Friday, November 12, 2010

Northcote independent backs local pokies appeal win

Media release

An independent running in the key inner-Melbourne seat of Northcote has welcomed a VCAT win against excessive pokies by a local resident fighting an application for 30 machines at a pub on the edge of the electorate.

"This application slipped through Darebin council under delegation to a council officer and shows that pokies can be approved in inappropriate numbers and locations, despite claimed controls by a Government addicted to their revenue.

"We shouldn't need VCAT action by community-spirited people like Preston resident Susan Rennie to stop these socially devastating machines, but we clearly do and we should be grateful to her," Darren Lewin-Hill said today.

"They're convenient, well located and easy to use, but they're not community services, they're nearly 1000 machines spread across 15 venues in Darebin that took more than $87 million out of local people's pockets in 2009-2010, according to Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation figures," Lewin-Hill said.

Darebin has a higher than average concentration of pokies per 1000 adults in the population (for Victoria), but it could even be lower and still do a lot of damage. It depends on where the machines are located, particularly relative to disadvantaged populations, among whom gambling is a big problem.

"The potential for adverse social and economic impacts, including proximity to public housing, was an important reason this application was knocked back on appeal of council's decision," he said.

However, media reports have suggested that numbers of machines could actually increase - even in capped areas - due to a review considering increasing population.

Mr Lewin-Hill said that wasn't good enough and the government needed to take stronger action on pokies to discourage people from gambling more than they can afford - including through tougher restrictions on machines. He also said that every member of government should be open to scrutiny, including by undertaking to appear at any future upper house gambling inquiries that might be convened.

"Grave concern over the social and economic impacts of pokies is something I share with South Australian Independent Senator Nick Xenophon and the new independent for the Tasmanian seat of Denison, Andrew Wilkie. If I am elected as a State independent for Northcote, I'll make action on pokies a priority in looking after my constituents" he said.

"With the State poll tightening and the chance of a hung parliament, the potential for independents to strongly represent constituents without the constraints of party politics is better than ever. Better representation, deeper consideration of policies, and accountability of government are valuable things that independents can contribute," he said.

Darren Lewin-Hill
0404 526 555

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