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Marc My Words… United Future and the Gambling Bill

Marc My Words…
From Marc Alexander MP. 12 September 2003
United Future NZ-Christchurch Supplement

United Future and the Gambling Bill

In recent days, United Future has been assailed from all sides as lacking commonsense; betraying its supporters and being anti-family because of the role it played in securing the passage through Parliament of the Gambling Bill.

I’d like to take this opportunity to lay out the correct position of the party and to dispel some of the myths and dispute the untruths that have been propagated by our political opponents.

Some critics appear to be motivated by a visceral dislike of all forms of gambling and therefore they perceive that the Gambling Bill was all about banning gambling.

This was never the case. The Bill arose from a long-standing review of the whole industry and was designed to regulate gambling, not ban it. United Future took the pragmatic and commonsense view that we should deal with reality – what is – not idealism – which is what is hoped for.

In following that view, we sought at all times to ensure that when gambling occurs, then any damage caused to communities should be minimised as much as possible.

In line with that logic, United Future looked at internet gambling – which already occurs in New Zealand and which cannot be prevented without cutting New Zealand off electronically from the rest of the world – and decided that at least some of the money which now all goes overseas should be retained in New Zealand and used for the benefit of the New Zealand community. Money which currently fills the pockets of overseas providers of internet gambling will, upon enactment of the Bill, be a source of revenue for the gambling levy, and so be part of the solution to dealing with gambling problems.

Incidentally, it should be noted it was the Lotteries Commission, not United Future, that sought to run internet gambling because the Commission said it was losing income through not being involved.

It may suit the political purposes of the Greens and the left of the Labour Party to castigate United Future, but it was United Future that moved to ensure New Zealand’s problem gambling programmes would benefit from Internet gambling.

It is ironic that the Greens and the Labour left criticise United Future for being ‘anti family’. These are, after all, the same people who voted for increased prostitution and promote greater use of cannabis by our young people!

United Future has been berated for supporting the establishment of a Gaming Commission to oversee the industry, instead of allowing the Ministry of Health to set, collect and spend levies on the industry in order to fund problem gambling programmes.

We see the Commission, with support from the gambling industry and healthcare providers as independent from political interference with transparent accounting practices in the treatment of problem gambling. The Ministry of Health will be properly scrutinised on both the levies and the options best suited to effectively treat problem gambling.

The Green plan was to see the levy swallowed up by the health bureaucracy, distributed by anonymous Wellington-based committees, with no obligation to help the communities from where the money came. For all we know, the money would go to liberating gay whales.

One only has to look at tobacco taxes that are promoted by the Ministry, and yet only a very small proportion is spent on anti-smoking measures, to see the danger of allowing the Wellington bureaucracy to get its hands on the gambling levy.

Much has been made of the attack on United Future by Major Campbell Roberts, of the New Zealand Council of Christian Social Services.

My leader, Peter Dunne, sent Major Roberts a lengthy and reasoned rationale for United Future’s position on the Gambling Bill.

Major Campbell, as is his right, disagreed and said so publicly. I have to say his response was a bitter, personal and extremely vicious attack on Mr Dunne and the other seven United Future MPs.

Nowhere does Major Roberts, an admirer of the Prime Minister, deliver the same volume of vitriol for the 52 Labour MPs who voted for the Bill. One must suspect the good Major’s partisan motives.

I am happy for my colleagues and me to be judged over the term of this Parliament for promoting the Families Commission; for influencing Labour in a more commonsense direction in its social policies; for agitating for better tax policies that benefit New Zealand businesses and families; for battling against the spread of prostitution and drug-taking in our communities; for promoting victims’ rights and much more.

It is deplorable that we are being judged on myths and untruths promoted by opportunistic political opponents.


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