House debates

Thursday, 29 November 2012


National Gambling Reform Bill 2012, National Gambling Reform (Related Matters) Bill (No. 1) 2012, National Gambling Reform (Related Matters) Bill (No. 2) 2012; Second Reading

11:56 am

Photo of Jamie BriggsJamie Briggs (Mayo, Liberal Party, Chairman of the Scrutiny of Government Waste Committee) Share this | Hansard source

I rise to support the shadow minister and his approach on the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012. It is a bill which really does contrast the way in which we, as members in this place, think about our fellow Australians. It shows what splits many of us in this parliament, into those who believe in personal responsibility and do not assume that not all Australians are bad and need to be protected by government legislation or regulation and others.

Serious governments address problems where they exist, and undoubtedly many families and many people face challenges related to addiction to gambling. But the absurdity of this legislation is that it focuses purely on one form of gambling, as if to presume that there are no other ways for Australians to lose their homes, their incomes and their families and no other things which cause as much pain as addiction does. It somehow presumes that a piece of legislation focusing on one aspect of gambling will reduce or stop the impact on so many thousands of Australians, as if there is no other way that you could possibly find to feed the addiction that so many undoubtedly face.

We have seen this bill being pulled and pushed around. It started on Monday or Tuesday; it is now Thursday, the last sitting day. It has been on and off today a couple of times. We have seen a lot of walking around. We know there is a big brawl going on between the Greens and the member for Denison, and lots of leaking about polling and so forth. We are in the middle of all this.

But there is apparently an intent here. It is not all about politics; it is not all about someone getting one up on the other, so that one party gets to run around Denison and say that they have done something that the other person did not; it is not about GetUp! having all this support from online gambling but focusing on poker machines—not at all! This is all good public policy on the last sitting day of the year, there is no doubt in the world! I am sure the minister has really enjoyed the last 48 hours, dealing with all these issues as she has wandered from one office to another trying to get a deal to satisfy all the egos involved.

But never will you satisfy some of the egos involved, particularly that of the member for Melbourne; there is no guarantee about that. If you want to see sanctimony in this place, look no further than the Australian Greens and look no further than the Murray-Darling Basin. But I digress.

I would urge many members to read the speech of the member for Moncrieff on this bill. In that speech he made some very important points in relation to this issue. There is a very serious issue here, which is that many Australians face a problem with addiction. There is no doubt a problem, and there need to be programs which assist. There should be regulation of gambling—indeed there should be. But to presume that somehow this industry will be able to take an extra burden, an extra whack, when it is screaming and saying, 'We can't,' puts at risk the thousands of people who are employed in this industry—for instance, in and around the thousands of clubs that so many Australians enjoy spending so many of their hours, enjoying their lives.

It is true that some people enjoy playing poker machines. It is true that some people enjoy following racehorses. It is true that some people enjoy playing poker online. It is also true that most people are able to do these things in a manner which is within their limits. They take responsibility for themselves; they know how much they can spend; they know when enough is enough. Of course there are some in society who go too far, but the problem with this bill is it seeks to legislate against one—and only one—form of gambling on the presumption that there is no other way for people to restrain themselves.

Gambling in Australia is changing very rapidly. The online accessibility of gambling is increasing as the internet's role increases in so many facets of our lives. I tend to agree with the member for Barton when he expresses concern about the pushing of gambling on televised sporting events. I enjoy a punt occasionally, but I do find it frustrating that, when I am watching a great test match or a great AFL game, gambling is being pushed through betting odds constantly being displayed on the TV screen. I think that we in this place could look at and address this practice.

This bill assumes that problem gambling on poker machines can be stopped by regulating them to death. This is no doubt the intention of the Greens and the member for Denison. But in doing they will send people with a gambling addiction back in their home, and the sort of gambling they do there is completely unregulated. It will always be difficult to regulate offshore gambling sites, which GetUp!, interestingly, does not seem to have a problem with for some reason. It is not possible to identify problem gambling which occurs at home, and—unlike in pubs and clubs across Australia—there is no-one watching out for home gamblers and saying, 'I think that person's spent too much,' or 'I can see a problem developing.' The addiction to online gambling will be played out silently in our suburbs, but the member for Denison and the Greens will feel good about themselves that they got legislation through to show that they have cracked down on pokies and the pokie barons and stopped the pokie palaces and so on. Of course, to do so would be to play pure politics in the interests of meeting political promises rather than to address the very serious issues of problem gambling which some people face. It would not address the aggressive advertising of some of the new forms of gambling. Young people have access to online gambling through their TV screens, the internet and their smart phones—

Mr Bandt interjecting

The member for Melbourne thinks it is funny that on the last sitting day he gets a bit of politics up with the member for Denison. He gets to run around and say: 'Look! we got it!


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