FEDERAL Independent MP Andrew Wilkie says he remains optimistic his proposed gambling reforms are on track to be introduced to parliament by the federal government.
Mr Wilkie met Western Australian crossbencher Tony Crook in Perth on Tuesday to discuss his poker machine reforms, the details of which are being negotiated with Prime Minister Julia Gillard.
While Mr Crook remained uncommitted to the reforms, Mr Wilkie said he was confident about his deal with Labor, forged after the 2010 election in return for his support of the minority government.
“It’s not dead in the water,” Mr Wilkie told reporters in Perth on Tuesday.
“The government wants reform.”
The Tasmanian MP met Ms Gillard on Sunday amid claims Labor was looking at reneging on its promise to introduce the legislation by May 2012. The proposed reforms have provoked fierce opposition from licensed clubs and concerns from some Labor MPs in marginal seats.
But Mr Wilkie said on Tuesday he had no doubt the reforms would go ahead.
Ms Gillard told reporters in Melbourne she would not engage in “running commentary” and that her discussions with Mr Wilkie were continuing.
Under the deal Mr Wilkie struck with Labor, gamblers would be required to set a limit on how much they could lose on high-stakes poker machines.
Alternatively, high-bet poker machines could be reprogrammed to cap losses at $120 an hour, rather than $1200 an hour, and low-bet machines would not require pre-commitment cards.
Mr Wilkie said he would make a public statement once he had the issue of gambling reform mostly resolved, which is expected to be by the end of this week.
“I have no reason to think mandatory pre-commitment is off the table,” he said.
The Green said this week the government would have an easier time convincing the public of the merits of $1 bet limits, rather than mandatory pre-commitments, to deal with problem gambling.
“The $1 bet option is much easier to promote … I think the prime minister should take it up and run with it,” Senator Bob Brown said on Monday.
Mr Crook said on Tuesday he would not decide whether to support the controversial poker machine reforms until he had read the legislation.
“I certainly haven’t made my mind up at all though,” he told AAP.
Labor has taken a battering in electorates with a high number of poker machines following a concerted campaign by Clubs Australia against Mr Wilkie’s proposal.
But a prominent advertising executive has joined forces with a top spin doctor to offer their support in countering opposition to the proposed pokies reforms.
Neil Lawrence, who was responsible for Labor’s 2007 election advertising campaign, will join corporate communications specialist Sue Cato to “add balance to the pokie reform debate”.
“I have no direct connection to the issue but strong convictions about this,” Mr Lawrence told AAP on Tuesday.
The pair, who would work for nothing, have had talks with anti-pokies campaigner and World Vision chief Tim Costello over how to fund an advertising campaign.
Mr Lawrence said Clubs Australia had produced an effective campaign but their arguments were “misleading, thin and one-sided”.
“If the cost of saving lives and homes is a little less money for the odd soccer club when they can probably get it elsewhere, then so be it,” he said.
But opposition frontbencher Greg Hunt said Mr Wilkie should no longer support the government because it would abandon mandatory pre-commitment.
“The government promised mandatory pre-commitment and the one thing I can bet on is that they won’t deliver mandatory pre-commitment or their promise,” Mr Hunt said. – AAP