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Key lawmaker withdraws support for Aussie govt

Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s tenuous grip on power weakened when a key independent lawmaker withdrew his support for her minority government.

Canberra: Prime Minister Julia Gillard`s
tenuous grip on power weakened on Saturday when a key independent
lawmaker withdrew his support for her minority government.

Lawmaker Andrew Wilkie announced he had ended his
17-month-old agreement with the centre-left Labour Party
government after Gillard broke a promise to him to introduce
legislation that would create new controls on slot machines.

His defection leaves Gillard with control of 75 of the 150
seats in House of Representatives, the lower chamber where
parties form governments.

This means Gillard could lose power if Labour loses a
single by-election and the opposition unites lawmakers outside
her coalition.

"I regard the prime minister to be in breach of the
written agreement she signed, leaving me no option but to
honour my word and end my current relationship with her
government," Wilkie told reporters.

"I`m very let down by the prime minister ... and I think a
lot of Australians are feeling very let down by the prime
minister," he added.

Wilkie wants legislation that would force gamblers to set
a limit on how much they are prepared to lose before they
start playing slot machines. The aim is to reduce the losses
of gambling addicts.

Gillard announced today that she does not plan to
introduce the new slot machine technology until 2016, two
years later than she had promised Wilkie.

Gillard announced a compromise plan today in which limited
trials of so-called pre-commitment technology would begin next
year. In addition, automatic teller machines in slot machine
venues would be limited to maximum withdrawals of USD 250.

Gillard said Wilkie`s plan would not have been endorsed by

"We need people working together on the same page to get
change, and the package of reforms we`re announcing today I
believe will get that support in the Parliament," Gillard told

With polls pointing to the conservative opposition winning
elections due next year, there are serious doubts about
whether the changes will ever take place.

Slot machine operators mounted a multimillion-dollar
advertising campaign against the reforms, which they claim
would cost sporting and social clubs billions of dollars in
lost revenue.


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