Modern Woman

A glossy, four-page missive appeared, unsolicited, in my letterbox last week, with a picture of Page MP Janelle Saffin on the front.

In five decks of huge capital letters it screamed:

"Janelle, why are you voting to hurt our community?"

Now I've had a fair bit to do with Ms Saffin over the years and she's always struck me as hard-working and community-minded.

And I assumed 'our community' was referring to the Northern Rivers.

So imagine my surprise when I turned to the last page and found written in tiny print that 'our community' was, in fact, referring to the Australian Hotels Association, the lobby group for pubs. The propaganda had been authorised by P. Nicolaou, the former fund-raising chief for the NSW Liberal Party, who thought, along with Premier Barry O'Farrell, that there was no conflict of interest in working for both organisations at the same time.

And what they were claiming would 'hurt our community' were the Federal Government's proposed gambling laws.

I've spent a bit of time in pubs, both as a bar-worker and a customer and, on the whole, publicans have struck me as men who know a good business decision when they see it - and that's fair enough.

What I don't think is fair enough is to claim that a decision to attempt to help people who are addicted to poker machines will be the ruin of pubs.

I was in my early twenties when the NSW Government made the decision to allow pubs to have more poker machines and it meant a slow poisoning of the live music scene in pubs.

Apparently poker machines make more money than live music - but did the AHA have a thought for the music industry and the performers who made their already precarious living from performing in their venues?

Or did many AHA members make the business decision to go with pokies and say bugger musos, bugger music fans?

My favourite pubs still support the live music industry and have since that time - the Eltham Pub, the Rails, the Lennox, the Coraki Hotel, the Nimbin Hotel and the Tatts.

Gambling reform is not going to stop hotels from being able to fund local community groups, charities and sporting teams - that's a business decision for each hotel to make and I suspect the Gillard Government's gambling reforms don't go far enough, after being subjected to a dishonest, self-serving campaign from Clubs Australia - but if they help at least some families and individuals deal with their addiction then isn't that a good thing?

I've seen the damage addictive gambling does - it hurts the person, their family and friends. Poker machines are designed to be addictive, with a random reward system that has been scientifically shown to make people want to play - and lose - more.

So I'm going to implement a one-woman protest and take my booze dollars from the pub, invest them directly in the Australian wine industry and drink at home - except when there's live music on offer.

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