under a deal with Mr Wilkie.
Mr Wilkie says he will walk away from supporting the Government if it does not make an effort to pass the laws.
He says he knows government MPs are feeling the heat over the reforms.
“Full marks to my parliamentary colleagues who are having to go out into their electorates and sell these reforms,” he said.
“It is difficult, I understand that.
“It is clear that these reforms are unpopular in some parts of the community, and the industry is capitalising on that and it is making for some tough times for some government MPs in their electorates.
“But I am confident the Government would be aware that these reforms are overwhelmingly popular.”