House debates

Wednesday, 28 March 2018


Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017; Second Reading

7:42 pm

Photo of Julie CollinsJulie Collins (Franklin, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Minister for Ageing and Mental Health) Share this | | Hansard source

I have stood in this place before to talk about how Australians are fed up with live betting odds appearing during their sporting programs while watching live TV. We get a lot of complaints, particularly from parents, who want to enjoy sport on the television, sit down and have an afternoon or an evening with their children and not get live betting odds on the TV.

Last time—of course, over a year ago now—I moved in this place an amendment that the government did not support in relation to prohibiting gambling and betting ads during live sporting broadcasts, with a view to their prohibition. The government didn't support that at that time, but I'm really pleased to see that the government has finally listened and has gone some way to actually dealing with this issue, because, frankly, Australians have had enough, and all the evidence, sadly, points to the need for the government to act.

Last time I talked in this place about research by Deakin University that points to a number of very concerning issues regarding children and gambling advertising on television. I went through some of the findings at that time, and I think it's worth reiterating those. They are that 90 per cent of children can recall having seen an advertisement for sports betting. That is huge. Three-quarters of children aged eight to 16 years can recall the name of one sports betting brand, and approximately a quarter can recall four brands or more. It is really disturbing that this continues to go on. Seventy-five per cent of children think that gambling is a normal or common part of sport. We don't want children in Australia growing up thinking that.

As I've said, parents, of course, have also conveyed their concerns that gambling advertising is so prevalent that it's changing the way children think and talk about their sport, particularly when they sit down. To give you bit of an idea, I want to quote a 15-year-old boy who said: 'I don't think they're good for kids. They're trying to make it cool. They put them on during sport when the kids are watching.' A 13-year-old boy said: 'They shouldn't be allowed during sport because a lot of kids watch it. The ads pull you in. It's bad.' A 10-year-old boy says, 'The advertisement convinces you to bet and you can get your money back if you lose by eight points.' Eight- to 15-year-old children who have been watching TV, watching their favourite sport, know this information and they know it's wrong. They know it's wrong, the parents know it's wrong and now even the people playing sport at the elite level know it's wrong. We have had AFL footballers and NRL players coming out saying that they don't even want to watch TV with their own children because it is so prevalent. So it's good to see that the government is going to go some way to dealing with that.

But, as my colleague the shadow minister for communications said, there are a few concerns around exactly what the government is going to do, and that it's only acting to restrict the advertisements between the hours of 5 am and 8.30 pm in terms of online live content. And then there are other sports events that start between seven and eight but continue to go on at night, and a lot of children watch them. Indeed, the government has even acknowledged that in its explanatory memorandum, where it says:

… many sports events commence between 7pm and 8pm or take place on weekend afternoons when there are significant child audiences.

So, the government knows children are tuning in at these times, yet this bill, the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017, doesn't take that into account. The explanatory memorandum even says:

Children are thus exposed to significant levels of gambling advertising on television which risks increasing adolescents' desire to experiment with gambling. Increased exposure to gambling advertisements has also been associated with more positive youth gambling attitudes and intentions towards gambling.

So the government acknowledged this in its own explanatory memorandum to the bill, yet it is only banning it from the hours of 5 am to 8.30 pm. I think the government needs to have a bit of a look at this and whether or not it needs to do more.

We've also had the shadow minister for communications talk about the difference between TV content and online and downloadable content and how the government is treating those a little bit differently in this piece of legislation. Indeed, it's got ACMA looking at gambling advertising during live broadcasts in terms of downloadable content. It's a bit of an issue that there's not consistency across the platforms with the downloadable online content, the live TV content and, I assume, the pay TV content. While there are all those mediums, I think that we need to have some consistency between all of the different ways that people now access live sport. The bill regulates online services but it has created uncertainty in that industry, and consumers are concerned that it's treating people a bit differently depending on who's going to be exempt and how this is going to work. So there are clearly some issues around that in the bill to date.

We acknowledge that some of these differences might be justifiable in terms of the regulation policy for the Broadcasting Services Act. The broadcasting platforms have not been treated the same way under the government's approach but, clearly, industry and consumers would like some consistency so that they know the restrictions are the same regardless of the platform. Even waging industry operators think the restrictions should apply across the board so that they can have some consistency in that.

It's good to see that ACMA is going to closely monitor the operation of the additional restrictions in the updated broadcasting codes and will consider whether or not to conduct a formal review of their effectiveness. Really, I would have thought we could have looked at this. We moved our amendment in this place over a year ago, so the government have had plenty of time to do a fair bit of work on this. I acknowledge they have done some, but I am concerned there are still matters outstanding when it comes to this bill.

The shadow minister, when she was at the dispatch box, also talked about some of the online restrictions in the bill and about the services: who's going to be exempt and what the government is going to do there. Obviously, we called for stronger protections, and we think the government should have done more work and worked with ACMA over that time to make some decisions. Whilst parents are worried about their kids and gambling ads during live sporting events, gambling promotions continue to pop up and come in whilst people are online during those times. We don't think addressing the issue has really been a priority for the government.

Australians love sport. We all tune in to major sporting events. We go out to venues around the country to watch live sport. I think that people are pretty attuned to sport in Australia. We have seen this week, with what's happened in cricket, how Australians are concerned about what happens in sporting codes across our country. When you've got parents, children, players and some people in industry concerned about what is happening, in terms of live sporting betting, I think that we need to do more and we need to look at it really seriously. I think the government has got a lot more work to do. I think that there are concerns. I think that parents and children have said that they're concerned. The research shows that children are being affected by this. Whilst the government has done some work, I think there's still a lot more work to be done yet.

7:50 pm

Photo of Terri ButlerTerri Butler (Griffith, Australian Labor Party, Shadow Assistant Minister for Preventing Family Violence) Share this | | Hansard source

Labor, as you know, has a strong record on addressing community concerns in relation to gambling promotions during live sport and, accordingly, we support the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017 as a step in the right direction. The member for Franklin, in her contribution, told the House some of the grave concerns that parents and families have in respect of the way that gambling has become pervasive across sport. It's become almost ubiquitous in all sporting codes to see the odds being described, to see the opportunities for gambling being offered across the spectrum of sport. It is important that we look at the ways in which we can ameliorate some of the potential for damage that arises as a consequence of the ubiquitousness of gambling in sport.

The people that this bill is particularly aimed at, in our view, are children. We are worried about some of the influences that gambling and gambling advertising can have on children and we're very concerned about the influence that gambling and gambling advertising can have on families as well. I've had reason recently, in part of my family violence portfolio work, to talk with Financial Counselling Australia. They spoke to me about problem gambling, and the impact that problem gambling has on households and on families. It's particularly terrible when you think of the fact that often you have one member in the family who is a problem gambler but is a gambler in secret and so, by the time the other partner finds out about the extent of the damage, it's far too late to be able to stop it. What you then start to see is partners offering to take on debts, because they love their husbands or wives. They're horrified at what's happened to them, the consequence of the problem gambling. So, as anyone would do for a loved one, they seek to help them and that means that the gambling debts that people have worked up then become the problem of both partners. They both end up in debt as a consequence of some of that problem gambling.

We do need to confront gambling as an issue in this country. We need to make sure that we are very careful in the way that we allow gambling to be promoted, and this bill goes to that. I'm not someone who opposes all gambling. I don't want to see it outlawed. I have a flutter on the Melbourne Cup myself—not very successfully, I have to admit. The last time I had a win on the cup was when Might and Power won, and I'm sure people remember that incredible race in 1997. I don't think the member for Mackellar was necessarily following the Melbourne Cup that day, maybe he was. I can see him laughing over there. It was an incredible race, and I know that many people had quite a good time having a win on that horse in 1997—one of the best horses. I think it had won the Caulfield Cup the week before. It had done a great job, but I digress.

My point is that I'm not opposed to all gambling and I'm not opposed to all online gambling, but I am very much in favour of ensuring that we as nation take a responsible attitude to gambling and to gambling promotion. I was pleased when Labor called for stronger restrictions on gambling promotions during the coverage of live sport. I agreed that industry should be given time to adjust to any changes and to adapt its practices. It's a pragmatic approach to this, and we do need to take a pragmatic approach.

We have to remember that gambling is an industry and it's also an employer. When changes are made we need to think about the people who will be impacted as a consequence on that side of the ledger as well. Actually, just yesterday we were speaking with a woman who had been working in the gambling industry for a very long time. It's certainly an industry I have an affinity with. About 20 years ago I worked for the clerks union in Queensland, and they covered the TAB workers who were being quite disrupted at that time by technological change rather than by regulatory change—although they were being disrupted by moves to privatise the TAB at the time as well. We have to remember when we make disruptive change that there should be appropriate time for adjustment for industry participants in their capacity as businesses and also in their capacity as employers. As said, I agreed with Labor calling on that to occur some time ago—more than a year ago—and I also agreed with the proposition that there should be an adjustment period.

The Turnbull government made its policy announcement in May last year. We didn't see any legislation until the final sitting week in December and there's still a raft of question marks hanging over this bill, unfortunately. The Labor-lite announcement that the government eventually made is a step in the right direction, but it may not go far enough to address community concerns because it continues to permit gambling ads during live sport, on the SBS, on commercial and subscription broadcasting and online at times when children may still be watching sport. The only reason, in our view, that the Turnbull government even announced these measures is because they were starting to get desperate and had to go back to the drawing board to get their changes to media ownership laws through parliament.

Having said that, we think the bill is a step in the right direction and are pleased to support it. It's just a fact that both adults and kids should be able to enjoy watching live sport without constantly having the odds rammed down their throats or gambling advertising rammed down their throats. Sport is a thing of beauty in and of itself. It is a public spectacle in which we can all participate. It is something that can create a shared experience for us as a nation. That's why I strongly support the bill.

Question agreed to.

Bill read a second time.