A review of the 2016 Australian federal election shows a growing mistrust in mainstream politics Down Under, similar to what’s taken place this past year in the US and Britain. And as ex-MPs move into powerful gaming lobbies, it could prove pivotal for the gambling industry in Oz.
The Australian National University report suggests that politicians of all parties should take notice of the “historic lows” in trust of their party leaders.
“What it looks to me like is you are seeing the stirrings among the public of what has happened in the United States of the likes of Trump, Brexit in Britain, in Italy and a variety of other European countries,” said the review’s lead researcher, Ian McAllister, who has been studying voter apathy (or satisfaction) since the Labor win of 1987.
“Now it’s not a crisis of democracy but what you are seeing is the start of something which has happened overseas.
“It’s coming here and I would have thought this is a wake-up call for the political class that they need to start addressing this or it will continue.
Of particular concern, the review suggests, is MPs moving on to take up key roles in the private sector, as well as fudging on delivering promised taxes. Labor’s promise to introduce a new carbon tax was dumped.
Just last week, Stephen Conroy joined a new gambling lobby group made up of the big online companies. He had only retired as an MP back in May. RWA (Responsible Wagering Council) is pushing for self-regulation, but this has triggered counter appointments to the Alliance for Gambling Reform, like retired Labor MP, Kelvin Thompson. Conroy was responsible for online gaming legislation when he was in office, and the appointment has raised eyebrows across the political divide.
Turnbull High on “Intelligence” But Low On Trust
In June, the British public voted to leave the European Union in an historic and shock referendum result that became popularly known as Brexit. It led to Prime Minister David Cameron’s resignation and the revealing of a divide in the country. Meanwhile, billionaire businessman Donald Trump won the US election to become the first president who had never held public office prior to his victory.
In the latest ANU survey, 69 percent of those asked said they thought government policies made little difference to Australia’s financial fortunes. When it came to the public’s leadership evaluations, Malcolm Turnbull rated poorly on perceived trustworthiness, but highly on intelligence. Bill Shorten rated low (below 10) on every category, including honesty, competence, and compassion.
A Fairfax-Ipsos poll last month showed Turnbull’s own net approval rating standing at a lowly zero percent. Those are the kinds of figures that can lead to voting revolutions, as has been seen overseas. In Britain, the Labour opposition leader is a veteran hard-left activist, while at home anti-gambling campaigners like Nick Xenophon fared well in the election. Right-winger Pauline Hanson also ended up with four senate spots. Politics the world over is being increasingly polarised.
US Politics A Mirror For Australia?
While anti-political elite movements seem to be gaining ground overseas, it has just allowed the business “elite” in. In the US, the country’s top gambling lobbying group, the American Gaming Association (AGA), has approached president-elect Donald Trump on lowering gaming operators’ taxes.
In a letter to Trump, who will be sworn in on January 20th, the AGA says it is after fewer regulations, as well as reforms that would help legal gambling giants pay less tax. And a newly appointed (and unofficial and unpaid) special advisor on federal regulations, Carl Icahn, already has experience in gaming, having been involved in plans to re-open the bankrupt Trump Taj Mahal, where he was stymied by, you guessed it, regulations.
And let it not be overlooked that the 45th president of the United States will be the first and only one to have owned a casino, albeit a few decades back. He has close tied with Las Vegas Sands owner Sheldon Adelson and casino magnate Phil Ruffin as well.
Just like in Australia, the AGA wants favouritism for homegrown, licensed gambling sites, and a total crackdown on offshore rooms. The Aussie government has already come down hard on offshore gaming sites with its Internet Gambling Act Amendment bill. If it goes through, big players like PokerStars and 888, who are not regulated in Oz but provide games in the legal grey area, would be shut out.
But big gambling lobbyists in Australia have wielded huge electoral power in leaning on MPs during elections. Could that just increase?
As the Australian public, and young voters in particular, reject what is being dished up, it could pave the way for moguls like James Packer (if he’s interested) who may feel aggrieved at the way regulation has harmed his businesses. Powerful Aussies will be looking over the Pacific to see how Donald Trump gets on in his first few months, and the ramifications it has for big business, and in particular, gaming business.