Pokies and bail laws welcome

Two important pieces of legislation passed the state and federal parliaments this week.

In a torrid last sitting week of the House of Representatives before the Christmas break, the much talked about poker machine reforms, which have been the subject of fierce debate in and outside the Parliament, made their passage to the Senate.

But again it was not without incident, with last-minute amendments securing cross-bench support.

The legislation will hopefully tackle the issue of problem gambling by giving punters the option to preset how much they are willing to lose. While the legislation will not please everyone on both sides of this debate, it is an important attempt to reduce the impact problem gambling has on families and individuals.

Clubs with 11 to 20 poker machines will now have until 2022 to comply with the preset limits, and clubs with 21 or more machines must make the changes by 2018. Clubs with 10 or less poker machines have been given an unlimited period but are expected to get the technology when machines are replaced.

With many clubs changing over poker machines regularly, it is hoped the preset function will make its way into establishments sooner rather than later.

The reforms have been a long time in the making and what is important now is for the gambling trends to be monitored so the regulations can be properly assessed.

If they make little difference, then they will have failed and new legislation will need to be considered.

Changes to the bail laws in NSW are an improvement but are considered by many as falling short of what is required. The removal of all presumptions against awarding and denying bail means judges and magistrates will have to apply more discretion to applications. Having to consider the risk people before the court pose to the community, their likelihood of reoffending and interfering with witnesses or absconding provides some balance.

The police commissioner says the amendments are welcome changes and across the community there has been a positive response.

Let’s hope the community interest is better served.