More than 400 suicides nationally each year and 90,000 poker machines in NSW. These were among the statistics shared with Synod on night two, as members threw their support behind two motions concerned with gambling harm.
The motions were split to allow for a separate focus on issues at federal and state level – with the rector of Kogarah, the Rev David Yung, leading the charge on the motion to reduce harm from poker machine use in NSW, as his parish is within the electorate of Premier Chris Minns.
He said that research had shown that, in the Kogarah electorate alone, every pub and club had poker machines and these totted up losses of $2.4 million every week.
“By the end of my speech, our state as a whole would have lost close to $23 million today to pokies,” he said. “Even more tragically, at the end of my speech, someone would have at least thought about ending their life due to pokies... sadly, over 400 people a year [in Australia] take their life due to gambling.”
Mr Yung said pokies had done a lot of harm to people of all backgrounds across the Diocese, adding: “The poor, the weak, the fatherless, the oppressed, the alien, and the foreigners need our defending. God tells us to do so”.
Seconding the motion the CEO of Anglicare Sydney, Simon Miller, noted that our state had 90,000 poker machines – which caused a stir among members – but there was an audible gasp when he added that number of pokies within NSW’s jurisdiction was second only to the US state of Nevada (home to Las Vegas).
Their motion gave thanks for steps taken by the State Government to address what Mr Yung called “the health crisis that is gambling”. However, also called on State MPs to “request a royal commission into the conduct, integrity, and influence of the gambling industry in NSW” and encouraged members to write to their local MP.
The Dean of Sydney, Sandy Grant, brought to Synod the federally directed motion concerning online sports betting. He thanked members who were already raising the issue with friends, family, church and MPs, but added that it was important to stay the course, as “the gambling harm done by online sports betting will only skyrocket from here unless action is taken.
“We should give thanks for the almost miraculous occurrence of a unanimous cross-party findings from the Federal Parliament’s inquiry into sports betting, online gambling,” he added. “They realised Australians lose more than any other nationality in the world, not just on the pokies but on online gambling.
“Now we need to tell our Prime Minister and Opposition leader and every local MP in the Sydney Diocese... [that] there is no excuse for failure to implement the findings of this unanimous [You win some, you lose more] report.”
He reminded members that the fight to minimise harm to the vulnerable would not be won through one reform. “It will be won across decades. Just like it took decades – about 40-plus years – for the far-reaching and broad-based reform of the marketing and availability of tobacco... We know continual vigilance is necessary.”
Hungry or homeless
Dean Grant and Mr Miller also joined forces for a further motion in response to Anglicare Sydney’s report Hungry or Homeless – Tough Choices in a Cost-of-Living Crisis, with the confronting truths it contained about the struggle of low-income households to survive amid increasing rental, food and energy costs.
Said Mr Miller: “They’re absorbing rent increases – and we all know the types of rent increases that have been pushed out in the last few months – and they were going without food or clothing or medicine to make do.
“And if they did lose their house because they couldn’t afford the rent, there was nowhere else for them to go. Our rental affordability survey found earlier this year that for a single family on Government benefits... there’s no home that they could rent that was affordable anywhere in the Diocese.”
The motion noted the report’s conclusion that a co-ordinated, multifaceted approach was needed by all levels of government to address the problems – including raising the level of JobSeeker and prioritising social and affordable housing.
As with the previous two motions, this encouraged Synod and church members to contact Federal and State members of parliament and urge them to act quickly and practically to deal with the issues.
All three motions passed unanimously without amendment.
Main photo: Flickr