Kimbo’s heroic dad

Dad was out getting the campaign trailer ready in the freezing cold as I sat inside eating porridge and updating facebook. I’m not ashamed to say that he has invested more grunt in this campaign than I have. Someday I hope my kid can look at me in the same admiring way that I look at Dad.

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The Last Schnitzel Supper

The Final Schnitzel Cabinet… was marked by a heated debate over whether or not we should staple the campaign flyers to the how-to-vote cards. I was in the non-aligned faction, but we were all eventually rolled by the the die hard no-staplers.


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Belco’s Batman at Ride2Work extravaganza trying out the new bus racks in campaign colours


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Super Mum

Here’s #GoKimbo2016‘s Mum up early distributing balloons at Jamo markets and then staying up late to sew my Belco’s Batman suit. So much gratitude and respect to her. She can do anything my Mum she can.

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Canberra’s Knight is darkest before the election dawns

Please don’t try this at home people. My cape got stuck in the rear wheel not long after this picture was taken. No accident, but the big skid ruined my tire.


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Why we need to tackle poker machines

Kim Huynh, Belco’s Batman faces off against the Poker Machine


For a long time I casually played the pokies without realizing the extent to which they’re ripping the soul out of the nation’s capital.

In financial year 2014/2015 Canberrans lost over $167 million on poker machines. We fed over 2 billion dollars into pokies, that’s almost twice as much as the ACT government spent on Education in 2015/16. It’s estimated that 28 per cent of that income came from problem gambling.

Pokies are responsible for 75-80% of problem gambling, which is directly related to a series of other social ills. So if you’re concerned about crime, mental health, poverty and families, then you should also be deeply concerned about poker machines.


Polls suggest that 80% of Australians support poker machine reform. Most of us recognize that they magnify misery and inequality and take far more from the community than they give.

Rather than cooperate to address this persistent problem, poker machine advocates put forward three arguments for doing nothing.

1. Most poker machine users don’t have a problem

Of the tens of thousands of people who play poker machines regularly in the ACT, only a small fraction have a gambling problem. The majority of players should not be penalized because of an irresponsible minority.

The first response to this argument is that the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission advocate a public health approach to gambling harms, whereby addicts are not viewed as lacking character, but rather suffering from an illness that’s caused by a mix of social and personal factors.

Moreover, pokies are designed to draw people in and keep them playing for as long as possible. The lack of transparency over exactly how this is achieved has led Nick Xenophon, Andrew Wilkie and Larissa Waters to call for more intelligence from inside the poker machine industry. Their hope is that this Pokie-Leaks initiative will give us a better sense of how pokies make us feel like we’re on the verge of winning while ensuring that we rarely do. In short, ‘Don’t just blame the victim.’

The second response to this argument goes to the actual figures. The ANU’s Centre for Gambling Research found that approximately 4,700 Canberrans have a significant or severe gambling problem, 75% of whom play poker machines. On average 1 out of 6 players at any point in time are problem gamblers.

It’s also well known that gambling harms are not isolated. Seven to ten people are affected by each case of problem gambling. Family members commonly report not only the loss of income, but also the associated deterioration of relationships through stress, lies, anger, theft and violence.

2. The income from poker machines supports clubs which in turn support the community

ACT clubs contribute $11 million to sporting and community activities. When our clubs suffer, so too do many of our teams and events. Clubs also contribute intangible benefits to the community. They embody our culture and history and provide a space for people to get together and recreate.

The question however is, ‘Are you comfortable knowing that a significant proportion of that sponsorship and service is derived from addiction and misery?’ If the answer is ‘no’ then we should look for healthier forms of funding. Moreover, if we offset those forms of income against the broader costs of gambling-related harms, poker machine reform makes not only moral sense, but also good socio-economic sense.

3. Poker machines are the lesser evil

According to former Gaming Minister Joy Burch, “There is a growing issue with online gambling. You go into a racecourse, you go into a community club you’re surrounded by people, there are people there that if you display a level of need they can tap you on the shoulder and point you in the right direction,” she said. “But online gambling, anyone with a smart device, a smart phone sitting on the bus, or a phone by themselves at 3 o’clock in the morning, can expose themselves to their gambling problems and I think that is a real risk.’

While online gambling is rising, it remains a small proportion of overall gaming income (around 15%). It’s impossible to address problem gambling without addressing the largest method of gaming in the ACT: poker machines in clubs.

There’s also very little evidence that even well-trained staff and attentive friends can effectively intervene to confront or stop addicted gamblers.

So what should we do?

Drawing upon recent research from the ANU Centre for Gambling Research, there are three important points to recognize when it comes to reducing new incidences of problem gambling and tackling existing ones.

  • Firstly, there’s no silver bullet. This issue has to be addressed on multiple fronts and in a coordinated manner. No such strategy exists right now in the ACT.
  • Secondly, effective research, monitoring and scrutiny of poker machine reform is vital.
  • Thirdly, solutions have to be customized to local areas while also aligning with a national program of action.

The ACT can take the lead in terms of poker machine reform because there are only around 59 venues rather than the thousands in NSW.

Pokies reform needs to be undertaken with and not against clubs. Some clubs have made moves to provide additional support services to mitigate problem gambling and the oldest club in Canberra, The Burns Club, has been proactive in moving away from relying on poker machine losses for income.

The government needs support such clubs by providing them with rates reductions and rebates. Moreover, a poker machine reduction fund should be established to help venues transition away from poker machine income. In addition, we in the community should vote with our feet and wallets and frequent venues that, with good faith and effect, strive to eliminate gambling harms. This will reinforce the message that gambling addiction is a public health issue that we all need to confront.

With club support, I propose three levels of possible action that should be undertaken across the board, regardless of whether the venue is a club or casino, and independent of its size or political affiliations.

  • Firstly, harm minimization measures such as limits on maximum bets and losses, and an effective self-exclusion system as well as more funding for treatment services.
  • Secondly, pre-commitment and opt in measures.
  • Finally, radical reductions in poker machine numbers and a phased outright ban.

Hopefully, only the first level will be necessary to address problem gambling, which is why monitoring and research is so important. However, the scope and persistence of the problem means that we must discuss and consider all measures from the outset. It’s also important that we promote measures that not only minimize harm, but also offer attractive and compelling pathways to eradicate and prevent problem gambling.

Canberra can and should lead the country when it comes to poker machine reform. Everyone is making the right noises. But to paraphrase the Dark Knight, ‘It’s what we do that defines us.’

To what extent is problem gambling a personal or social issue? Do poker machines deserve particular attention when it comes to addressing problem gambling? What, if anything, should be done about problem gambling?

Stay tuned for a follow up article with more details on possible solutions.

Kim Huynh is a RiotACT columnist and is also running as an independent for Ginninderra in the ACT election. Check him out on Facebook at gokimbo or



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YES I CAN! Why Kimbo is the greatest politician in the world

I’ve always had doubts about whether I could do this. Indeed, I kicked off the campaign with an article entitled, ‘No I can’t!’ (see below). Through the ups and downs those doubts have always been there; that is, until now.

Cue my brief account of struggle and overcoming…

The other day I was having some quiet time while my son enjoyed the pod playground at the arboretum.

Then I heard him crying. He was stuck and distressed. I called for him to come down. For some reason he couldn’t move forward and there were dozens of kids blocking his retreat.

‘Dada, Dada, Dada!’

I climbed up, pushing my way past and apologising to all the disgruntled children. I smelt it before I saw it. Kimbo Jnr had thrown up his egg and bacon roll among other things. He felt better having chundered, but was still suffering.

There were eight or nine other children in the pod who, to their credit, were not chastising Kimbo Jnr. The kids behind us who had no idea of what was going on were neither happy nor silent. The parents below us started calling out to their children to see if they were okay. I yelled out that there had been an accident and that I would take care of it.

My first thought was to get some napkins, but that would take too long. I asked if anyone had a hanky or some tissues. Nothing.

It so happened that I was wearing my #GoKimbo2016 vest as I had just been out riding, but I couldn’t afford to stain it any further and it was too flimsy to mop up the mess anyway.

I apologised to everyone in the pod and informed them that, ‘It’s gonna get uglier and smellier before it gets better.’ So I removed my vest and then my favourite orange top which I used to collect all the chunky chunks, slimy slime, and runny runs. The kids helpfully pointed out every last spot of spew.

With my vest back on there was a great deal of debate in the pod over how I should exit so as to minimize the vomit leakage.

‘Tie up the arms in a knot so it’s like a bag’, a girl suggested. And that’s exactly what I did.

After that Kimbo Jnr and I went down the winding slide together, emerging clean and confident. He ran off to have another go without saying a word. But for an instant I’m sure he thought that his old man could do anything.

So what did I learn about #GoKimbo2016 /myself? That I’m inclined towards sacrifice; that I can think on my feet and perform under pressure; that I can bring together different constituencies to achieve a mutually beneficial outcome; and FINALLY, that I can clear up Canberra’s congestion problems for far less than $1.78 billion.

Maybe as parents, carers and people we have these sort of victories all of the time. And maybe that just means that everyone has the potential to be the greatest politician in the world.

Farewell orange shirt. I head into the final week of the campaign after chucking you and my last remaining doubts in the bin.


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Second last Schnitzel Cabinet

#GoKimbo2016 welcomes Security Manager Mr Alex Merrick (to the far right of the picture and ideological spectrum). This photo reminds me of the Joy Luck Club, except that a) no-one is playing mahjong and b) there were no harrowing tales of feminine suffering and grandeur.


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How do I vote Kimbo?

I’m getting this question quite a lot now. It makes me uncomfortable because I prefer that people make informed individual decisions.

But if you ask me, ‘Go independent!’ There are no independents in the ACT Legislative Assembly at the moment, which is terrible in terms of accountability.

Moreover, it’ll only get harder for us indies because the major parties have made sure that they will get four times more public funding than they did in 2012. At the same time they’ve removed the limit on private donations. So there’s going to be a whole lot more party signs, ads and stooges in 2020, unless an independent can do something about it.

There’s good reason if you’re in Ginninderra (and probably in the other electorates) to stick to the right hand margin and exhaust your votes with the “Ungrouped” independents. If you think the major parties need a wake up call or a bit of a bloody nose, then this is the best way to do it.

For more details, see my article below on ‘Why independents will struggle’.…/why-independents-will-struggle-in-t…

Put a “1” next to “Kim Huynh”.


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Running and Political Authenticity

Here are the 13th (Nicky Lovegrove), 17th (Kate Harrison) and 25th (#GoKimbo2016) placed finishers in this week’s Ginninderra Parkrun. While I was chasing Nicky and Kate I thought about political authenticity.

Here’s the worst thing that can be said about #GoKimbo2016 in this regard: He’s not a real Parkrunner. He’s just trying to get votes. He’s shamelessly roped in a high school mate (Kate) and his public relations manager (Nicky) for a photo opportunity in the hope that people think, ‘Look at that nice yellow fellow in yellow, connecting with the community. Maybe I”ll put a “1” next to his name on 15 October.’

Here’s a more positive assessment of my authenticity: Kimbo has been been doing Parkruns since 2014 (previously with my son under the name of ‘Canberra’s Dynamic Duo’). I took a break to sooth my joints and ride my bike. Campaigning gave me extra reason to start doing the Ginninderra parkrun again. I much prefer running shoulder-to-shoulder with people and cycling beside them than confronting them at shopping centres (which I don’t do often).

Mmm, I suppose I should keep participating in and enjoying parkruns after the election and volunteer once in a while. And for now maybe I should take Nicky’s advice, ‘Just shut up and run Kimbo! Shut up and run!’


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