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
I appreciate the opportunity to be able to speak on the National Gambling Reform Bill and cognate bills. I question why this bill is currently before the House. Why, on the last day of sitting, with issues pressing, are we now debating a bill that has been floating around the House for some time?
I applaud the commitment to the bill by the member for Denison. His position has been steadfast. His position has been unique the whole way through this process. I felt for the member, for whom I have a degree of support in this. The Prime Minister gave him a deal—there was an agreement in place that this issue would be dealt with. I felt for him when the government reneged on that bill. They chose to step away from that because the dynamics of the crossbenchers had become somewhat different and, as a result, the strength of the arm of the member for Denison was drastically weakened. So I sympathise with the member about that. However, in listening to comments today I associate myself with the member for New England, who earlier said that if he was God or if he had a magic wand there would be no poker machines. I tend to support that. I am not a big lover of poker machines. I think that since poker machines were introduced into Queensland I would have put a total of about $20 through poker machines. That is my personal perspective.
However, poker machines are not illegal, and the operators, like clubs, hotels, bowls clubs and football clubs, help the community. I speak from a regional perspective; I do not have big sports clubs in my electorate. If you wanted to play the poker machines in my electorate you would go to a pub, which would probably have 20 machines, tops. A small bowls club in my electorate would have five or 10 poker machines. The revenue from those machines helps the community. In fact, some of those clubs survive not because of the poker machine revenue but because of the volunteer hours that are put in to keep those community interest groups afloat.
Earlier in the year I had the opportunity to sit with the member for Denison and speak about this issue at length. I raised concerns with him that if poker machine access was wound back an addict may then punt through other gambling outlets, whether it be on racing or online gambling. I think the response was that they stay siloed. I tend not to support that concept, because of the other options that are available for people who are addicted to gambling and practise that addiction through putting money down the throats of poker machines. I do not believe that this legislation addresses the whole problem. I do not believe that, if you take away the capacity to gamble in one location, an addicted gambler will not migrate to another location to gamble—that is, unlegislated international gambling outlets, which are accessible as simply as through a phone. This bill is farcical. In the last 12 months we have seen greater access to sports bets through betting on live action football games. It is hypocritical that the bill before the House is trying to deal with a particular member's interest in gambling machines when gambling is becoming so widespread through our community.
In the evidence from the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform the comment was made that there will be mass noncompliance with reference to the regulation of this bill. Comments along those lines concern me. There are also allegations that the industry was concerned about the time frame for the rollout of this bill.
Being from a regional centre I often get approached by people in the streets saying that political correctness has gone mad. It is like they form a parallel with gambling addicts and alcoholics. This bill to me represents trying to stop alcoholism by limiting the ability of alcoholics, when they go through the drive-through, to buy a carton and only allowing them to buy a six-pack. When I was first elected I stood on the principle that I would stand up for the silent majority of my electorate. In my presentation on this bill today that is exactly what I am endeavouring to do.
The coalition acknowledges that gambling is a major problem for some Australians. We support measures that would effectively tackle problem gambling, helping to address and prevent gambling addiction. Any response to gambling must recognise that many Australians gamble responsibly. Many Australians also rely on the sector for jobs. This legislation specifically impedes those gamblers who go out on a Friday afternoon, have a couple of beers and drop a few bucks through a poker machine. This is an impediment to those guys. Tackling problem gambling requires a measured response that does not just look at poker machines but tackles the underlying problem of gambling addiction, right across the gamut. Fundamental problem gambling can only be tackled by providing problem gamblers with counselling and support services. Suggesting that addiction is siloed is fundamentally flawed and I do not accept that.
The coalition will look at approaches that provide additional, better equipped and more efficient counselling support services for problem gamblers. So, whilst we are saying that we cannot support this bill, we do appreciate that there is work to be done in the industry sector on addressing problem gambling. We support voluntary commitment programs and would like to see these extended to all gaming venues. Decisions should be implemented as a result of detailed and careful consideration, not a handshake deal between a candidate from the Prime Minister and a single Independent member of parliament.
Earlier on today the member for Lyne suggested that the coalition's position on this bill was primarily based on fear of the loss of revenue from gambling outlets. I, like the previous speaker on our side, take offence at that. I think it is hypocritical for the member for Lyne to take that moralistic high ground in this debate. I am trying to put forward a logical and self-determining position.
Since 2010, the government has constantly rejected calls for a trial from industry. Those calls were supported by the coalition. The member on the other side of the House shakes her head, but I encourage her to—