When the wheels have fallen off….

There is a phenomenon where people who lose a leg can still feel it. It’s call the phantom leg. The mind is telling you it is still there, when it is not.  Addiction is similar..the mind tells you you are in control, where in fact, the way things are, you are not.

“My name’s John and I’m a compulsive gambler…” I looked out at sea of faces. It was my first Gamblers Anonymous meeting, and this was large one, about 50 people. They had gathered to ‘celebrate’ some occasion so there were people from many other GA groups. 99% were there because of a poker machine ‘addiction’.

At this time I was an ‘inmate’ of a rehabilitation unit. I had been there a week, and, as part of the program had to attend the meeting.

After I had ‘told my story’ and listened to others I thought “How in the hell did I end up in this situation?”  “What brought me to the stage where I chose to enter a rehabilitation hospital?”

“What the hell was wrong with me?”

It was a Wednesday, in June 1999, that I took myself to the local GP.  I had reached ‘rock bottom’. I just couldn’t live with myself any longer.

For years I had ‘enjoyed’ in playing poker machines. Mostly it was with friends but increasingly became a solitary endeavour. I had lost thousands. Spent a $5000 work bonus in 2 days. I had become a liar and a thief. As a person, was the complete antithesis of all that I knew was right.

So, after seeing the GP and making my ‘reservation’ at the clinic I went to the local club and spent whatever money I had available and ‘checked in’ on the Friday.

So, back to the meeting. For the first time I was with people who had ‘been there, done that’.  who understood the misery of a gambling addiction. Some had experienced worse, some not so. But generally the stories all contained a common theme – the slow, sometimes rapid descent to a place, an unimaginable hell, where death seems a good option.

For the gambling addict, particularly those in the final stages, there becomes this overwhelming need to punish yourself. You know you’re not going to ‘win’ (although that hope lies at the back of the mind), but you also  know if you do ‘win’ you’ll be back again… to lose. I used to go to the club/pub, but would always leave the majority of the cash I had available in the car. A deluded sense of self control. Of course there would be a number of trips back to the car…and then the nearest ATM…and when the money ran out, the hatred of self for what I had done…often waking at 3am, sick in the stomach, wondering if the craziness will ever end.

Well it did end for me. But I know for others, the craziness and misery is either beginning or continuing.

I was a poker machine player for 30 years before I reached my nadir. Mostly in that time I was under some ‘control’. At times I would go months without playing, and in the days of single feed machines, although it was possible, you need a lot of time to do damage. I will say, with the advent of multi-line and note accepting machines losing lots of money became a whole lot easier!

The suggestion that voluntary pre-commitment will work is wrong. When I was ‘in action’ I wouldn’t have wanted to take such action…in fact I would have resented the suggested intrusion.  You see I always thought I was in control. I see things more clearly now.

Mandatory  commitment won’t work because, if you have an addiction there is ALWAYS a way around the law.

To my mind, this is an issue that can never be completely resolved. RBT won’t stop some people from drink/driving but it certainly had an impact on the number of road deaths. Everyone hated the restriction being placed on them. Clubs and pubs cried foul at the potential loss of revenue, but hey, it has ‘saved’ a lot lives, and clubs and pubs still exist. And we tend to accept it now.

So I suppose it’s down to harm minimization. I would suggest:

  1. Maximum single cash feed of $50 (this will also impede money laundering, which is rife in clubs and casinos) You can put another $50 in only when you’ve lost the first.
  2. A limit of $1 per bet with ‘jackpots’ adjusted accordingly.
  3. Remove linked ‘jackpots’ , they are the ‘impossible’ dream
  4. Remove all ‘features’ and restrict line plays to three.

You’ll still be able to lose heaps but it will take a lot longer. Will the club and pubs lose? Maybe a little.  Will it help problem gamblers?  It will limit the damage, and like RBT, even save some lives.


This was written in November 2011. I held it back hoping that some government action might be taken in the meantime. It seems those with the power of money prevail.


Guess what? The Liberals want an election!

There’s nothing unusual about this comment:

The federal government has accused the opposition of “arrogantly” getting ready to ignore the advice of Labor’s expert panel on asylum seeker policy – even before its report is handed down.

The panel, headed by former defence chief Angus Houston, is expected this week to suggest how the border-protection deadlock could be broken.

But opposition immigration spokesperson Scott Morrison on Tuesday said the coalition was standing by its policy of processing asylum seekers on Nauru, reintroducing temporary protection visas and getting the navy to turn back boats when it’s safe to do so.

In a speech to the Lowy Institute in Sydney, Mr Morrison said the expert panel should adopt the same approach, or alternatively recommend an election.

Yep, nothing unusual. The Liberals are indeed arrogant, they are again making noises about ‘boat people’ being an election issue, and – sigh – they want another election. How many is that, the number of times they’ve called for one?

I thought I’d try counting.

  1. Feb 26, 2011: Tony Abbott calls for election on carbon tax.
  2. March 9, 2011: From the Liberal Party website, Tony Abbott wants an election.
  3. March 18, 2011: Abbott mocks Labor over ties to climate ‘extremists’ (and wants another election).
  4. March 23, 2011: Abbott calls for new election on carbon tax.
  5. May 11, 2011: Joe Hockey says Coalition will try to force early election (surprise, surprise).
  6. May 12, 2011: Budget lacks legitimacy and integrity: Tony Abbott (and he demands election).
  7. May 15, 2011: On ABC Insiders Abbott calls for an election.
  8. May 16, 2011: On Tony Abbott’s own web page . . . he calls for an election.
  9. May 30, 2011: Julia Gillard listens to actors but not voters on carbon tax, says Tony Abbott (who wants an election).
  10. May 30, 2011: Tony Abbott, Greg Hunt say Julia Gillard should go to election, avoid carbon tax ad campaign.
  11. June 6, 2011: Tony Abbott says PM doesn’t have mandate to introduce carbon tax (plus he wants an election).
  12. June 12, 2011: From the Liberal Party website, Tony Abbott wants an election.
  13. June 20, 2011: Abbott calls for people’s vote on carbon tax.
  14. June 30, 2011: Tony Abbott calls for an immediate election after ‘the experiment that failed’ (referring to a minority government).
  15. July 2, 2011: Abbott interviewed in Port Lincoln. He calls for an election.
  16. July 11, 2011: Pollution tax won’t cut emissions: Abbott (and he calls for an election).
  17. July 13, 2011: Julia Gillard and Tony Abbott face angry public in carbon tax pitch to the nation (and Abbott calls for an election).
  18. July 17, 2011: From the Liberal Party website, Tony Abbott wants an election.
  19. Aug 16, 2011: Tony Abbott joins carbon tax rally to call for fresh election.
  20. Sept 4, 2011: Abbott calls for election as PM digs in on leadership.
  21. Oct 13, 2011: Scott Morrison calls for an election because of the blocked Malaysia deal.
  22. Oct 16, 2011: A big week in politics (and Abbott wants an election).
  23. Nov 2, 2011: Abbott renews call for election on migration policy.
  24. Jan 24, 2012: Opposition frontbencher Christopher Pyne is urging Prime Minister Julia Gillard to call a federal election.
  25. Feb 3, 2012: Here’s something different: Joe Hockey says that Rudd will be the new PM and he’ll call an election.
  26. Feb 23, 2012: Opposition leader Tony Abbott says an election is the best way out of Labor leadership debacle.
  27. Feb 23, 2012: Abbott to call election if government falls. WTF!
  28. Feb 27, 2012: Vote a stay of execution for Julia Gillard, says Tony Abbott (and calls for an election)
  29. Feb 28, 2012: End of distraction praised as Abbott calls for election.
  30. April 23, 2012: Government pressured (by Christopher Pyne) to call election after Slipper steps aside as Speaker.
  31. April 30, 2012: Abbott pressures independents over Thomson affair (and calls for an election).
  32. May 25, 2012: In an interview with Neil Mitchell Joe Hockey says the people want an election (in other words, he does).
  33. June 21, 2012: In an interview on 2GB Scott Morrison calls for an election.
  34. July 16, 2012: Just had to put this one in. In reference to the Lib’s IR policy Hockey had this to say: We will release it well before the next election. The next election is scheduled for the 2nd half of next year. If we followed the lead of the Labor Party, we would be releasing our policy in the second half of next year. (But I thought they wanted an election now).
  35. July 17, 2012: Opposition education spokesman Christopher Pyne has laid out plans to move under-performing teachers out of the profession as part of its education policy (and calls for an election).
  36. July 18, 2012: Joe Hockey wants an other Labor leadership spill or else they should call an election.
  37. July 20, 2012: According to Pyne, the Slipper scandal was yet another reason why the government should call an election.
  38. July 21, 2012: “If this Government cannot solve the crisis at our borders then they should call an election” (Michael Keenan, Shadow Minister for Justice, Customs and Border Protection).

(Phew, I got sick of looking).

And that’s only a sample! I’ve not included YouTube videos of live interviews where there has been a call for an election and neither have I searched for statements from all the Liberal politicians. Who knows how many calls there might have been from Malcolm Turnbull or other prominent players. And neither have I bothered with the Nationals, of which I’m sure Barnaby Joyce has called for an election on numerous occasions.

So far we have calls for an election because of the carbon price, the 2012 Budget, The Slipper scandal, under-performing teachers, Nauru, border protection, migration, the Labor leadership challenge, Julia Gillard winning that challenge, no more distractions, the minority government and Craig Thomson. What on earth will they think of next?

Anyone would think they want an election!