It has been said that Australians will bet on two flies crawling up a wall.
Some probably do. Others certainly bet on numbered cane toads or cockroaches completing a radial track from the centre to the circumference of a twenty-foot diameter circle scribed in the dirt.
They buy lottery tickets by the squillions every week.
The TAB (national betting agency) shops are like bright lights attracting those who choose to fritter away their lives and financial resources with eyes glued to the big screens watching bunches of horses transporting miniature humans dressed in pretty-coloured silk clothes around a track that brings them back to almost the same point at which they started.
So what is wrong with betting?
When I was a little boy there was a voice somewhere in my head that always warned me of impending stupidity whenever I was about to engage in it. Many times I ignored that voice and reaped the consequences, but in doing so I slowly learned the perils of ignoring common sense and gut instinct.
I am inclined to believe that almost everyone comes equipped with this instinctive survival warning alarm.
As I grew up into a young man, my alarm certainly went off at the prospect of habitual gambling, inhaling cigarette smoke into my lungs, becoming paralytically drunk, dressing in orange and donating my life savings to the Bhagwan Shree Rajneesh, and placing my bare arms across all eight spark plug caps on an idling V8 car engine.
Inga too certainly possesses an inbuilt inadvisability warning system which she unfortunately once ignored.
On a road trip to Victoria when she was eight years old we came across a street carnival in the little country town of Warragul.
Inga was attracted to a stall offering the chance to win very large fluffy toys in exchange for risking a month’s worth of her hard-earned pocket money.
She handed over her money and lost.
As her Dad it was hard for me to watch the disappointment on her face, but I believe that on that day she gained something far more valuable than a fluffy toy.
She might have lost her money, but she won back respect for her own inner voice of judgement, reason and wisdom. To my knowledge she has never had the urge to gamble during the 21 years since that day which remains permanently etched in both our memories.
So, under what circumstances do Governments, State and Federal, have the right, as they are presently doing, to interfere in behaviours involving such personal choices?
(Limiting gambling on poker machines, restricting hotel and club opening hours, encouraging responsible alcohol consumption and legislating plain packaging for cigarettes etc.)
I would argue that they have every right to do so when the behaviour of individuals no longer simply constitutes harmless personal fun, but instead has consequences which adversely affect the broader community.
To NOT do so would be an abrogation of responsible governance on behalf of the majority of citizens who elected them.
Governments should have a duty of care to intervene promptly and decisively when taxpayers have to continuously fund the financial income, rehabilitation and repair of those who have by choice, in ignoring their own innate sensibilities, lost their capacity of self-reliance, and when gangs of child thugs are roaming the streets of Cairns at night stealing, pillaging and terrorising law-abiding citizens while the absentee parents of the offenders are busy shoving money into poker machines in clubs and boozing away the family finances in parks and pubs.
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