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The Weekend Neos Kosmos : 16 July 2016
DIGITAL.NEOSKOSMOS.COM THE WEEKEND NEOS KOSMOS | SATURDAY 16 JULY 2016 3 NEWS Xenophon re-ignites gambling reform agenda Crossbench pressure in new parliament revives call for pokie limits The new Coalition government is facing a head-on clash with independent senator Nick Xenophon and other crossbench MPs and senators over a proposal for poker machine bets to be limited to a maximum of $1 and sweeping bans on gambling advertising. Xenophon and Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wilkie have pledged to re-introduce legislation to tackle problem gambling; legislation that failed to materialise in the 2010 hung parliament despite a promise by then prime minister Julia Gillard. Joined by anti-gambling campaigner Tim Costello, the independent MPs announced their intentions at a press conference in Melbourne on Thursday. "This is an issue that will not go away," said Xenophon. "There are 400,000 people with a severe gambling addiction or well on the way to getting one. We are here to say that we will be planning a whole series of measures, both in the parliament and outside the parliament to deal with the issue of gambling reform." The South Australian senator added that the proliferation of sports betting advertising on TV would also be a target. "So many parents have approached all of us to say they are appalled their seven and eight and ten-year-old children are talking about the odds of a game rather than the game itself. Georganas generations: Steve with his wife Wendy and the clan at home in Adelaide. in that nasty budget in 2014 when they made $500m worth of cuts to health," he says. "People don't want any meddling with Medicare and this is an issue I'll be very vocal on. Hindmarsh has one of the oldest electorates in the country, with 20 per cent over 65, and I've heard them loud and clear." Beyond the cut and thrust of the central policy issues, Georganas says he's looking forward to once again playing an active role on the federal stage for issues that affect Greek Australians nationwide, as well as cultural diversity issues. The Parliamentary Friends of Greece group and the recently-established Parliamentary Friends of the Parthenon group will find him a staunch ally. Perhaps above all, Steve Georganas' return as an MP is welcome at a time when the world, not just Australia, is experiencing a deficit in people's respect for political representatives; a world where distrust stalks traditional political processes and positions, and in that vacuum, extreme views emerge and are taking root. At a time when One Nation is on the rise in Australia, Donald Trump is the Republican nominee in November's US presidential election, and the right-wing of one political party in the UK has delivered Britain's future isolation from the EU - carried on a wave of whipped-up xenophobia and misanthropy - there's never been a better time for an Australian parliament to shine as a beacon of stable, collectively-responsible and compassionate unity. "It's us politicians who have to make that connect to the public," says Georganas. "It's up to us to show where the new economies are, to not brush people aside. Things are getting out of hand and we have to somehow rope this stuff in. That's the job of a politician: to make things better." Steve Georganas is back where he belongs. "There is a specific exemption that applies to gambling ads during sports broadcasts, which is an anomaly, and that loophole needs to be shut down in accordance with overwhelming community sentiment in relation to this." Andrew Wilkie told reporters that the new parliament presented "the perfect opportunity to put gambling reform back on the national agenda and to finally achieve meaningful action". "We will be introducing legislation to rein in the harm caused by poker machines, including by implementing the Productivity Commission's recommendations of $1 maximum bets." Mr Wilkie withdrew his support in 2012 for Julia Gillard's minority Labor government after he said she had breached an agreement signed after the 2010 election to introduce measures to deal with problem gambling. The Productivity Commission has estimated that gam- PHOTO: AAP VIA AP/DAN PELED. bling losses in Australia totalled more than $19 billion − an average of $1,500 per gambler. About 600,000 Australians, or four per cent of the adult population, are reported to gamble at least weekly and about 15 per cent of those were problem gamblers. The commission has put the social cost of problem gambling − and particularly gambling on 'pokies' − as at least $4.7 billion a year and has said evidence showed "strong grounds" to lower the poker machine bet limit. Varoufakis advises Turnbull on debt Former SYRIZA minister appeals for change of attitude on refugees Yanis Varoufakis, Greece's much maligned/celebrated/ misunderstood/visionary former finance minister (delete as appropriate), offered his thoughts on the priorities for Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull this week, as the Coalition embarks on its leadership of Australia's 45th parliament. Speaking to the ABC, the globe-trotting Varoufakis, who spent the 1990s teaching economics at the University of Sydney, said Mr Turnbull needed to "overcome the fixation with public debt [and] concentrate on the real issue: private debt that has gone beyond the pale". The ex-SYRIZA minister said private debt was "maintaining a bubble and the deception and the illusion of 'the lucky country'". Mr Varoufakis urged Mr Turnbull to "concentrate on how to start making things again, instead of shuffling things around while private debt is exploding". Turning his attention to Australia's immigration policy, Varoufakis said that the new Coalition government had a duty to review and reform its asylum seekers policy. "Australia in the 1990s led the world into misanthropy regarding refugees. The 'Australian solution' has now been transplanted to my neck of the woods in Europe," he said. "Maybe Australia could start a renaissance in this realm by altering its attitude to refugees. I'm hoping the tail will wag the dog once more, but this time in a beneficial manner." PHOTO: AAP VIA EPA/ROBERT JAEGER.
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