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 would like to thank the member for Denison not only for his commitment to addressing the concerns of people who have serious problems with gambling, and the devastation that means for them and their families, but also for the way in which he has been prepared to work through these issues. I thank him on behalf of the government, but I also want to thank him personally. I also would like to personally thank the other Independents and the Greens, and I once again personally thank Senator Richard Di Natale for the professional way in which he has worked through the issues with us.
The introduction of these bills does represent the first time that our national government has legislated to help tackle the harm caused by poker machines. As a result of extensive work that has been done, first by the Productivity Commission and then through considerable discussions with the community and with the industry, we have arrived at the bills that are currently before the House.
The bills provide for voluntary precommitment technology on poker machines, dynamic warnings on poker machines and limits on withdrawals from ATMs in gaming venues. Most importantly, I want to remind the House that these bills build on the May 2011 agreement of the Council of Australian Governments Select Council on Gambling Reform to support the infrastructure for precommitment in every gambling venue in the country. That was agreed by all states and territories with the Commonwealth back in May 2011. These matters have been discussed and debated for a long time. Exposure drafts of these important pieces of legislation were released on 17 February this year. So we have had almost a year of discussion and consultation about the legislation that is now before the House. The bills have been informed by ongoing consultation with the key industry groups, the manufacturers, state and territory governments and many, many community groups that have been working so hard in the interests of problem gamblers for so long. All of that has happened since February this year, when we released the exposure drafts of the legislation.
I want to thank all of those stakeholders who have worked with the government on the legislation. I would also like to thank the members of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, especially the chair, the member for Denison; but I would also like to single out the government members who worked cooperatively with the member for Denison on these very important matters.
The National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 requires that all poker machines be part of a state-wide voluntary precommitment system and display electronic warnings. A precommitment system allows a pokie player to set a loss limit—that is, a limit on the amount that he or she is prepared to lose during a limit period, using poker machines located in that state or territory. Once that person reaches that loss limit, they are prevented from using gaming machines in that state or territory for the rest of their limit period. Precommitment allows pokie players to set a limit before they play and stick to it. These bills mean that people can take back control of their addiction. A registered user of a gaming machine will be able to choose to set no loss limit and will still be able to access transaction statements and other player information to help them to track and review their play. The legislation also requires that all new poker machines manufactured in Australia or imported must be capable of supporting precommitment.
We do understand that for small venues, particularly those in our regional areas, having time to get ready is very important; therefore, the legislation provides for longer time frames for small venues to introduce the changes so that they can reduce costs. And the government will be supporting the amendments foreshadowed by the member for New England that will extend these time frames a little further.
The legislation also introduces a $250-a-day ATM withdrawal limit for gaming machine premises other than casinos. Patrons will still be able to use EFTPOS facilities. We have considered the recommendations of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, which inquired into the legislation, and the government are proposing an amendment to give venues until 1 February 2014 to implement the change. I might just mention, for the benefit of those members of the opposition who plainly have not read the legislation, that there is an exemption for small communities where there is only the one ATM in the small town or community. They will in fact be able to seek an exemption. It is unfortunate that the opposition did not even bother to look at the bill.
The package introduces two levies: the supervisory levy and the gaming machine regulation levy. These two levies are imposed by, respectively, the National Gambling Reform (Related Matters) Bill (No. 1) 2012 and the National Gambling Reform (Related Matters) Bill (No. 2) 2012.
The bills provide for two inquiries by the Productivity Commission. The first is into the results of the proposed trial of mandatory precommitment in the Australian Capital Territory. The second is to assess the progress towards the key reforms that are contained in the bills.
The legislation contains real action to support problem gamblers, to help them and their families. It provides a clear path for the future, where action to tackle problem gambling is based on sound evidence. I thank the members who are supporting the legislation.