State treasurers deliver budgets each year in a long technical document wrapped up in political announcements of shiny highlights. The nasty details get buried way down – like the persistence of gambling tax revenue as a major income source, and the way Treasury keep relying on increased revenue. This year, we called out the NSW Treasurer and government over the link between increased tax revenue and increased losses.
Increased taxes means there must be increased losses. Although we know that gambling harm includes much more than just financial loss, there's no doubt that if more money is lost through pokies and bookmakers, we can be sure that means increased harm. This is particularly a problem when the same government planning on increased losses has a gambling strategic plan that aims at zero harm from gambling. These goals – more tax, less harm – are obviously not simultaneously possible.
Tim Costello caught up with Stu Cameron (CEO&Superintendent, Wesley Mission) and Simon Hansford (Moderator, Uniting Church NSW/ACT) to talk about what should be in the budget. They called for the social cost of gambling to be spelled out in the budget papers, and for a reversal of this annual increase in tax revenue.
Tim Costello wrote to every MP with a link to this video discussion and only 3 responded. Janelle Saffin (ALP, Lismore) replied, saying there was a limit to what she can do in Opposition. We’ll be contacting her to talk about the many things opposition MPs can do to advance gambling reform – like raising the issue in Party Room, mentioning reforms in local media and sharing our posts on their socials.
Jamie Parker (Greens, Balmain) also thanked Tim for the letter, and that was followed by Cate Faehrmann (Greens, Upper House) asking questions of the Finance Minister, Damien Tudehope. While the Minister avoided answering the question of how increased tax revenue was consistent with a strategy of achieving zero harm from gambling, he revealed his personal knowledge of the deep harm gambling can cause. We’ll be following up with all MPs to get them to put politics aside to address this significant issue that so many of them know about first hand.
A starting point was some of our supporters writing to their local MP, pointing out these problems with the Budget. They asked their MPs to mention gambling reform when commenting on the Budget’s impact on their local communities – we’re hoping to hear back that some of those MPs do step up and make statements.
The Alliance also shared the satirical, but true, ad made by Collins+Partners for Gruen, which they kindly have allowed us to use, and our supporters to share widely. It makes our point - state governments cannot commit to gambling reform while they rely on increasing tax revenue