House debates

Monday, 22 February 2010

Private Members’ Business

Electronic Gaming Machines

7:52 pm

Photo of Chris HayesChris Hayes (Werriwa, Australian Labor Party) Share this | Hansard source

I thank the member for Wakefield for bringing this matter before us. Last year, I spoke about the Wests Leagues Club, of which I am the patron, which contributes in excess of $1 million annually into sport for the local community. In addition to that they have provided financial assistance to more than 100 hundred local athletes so that they could compete in various state, national and international events. That is just one club supporting junior sport across the south-west of Sydney.

Today I rise again to speak in relation to some of the positive aspects of clubs and what they contribute to the community. Clearly this contribution is support that they provide through a consequence of their revenue stream. Also, I acknowledge that gambling is one of those streams. In New South Wales, particularly in areas with a high concentration of families, we have seen the development of clubs in our communities and we know that they provide a range of services to the community. They are extremely popular with locals because they provide quality and affordable services at a community based level.

From my experience the clubs in my region are not typical venues, they are community hubs. In fact, I am advised that 96 per cent of clubs in New South Wales provide and maintain sporting facilities such as golf courses, bowls and sporting fields, gyms, swimming pools, et cetera. Clubs across New South Wales pay for football jerseys, subsidise player insurance, provide volunteers for coaching, provide referees’ fees, contribute buses and drivers and also provide a safe venue for people to meet and socialise. It should be said that, without this assistance from clubs, many of these services simply would not be provided in our communities. I have seen firsthand the support and assistance provided by the clubs in my region, which has allowed a lot of kids to participate in team events, and the same clubs continue to contribute millions of dollars each year to vital community services, seniors groups, community facilities, schools and charitable organisations.

I would like to make it very clear at this point that, whilst I have focused on the positive impact that clubs have in our communities, I understand that gambling excessively causes havoc to a person’s life and certainly to the social, emotional and financial aspects. Ultimately this problem may lead to the loss of relationships, homes, health and careers, may cause depression and stress, and very much be the ruination of a person’s life.

However, not everyone who gambles is a problem gambler. In the main, people should be free to choose for themselves whether they want to play gaming machines or not. But it must be said that problem gambling is a major health issue in Australia, and for that reason we certainly need policies that strike a balance between the sizeable benefits that accrue from recreational gambling and the significant harm that it causes some people and their families. Gambling is therefore an important issue for the community, and the government must consider both its positive and negative impacts when identifying and developing community outcomes and producing long-term community plans.

I note that this motion refers to one of the 40-plus draft recommendations of the Productivity Commission, and that is to lower the maximum bet on gaming machines from $10 to $1. I understand that the Productivity Commission has suggested that in its draft report of October 2009 that a number of its recommendations should be subject to further research and not be immediately implemented. I understand that this is because there is no guarantee that the commission’s proposals would actually reduce problem gambling and they accept that a disturbance of the revenue base would have a significant consequential effect on the ability of clubs to provide various community services. But we must remember that one of the functions of government is to make decisions that set the direction for promoting the social, cultural, environmental and economic wellbeing of our communities. Therefore, we must develop healthy policies in relation to gambling harm minimisation.

It is also important that we appreciate that the clubs in New South Wales provide 10,000 jobs. In my own region, at last count, I think there were a tad over 3,000 people employed in these clubs. Those jobs go to supporting local families. Clearly, the draft recommendations of the Productivity Commission to lower bets and to commit to a system that would require people to precommit their bets will be effective measures but they will require a greater degree of investment and also research into their implications for staff. We must strike a proper balance, and we must acknowledge what clubs contribute to our community. (Time expired)


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