Should Chris Minns prevail over Dominic Perrottet in the NSW election next month the Labor Party will control every government on the mainland of Australia. Michael West reports on the looming election and Perrottet’s pokies wedge.
It’s no done-deal but the likelihood of a Labor victory in NSW when voters go to the polls on March 25 is high. The polls put Labor ahead, variously, by 10 points over the Coalition.
It’s shaping up to mimic the federal election where Labor won but the vote for Greens and independents rose. How will the Teals fare in NSW? It’s difficult to tell at this point but the trend is their friend amid rising voter despair over corruption of the two-party system and inaction on climate.
Unlike Opposition leader Peter Dutton federally and his Liberal peers in Victoria and elsewhere, Dominic Perrottet has confused the Liberal Party brand somewhat by actually standing for something.
By pledging to phase in a cashless gaming card for poker machines the Premier has wedged Minns who is playing a small target game to get Labor back into office after 12 years in the political wilderness.
Although the major parties are pretty close on most policy fronts – both giving the nod to Santos gas fracking at Narrabri, both pro coal and so forth, neither with a significant policy agenda – Minns has the advantage of running against a tired Coalition; also a Labor brand nationwide for competent government.
Anthony Albanese, Annastacia Palaszczuk, Daniel Andrews, Mark McGowan and Peter Malinauskas have all proven to be effective leaders thus far. This has to help Chris Minns, and add to Coalition despair. While conservatives baulk at the Coalition’s unpopularity, particularly with voters under 40, their media allies in the Murdoch press are blaming everybody from young professional women to wokeness.
Everybody but themselves.
The reality is incompetence and a vacuum of policy and ideas. Standing for nothing; nothing except Big Business and power for power’s sake.
How will the Teals do statewide? They are hopeful but certainly not over-confident. We spoke with the Manly independent candidate this week Joeline Hackman. She talked about her platforms: integrity and transparency in politics, no new fossil fuel projects, poker machine reform, health and education, many of the same concerns which had inspired federal Teal counterpart Zali Steggall to run for office.
When pressed however as to what the incumbent Liberal member stood for, Hackman was tactful but also unable to identify one strong policy platform.
To his credit, although quite a way to the right ideologically, Perrottet has countervailed the Liberal trend towards standing for nothing, joining Albanese in supporting The Voice, being more reasonable on climate than anticipated, drawing the ire of his own right-wing faction by – heaven forbid – insisting on getting more women up for pre-selections, and leaving Labor for dead on pokies reform.
Yet the wedge pokies does not appear to be paying off, at least yet.
This is a pity because it could force Chris Minns into action. His pokies proposal is feeble, advocating merely a trial of a cashless gaming card.
Make no mistake this is a crisis. If you told somebody these numbers a generation ago, they would not have believed you.
Contemplate these figures: NSW has 40% of the world’s poker machines, player losses (pubs and clubs profits) are nearing $8bn a year or $1,000 for every resident in the state, the vast bulk of it comes from problem gamblers.
The social cost is immense, surely a drag on economic activity too. Then there is the black money. The NSW Crime Commission task force found a large chunk of the annual $100bn in pokies turnover was laundered money.
The policy failure is catastrophic. In their defence, the clubs claim they give back to the community but MWM research of the top 20 clubs – some approaching $1bn in revenue over the past ten years – found that just 3-4% of pokies income per member went to “community” causes.
The bulk of their revenue, usually more than 80%, derives from pokies. How did successive NSW governments allow the rise of hundreds of casinos, rampant money laundering and a crisis of addiction and social despair?
Michael West established Michael West Media in 2016 to focus on journalism of high public interest, particularly the rising power of corporations over democracy. West was formerly a journalist and editor with Fairfax newspapers, a columnist for News Corp and even, once, a stockbroker.