| 22.01,12. 12:59 AM |
PM's big gamble
January 22, 2012
The defection forces the Prime Minister back to a one-seat buffer in the hung Parliament in the event of a no confidence vote that could trigger an election.
And Mr Wilkie's decision could threaten Ms Gillard's pledge to deliver a budget surplus, with the Tasmanian independent confirming he could not guarantee the supply of money bills and would consider budget measures "on merit".
Despite offering a compromise deal to trial bet limits and upgrade poker machines to offer potential voluntary or mandatory limits, Mr Wilkie walked away yesterday warning the PM: "A deal's a deal."
Ms Gillard defended the compromise, arguing Mr Wilkie didn't have the support of other independents. "You do have to make compromises, that's the nature of politics."
Opposition leader Tony Abbott said the outcome only reinforced that the Prime Minister had secured the keys to the Lodge under "false pretences."
But Mr Wilkie said he would not back Mr Abbott or an early, election in the interests of stability. Government spin doctors seized on Mr Wilkie's pledge not to back a no-confidence motion that could spark an election unless "serious misconduct" or corruption was proved, arguing this was similar to his original deal with the PM.
If the Liberals' Peter Slipper had not defected for the job of Speaker late last year the Prime Minister would now be on a knife edge. But this coup rendered Mr Wilkie's repeated threats to bring down the government hollow.
JULIA Gillard's betrayal of a written promise to deliver pokies reforms has prompted key independent MP Andrew Wilkie to abandon her government.
The PM is now gambling on the backing of turncoat former Liberal MP Peter Slipper for her political survival.
Despite securing government by agreeing to champion Mr Wilkie's agenda, Ms Gillard broke the deal just weeks after getting a two vote buffer in parliament.
Despite Ms Gillard offering a compromise gambling package, Mr Wilkie yesterday said he had no choice but to walk away. "Frankly, a deal's a deal and it must be honoured. Our demo-cracy is simply too precious to trash with broken promises and backroom compromises."
The main elements of the new pokies reforms plan expected to win Parliament's approval include:
* ALL poker machines built after 2013 must be capable of supporting bet limits.
* EXISTING poker machines to be upgraded to support voluntary or mandatory pre-commitment by 2016.
* CASH withdrawal limits in gaming venues (except casinos) of $250-a-day from 2013.
* A TRIAL of mandatory pre-commitment bet limits in Canberra from early next year.
But Mr Wilkie said: "I can no longer guarantee supply and confidence for the government because the Prime Minister has told me she can't honour the promise to introduce mandatory pre-commitment on poker machines by the end of 2014.
"Frankly, a deal's a deal and it must be honoured. Our democracy is simply too precious to trash with broken promises and backroom compromises," he said.
Ms Gillard blamed parliament for her inability to honour the deal. But Independent senator Nick Xenophon told The Sunday Telegraph: "How can you respect someone who backstabs the very person that backed her into office ?"
Clubs Australia, which had waged a multi-million dollar campaign against the reforms, said it welcomed the government's trial.