22 Jan 2012

Australian govt majority on a knife-edge

5:07 am on 22 January 2012

The Labor government in Australia has seen its majority of two slip to just one after Independent MP, Andrew Wilkie, announced he has withdrawing his support over poker machine reform.

Mr Wilkie says he had no choice but to walk away from the Government after Prime Minister Julia Gillard broke the deal she made with him on pre-commitment technology in the wake of the last election.

The move plunges the Government back to a one seat majority and Mr Wilkie says he is now "more independent than ever".

Ms Gillard and Community Services Minister Jenny Macklin said on Saturday they were abandoning the timeline set by Mr Wilkie and would instead start a trial of mandatory poker machine technology next year.

The Government will introduce legislation to require the mandatory pre-commitment technology be installed on every new poker machine manufactured from the start of 2013, with a trial taking place in the ACT.

Ms Gillard says the technology will be in place by the end of 2016 should evidence support a national adoption of mandatory pre-commitment.

The deal struck with Mr Wilkie involved legislating reforms by 8 May that require pre-commitment, with a roll-out of the technology by 2014.

Mr Wilkie says the new plan is too different from his original deal and he has "no option" but to end his support of the Government.

"Frankly, a deal's a deal, and I really do think our democracy is much too precious to trash with broken promises and backroom deals."

Mr Wilkie says the new plan for poker machine reform is a "long way short", but he still plans to vote for the Government's package.

However, he disputes that his original deal did not have enough support in the Parliament.

Mr Wilkie's support for the Government had been key until late last year, when Liberal Peter Slipper took on the Speaker's role, depriving the opposition Coalition of one vote in the House of Representatives.

The Greens says the Government's decision is "spineless" and will set poker machine reform back for decades.