Wilkie claims MPs corrupted by pokie links
Poker machines. Photo: John Woudstra
Independent MP Andrew Wilkie has claimed in Parliament that some MPs have been corrupted by their links to poker machine businesses.
During a fiery debate on a government bill requiring poker machines to provide punters with the option of presetting a limit, Mr Wilkie said too many MPs were more concerned with the fate of pokies venues than with lives destroyed by problem gambling.
''Any number of members throughout this place don't like these bills, and many members will indeed vote against them because those members are effectively on the payroll of the industry on account of the fat donations they've received already, or have been promised,'' Mr Wilkie told parliament.
Andrew Wilkie Photo: AFR
''In my opinion, deputy speaker, that's corruption. Not of course in the criminal sense, but as every bit as dodgy as bags full of cash changing hands in some corrupt developing country.''
He said ''politicians on the take'' were just one part of the story, with the ''real villains... the greedy poker machine barons''.
He told the parliament the pokies industry lied and bullied to protect their profits which were ''fleeced'' from the unfortunate.
Asked to withdraw by Liberal MP Steven Ciobo, Mr Wilkie declined on the grounds that he did not level any accusation at any specific MP and he was alleging corruption but not in the ''criminal sense.''
Mr Ciobo called Mr Wilkie's speech one of the most ''extraordinary'' he had ever heard in the parliament.
''Not on the basis of its soundness... but on the basis of an approach that delivered a speech so completely filled with sanctimony, moral superiority and an attitude that if you are not with me you are part of some evil cohort destined to ruin the lives of thousands, tens of thousands of Australians,'' Mr Ciobo said.
He said it was a ''shameful and disgusting comment to make''.
Mr Wilkie told of the story of a problem gambler who, after losing all his money on Crown Casino's pokies, went upstairs to his free room – which he got as a ''good customer'' – and killed himself.
In January, the Prime Minister reneged on her deal with Mr Wilkie for a national system for a system forcing punters to preset their limit. Mr Wilkie now reluctantly supports the watered down bill.
The pokies industry, which ran a vocal campaign against the original reforms, says the new reforms are too difficult to meet under current deadlines.
The Opposition shares the industry's position and is not backing the bill.
While there is a long list of speakers, mainly from the Coalition, there continues to be negotiation on who will support the bill, in particular several amendments put forward by the government, NSW independent Tony Windsor and the Greens.