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

12:57 pm

Photo of Scott BuchholzScott Buchholz (Wright, Liberal Party) Share this | Hansard source

I am going to get to that, with reference to the trial. According to manufacturers the government time line is unrealistic and unachievable. I have already mentioned those points. The coalition has grave concerns about the proposed trial in the ACT. These concerns include that public moneys being provided as compensation to clubs involved in the trial may be siphoned back to Labor clubs and returned to the Labor Party coffers. You do not have to be Dick Tracy to go back and work out the audit trail and find out that some of the funds end up at that Labor Club here in Canberra where the trial is proposed. So it is on those points that I say to the member for Lyne that our opposition to this is not because of where the money comes from. It is purely because of our succinct and clearly outlined opposition to the bill.

The bill also provides for monitoring and investigation of compliance with new requirements. The regulatory reforms these functions and this legislation set out have enforcement measures including civil penalty orders; infringement notices; injunctions; enforceable undertakings; and compliance notices. This will mean that Labor will have established yet another new bureaucracy, a federal gaming regulator. There are not too many bills coming before this House that have a pattern or trend to them, which is that they either set up new bureaucracies, look after Labor mates, or somehow create a siphon trail for funds from this government back to a union movement, and this one just about ticks all three of those boxes.

The bill provides for the Commonwealth to delegate the regulatory function to the states and territories, with the approval of the relevant state and territory ministers, but there is no assurance that the Commonwealth would in fact delegate this power. These bills provide for the Productivity Commission to undertake two independent inquiries. One is in relation to any trial or mandatory precommitment system. The second is to inquire into the progress that is being made by gambling machine premises towards complying with the precommitment systems, the dynamic warning requirements, the limits on ATM withdrawals and the progress being made by manufacturers and importers in meeting the manufacturing and reporting requirements. The bill also establishes an Australian gambling research centre within the Australian Institute of Family Studies.

The legislation was introduced into the House on 1 November, with the subsequent Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform given a mere week to take submissions, and a further one week for hearings. Given the scope of the legislation and the dimension of the challenge it seeks to address, this was far from adequate. The debate has been in the public arena for a considerable amount of time, but we do see a pattern emerging with reference to legislation. Where the legislation is somewhat sensitive you can virtually say that if the government has something to hide, or if they want to suppress transparency, one week is normally the guideline for this type of bill, and this is not an isolated incident.

The coalition supports voluntary precommitment as one of a variety of tools for addressing the complex issue of problem gambling in Australia. However, we disagree with the approach proposed by the government as contained in its ill-conceived legislative proposal. The coalition does not believe the legislation should be supported in its current form. The Productivity Commission itself stated that the issue of addressing problem gambling:

… is a complex task for public policy. The coverage and design of regulation require particular care to ensure that the benefits exceed the costs, and that account is taken of what is often imperfect evidence.

Closer examination of the evidence suggests that a number of initiatives that significantly improve the effectiveness of the legislation should be supported.

The coalition has identified six areas of concern with reference to this legislation. In brief, it is the influence of the Commonwealth; the lack of time given to industry; the cost of implementation; the negative impact on industry; the financial hardship; the risk of widespread noncompliance, which was another issue that came out of the report; and the matters associated with ATMs. This point is best demonstrated by the evidence. A respected professor of constitutional law at the University of Sydney, Dr Anne Twomey, stated:

… gambling is fundamentally a State matter that should be dealt with by State laws.

…   …   …

… it would be more consistent with the federal system and with the principle of subsidiarity for such laws to be applied at the State level.

I conclude where I started: I am not a great lover of gambling through poker machines—full stop. I do not spend a lot of money at the track and in fact I only very rarely buy a lotto ticket. I make that choice because it is my personal choice. I would suggest that trying to direct the Australian public as to what should influence their personal choices is not something that is best dealt with through legislation.

There is no way I can support the bill in its current form, because I do not believe it goes to the intent of what its authors intended. However, I would like to see reform in this industry.


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