NSW Labor will not change its gambling reform package to cut a deal with crossbenchers, despite warnings that a tougher policy is non-negotiable if the party is forced to clinch minority government.
Opposition Leader Chris Minns said he is unwilling to make any changes to his gambling reform package in the countdown to March 25, insisting Labor’s position is comprehensive enough.
“We’re two weeks to go. We’ve made clear that our comprehensive plan in relation to gambling is what we’re taking to the people of NSW,” he said.
Key independents Alex Greenwich and Greg Piper, as well as the Greens and teal Macquarie Street-hopefuls have all said transitioning to mandatory cashless gaming on NSW poker machines would be central to securing their vote in a minority government.
However, Labor’s treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey on Monday shot down any hope that negotiation would be on the table for crossbench MPs.
“We’re not doing any deals with any crossbenchers to form government,” he said.
‘We’re not doing any deals with crossbenchers to form government.’
Daniel Mookhey, Labor’s treasury spokesman
“We’re campaigning every day for a majority Labor government, and we’re asking the people of NSW to give us a majority, so we can begin the hard work … as well as implementing Labor’s policy on gambling.”
Under Labor’s plan, clubs with pokies will be banned from donating to political parties, responsible gaming officers will be introduced to venues and an expanded machine forfeiture program will take more machines out of circulation.
However, in response to a NSW Crime Commission recommendation to mandate cashless gaming, Labor has committed to a 500-machine trial, insisting more evidence is needed for the technology.
Premier Dominic Perrottet has made compulsory statewide cashless gaming a key pillar of his campaign for a fourth term of government, despite clear opposition from industry and lobby groups.
The premier on Monday said he would seek advice about whether an inquiry was needed to examine the political influence of the powerful Clubs NSW, after outgoing Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello called for the probe.
In comments to an upcoming episode of the ABC’s on Monday night, Dominello said ClubsNSW was akin to the National Rifle Association in America and said an inquiry was needed “to make sure that MPs are not cowed into moving a certain way because of this powerful industry”.
Reverend Tim Costello, from the Alliance for Gambling Reform, also routinely likens the pokies lobby in Australia to the US guns lobby for the way it deploys its influence.
Perrottet on Monday said he had not experienced or witnessed inappropriate influence by ClubsNSW over government, but maintained that he would not cower to vested interests of any issue.
“People will have opinions on public policy all the time and I respect that. But if I disagree with them, I’ll tell them so. Clearly Clubs NSW disagrees with me in relation to pokies reform, but I’m not here for ClubsNSW, I’m here to look after the people of our state,” he said.
“Clubs came to me with their view about cashless gaming and I said, ‘we’re doing it, and we’re doing it because it’s right’.”
Minns earlier said he had not experienced any concerning influence wielded by ClubsNSW over MPs that could be linked to the activities of the NRA.
“That’s not my experience, but I haven’t seen these comments. And obviously, I’d like to see them in context before I make a comment.”
ClubsNSW has been contacted for comment, however in a statement to the ABC the lobby group said it looked forward to “working constructively with whomever forms government after the election on sensible, evidence-based reform measures”.
The statement also said ClubsNSW executives previously attended two-week public policy advocacy courses run by the American University’s public affairs and advocacy institute at which the NRA was present.
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