The Coalition on Tuesday introduced legislation which would repeal reforms including a requirement that machines be equipped with pre-commitment technology. Photo: Sally Lee
The Greens are urging Labor to block Abbott government plans to repeal the Gillard government's poker machine reforms, warning that no future federal government will have the courage to tackle problem gambling.
The Coalition on Tuesday introduced legislation which would repeal reforms including a requirement that machines be equipped with pre-commitment technology, which could in the future be used to require players to set the amount of money they are prepared to lose before playing.
Measures requiring electronic warnings to be displayed on machines, the creation of a national gambling regulator and a $250-a-day cap on automatic teller machine withdrawals in gaming venues would also be abolished.
Labor's reforms, which passed Parliament in November 2012, were criticised as a watered-down version of the changes it promised independent MP Andrew Wilkie in return for his support in the hung parliament.
Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, Minister for Social Services Kevin Andrews said the government wanted to take a new approach to problem gambling which would reduce bureaucracy and duplication between Commonwealth, state and territory governments.
Labor allowed the bill to pass the House of Representatives on Tuesday, but is yet to finalise the position it will take on the changes in the Senate.
Shadow Minister for Families Jenny Macklin said on Tuesday Labor would consult stakeholders but flagged it would move amendments in the upper house.
Shadow Treasurer Chris Bowen told ABC radio on Wednesday gambling was a "real social problem" in areas represented by Labor MPs, but the party wanted to work with clubs and the gambling industry to tackle it.
"Labor MPs right across the country have a commitment to dealing with problem gambling but we are entitled to dealing with it in a policy development sense in our own way," Mr Bowen said.
Greens Senator Richard Di Natale said while Labor's reforms had been "modest", abandoning them would be a "huge step backwards".
"We need to see Labor take a stand against this brutal government because once this legislation is gone, that's it," Senator Di Natale told ABC radio.
"We won't see a federal government any time in the future tackle this reform. We can't afford for the federal government to vacate the space," he said.
Mr Wilkie said he hoped there would be "enough people of good heart" in the Senate to stop the "inequitable and ill-considered" repeal of the reforms.
Mr Wilkie told Parliament on Tuesday the Coalition's preferred approach of voluntary pre-commitment – as opposed to his own preference for mandatory pre-commitment – was a "completely worthless technology" which would not be effective.