The ancient Greeks had two words for time, ‘Chronos’ and ‘Kairos’. Chronos describes elapsed time, the ticking over second by second from one day into the next. Kairos is the right, critical or opportune moment in time – a decisive moment, an interruption in Chronos time.
10pm on the 15th of March 1988, was a Kairos moment for me. Strolling along Christies Beach in Adelaide that late summer evening with Sue Pallant, we paused just outside a public toilet block where, with acute nervousness bordering on terror, I asked her to marry me. Despite the distinct lack of romance in the location and timing – and that there were no photographers lurking around the corner to capture the moment as seems to be the way these days – she said yes. And on New Year’s Eve this year, Sue Cameron and I celebrate 35 years of marriage. Christies Beach Kairos, a decisive moment indeed.
When it comes to gambling reform, if not a Kairos moment, we have reached a Kairos season in our state and nation. The momentum for reform is quite remarkable, the change astonishing compared with a year ago when politicians and the media would often not return our calls to discuss Wesley Mission’s reform agenda. Since then, gambling reform has become a front and centre issue at both federal (online gambling) and state (poker machines) levels. It seems politicians of all stripes have read the public mood – Aussies have had a gutful of the all-pervasive impact of an industry that has been chronically under-regulated, and which has caused devastating harm.
Earlier this year, a federal parliamentary inquiry (which Wesley Mission made a submission to) made bipartisan recommendations to ban advertising for online gambling within three years, with significant restriction recommended in the meantime. With 150 online sports betting operators active in Australia, it’s about time. Then this past week, six years after it was recommended, the federal government launched Betstop, a national online gambling online gambling self-exclusion register. This tool will save lives and demonstrates what’s possible and desperately needed here in NSW with poker machines.
In NSW, gambling reform was a major election issue, with both major parties releasing extensive reform policies for the first time in more than six decades. Since the election, the Minns government has followed through on its commitment to remove signage from outside pokie venues, the September 1 deadline looming. Off the back of continuing scandals about rampant criminal money laundering, the Greens and key independents have called for a Royal Commission into the gambling industry in NSW, and the ever-brave independent Helen Dalton MP has given notice of a bill to make cashless gaming on poker machines universal and mandatory. Honestly, such is the pace of change and appetite for reform it’s hard to keep up.
Wesley Mission continues to be at the forefront of gambling reform initiatives. I have accepted the NSW government’s invitation to participate as a member of the Independent Panel for Gambling Reform as a gambling reform advocate. The panel is charged with overseeing the government’s cashless gambling trial for poker machines which will be rolled out over the next 12 months, and with advising around other reform initiatives. We had our first meeting a couple of weeks ago and have a very full agenda ahead. I will need a ‘sharp mind’ indeed.
The reform road ahead will be full of twists and turns, victories and setbacks. But the momentum for change is irresistible; it’s Kairos time – a God-breathed season for change. In prosecuting the case for gambling reform, we are living out one of Wesley Mission’s four strategic directions – claiming our prophetic voice. Speaking prophetically, truth to power and for justice, is a bedrock value of our Christian tradition. Jesus announced his public ministry with these words, ‘The (Kairos) time has come, the kingdom of God has come near.’ (Mark 1:15) Jesus’ kingdom is one of release for prisoners, good news for the poor and the loosening of the chains of oppression – a reign of justice. This Kairos time work we do is a continuation of the work of Jesus Christ in both Word and deed.
PS. I would LOVE you to encourage friends and family members to sign up for our put pokies in their place campaign. You could too! Here’s the link: yourebeingplayed.wesleymission.org.au