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Eight Steps Forward On Problem Gambling

Eight Steps Forward On Problem Gambling

Speech Notes For Third Reading of the Gambling Bill

HON. Matt Robson Progressive Deputy Leader

Mr Speaker,

As I noted in this House earlier this week, it is with a sense of both pride and disappointment that the Progressive Party is supporting the Gambling Bill.

The disappointment is due to the fact that - despite the three centre-left parties holding 63 seats in this Parliament - we've not got as much to celebrate in the battle against problem gambling as we ought to have had given our absolute majority here.

The Progressives' position is perhaps best summarized by Richard Northey, a former member of Parliament and now chair of the Problem Gambling Foundation.

Mr Northey says the Gambling Bill before us represents "eight steps forward" because it provides a tougher regime to control gambling than the present law of this land. That is why the Progressives support the Bill. We don’t believe in throwing the baby out with the bath water.

In the last Parliament, when the first Clark-Anderton minority coalition relied on the Greens as our Supporting Party on confidence and supply, I was confident we could have made ten steps forward to tackle problem gambling.

Like the Progressives, the Greens know problem gambling is a clearly identifiable cause of poverty and misery to some of our most vulnerable families.

There is no doubt that the values and concerns of most New Zealanders includes an intelligent compassion to protect the children of problem gamblers, to protect the spouses of problem gamblers and to enhance safer communities. The three centre left parties in Parliament are here to represent the values of most New Zealanders and we have a majority between us in Parliament.

But sometime earlier this year the Green Party walked out of its negotiations with Labour on the then Responsible Gambling Bill.

The Greens walked away because they weren't getting everything that they wanted and now vow to bring the Bill down altogether.

They would rather that the eight steps forward being made here today not be made at all just so they can have the emotional satisfaction of putting out a press statement accusing Labour of being – I quote – "arrogant".

But Labour is the only party in this House they could ever possibly enter into a future coalition government with. The responsibility MPs have to their constituents and voters is to not walk away and leave a vacuum.

The Green members have been an Opposition Party since their inception as a Parliamentary party, just like ACT. And just like ACT that is a conscious choice because the opportunities have been there but rejected!

The Greens could have entered into government at any time over the past four years.

Indeed Labour and the Greens have the numbers between them to form a Majority Government – a luxury neither the first Clark-Anderton coalition nor the Labour Progressive coalition today have ever had – but still the Greens choose to be over there.

The honourable member, Sue Bradford, talked in this House yesterday of the arrogance of Labour – a party that won over 41% of the vote last election – two times more than any other single party.

Yet when the Greens walk out of negotiations with Labour, Labour and the Progressives have no choice but to find at least one other Opposition Party to allow us to enact legislation.

In other words, to make eight steps forward on Problem Gambling – as we are – we've had to turn to a conservative party: In this case United Future.

That is a party led by the Honourable Peter Dunne who was elected as a Labour MP in 1993 but in the subsequent Parliamentary term somehow ended up in Jim Bolger's National-United coalition Cabinet! That is how conservative they are! Dare I suggest to the Greens, that perhaps your own position on this bill has been arrogant. Arrogant means having or showing an exaggerated opinion of one's own merit or ability.

Surely the test of any party's merit or ability is the success they have in getting their policies actually enacted and representing the people that voted for them.

People voted Green to get tough action on problem gambling and to promote the environment.

How much will the Greens ever be able to deliver to their voters when even when they have the numbers to form a Majority Coalition with Labour without the need of any other party they still can't deliver.

The Progressives, in conjunction with organizations tackling poverty, have serious concerns about Internet gambling. We have accepted the assurances that this will be monitored closely, but we ourselves will also be watching carefully.

We want to cut, then cap, the number of pokies around New Zealand and are disappointed the conservative United Future Party didn't vote with us when I introduced an SOP on the issue.

But I do thank the Greens for voting with the Progressive SOP.

We in the Progressives reject note acceptors to make it easier for problem gamblers to throw their families' dollar notes into gaming machines.

We thank the Greens for supporting us. But, again, we wonder how United Future will justify its stance on gambling when they are supposed to be pro-family. However I also note that United Future does not support the Progressives’ pro-family four weeks minimum annual leave Bill. Apparently the only families they wish to strengthen are rich families.

I give notice to Parliament, Standing Orders don't permit me to introduce a Private Member's Bill to reform gambling laws this year – but from next year I will gamble on the Private Member's Ballot lottery to get a Bill up that really will be pro-families and do more to protect families from problem gambles.

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