The demand for gambling reform was a recurring theme in the lead-up to the New South Wales state election in March. While the government rakes in millions in gambling revenue, billions are sucked out of communities, with as little as 2% of revenue returned.
Independent Judy Hannan, Wollondilly and the Southern Highlands MP, told Green Left the impact of poker machines on communities cannot be underestimated. She wants to discuss “true reform — not just trials for the [gambling] industry”.
She said she wants to stem the tide of problem gambling. When asked about the Greens’ no-pokies reform, Hannan was cautious while giving “in principle” support to “any genuine reforms demonstrating community benefit”.
While Hannan’s electorate is a collection of relatively affluent small towns and villages, the universal indicators of the crisis of capitalism are the same as everywhere.
“We’ve got families literally freezing, living in the car park of Coles and Woolies … with no rentals to go to,” she said.
“We are looking at having a stakeholder forum to [discuss] housing and bring some people in who are impacted to tell their story to try and come up with some real solutions.
“If it gets [even] one person into housing … then at least [the forum] will have achieved something.”
Nevertheless, she is undecided about the short-term option of rent freezes. “I’m not sure about the rent freeze … I haven’t got my head around the economics of that. We certainly don’t want to [do anything to] decrease the number of houses out there.”
Hannan said there are numerous dwellings and buildings, including some belonging to government, which are unnecessarily vacant.
“They are out there empty every night, while people are out there freezing with no rentals to go to.”
On supporting council demergers where communities want them, Hannan, a former Wollondilly mayor, said: “I certainly support a democratic vote on de-mergers. I have to say we’ve been very lucky as we refused merging, but it never [ultimately] happened.”
The Demerge NSW Alliance is campaigning for a change in the Local Government Act to enable community polls in forcibly merged councils on whether to de-merge are binding on the minister.
“I’m really keen to see local people get their local voice in democratically elected Councils … I would be very happy to support that.”
After the assault on LGBTIQ supporters outside a Christian Lives Matter event involving One Nation’s Mark Latham, he doubled-down with a homophobic tweet aimed at Independent MP Alex Greenwich, who is now taking legal action.
Hannan said she too was horrified by Latham’s attacks, saying that as a “very proud mum” of a gay son she found Latham’s comments “totally disgusting”.
She said she would not be supporting “anybody that rubbishes [Alex Greenwich] or, in fact, the gay community in any shape or form”. Greenwich holds a lot of personal and political capital on the crossbench.
Hannan’s electorate includes five of the major dams which feed into Sydney’s water supply. The previous NSW Coalition governmnet’s interest in privatising water did not go down well.
“I can’t wait to vote to legislate to keep Sydney Water in our hands,” Hannan said, expressing concern about lobbyists or federal politicians potentially influencing government decisions, particularly around coal seam gas water licence interests.
“Government departments should be treating water matters independently from anyone who could influence supply to a single company.
“I haven’t been approached by [what I’d call] a ‘dangerous’ lobbyist yet … however we will be fully transparent when they do [inevitably] come knocking.”
Hannan is a strong advocate for koala protection and is one of many trying to stop the government from allowing the sale and development of koala corridors and native habitat.
As Wollondilly Mayor, she helped take a 14,000-strong petition to parliament. “Parliament spoke about it for less than five minutes. I was disgusted by that, but even more disgusted by the destruction of native habitat that’s gone on since then.” She said she hoped to work with the cross bench “to better protect the environment”.
Asked about the leadership on such issues, Hannan said from her first week in parliament “the only sensible, respectable speeches I’ve seen have been from the Greens”.