House debates

Wednesday, 14 June 2023



9:52 am

Photo of Zoe DanielZoe Daniel (Goldstein, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I seek leave to move the following motion:

(1) That the House notes:

(a) The evidence is that extensions to restrictions on gambling advertising around sports broadcasts are not effective

(b) Enhanced restrictions on gambling advertising introduced in 2017 have proved counter-productive with promotion shifting from sports broadcasts to general programming

(c) Research commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that the total volume of gambling advertisements on radio and television increased by 50 percent after the new restrictions were introduced

(d) A recent survey for the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation found that 78 percent of respondents believe they should be able to watch sport free of gambling advertising

(2) That so much of standing orders be suspended as would prevent Private Members' business order of the day No 31, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Prohibition of Gambling Advertisements) Bill 2023, being called on immediately and given priority over all other business for final determination of the House.

Leave not granted.

I move:

That so much of the standing and sessional orders be suspended as would prevent private Members' business order of the day No. 31, the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Prohibition of Gambling Advertisements) Bill 2023, being called on immediately and given priority over all other business for final determination of the House.

I raise this as a matter of urgency because as I speak our airwaves are flooded with advertisements encouraging and grooming our young people, my children and yours, to think there's an inextricable link between sport and gambling; that you can't have one without the other; and that, instead of sport being fun, health, participation and people, you're not one of the gang unless you know as much about the intricacies of multis as you do about the finer points of the game you're watching. I presented my private member's bill in this place on 22 May. It would introduce a complete ban on gambling advertising across radio and broadcast television as well as streaming services and their associated apps. We need to debate this bill now because it's in line with what the community wants.

Just this week, ABC TV's Four Corners program presented disturbing evidence that gambling companies are targeting community sport, marketing games to gamblers sometimes even without the knowledge of the sporting clubs themselves. As we debate whether to even debate this bill in this House this morning, rapidly advancing technology means every day lost without tightening the rules affects more young people, more families, more communities and more local economies, with blanket gambling advertising across free-to-air and pay TV, streaming services, radio and online further normalising betting day by day.

Polling last year showed that 71 per cent of those polled want gambling advertising banned. Recent research commissioned by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation found that 78 per cent of respondents believed they should be able to watch sport free of gambling ads. The need for this legislation is urgent because the social costs of gambling and gambling addiction are significant and growing. In 2017 the VRGF estimated that the total social cost of gambling in Victoria was no less than $7 billion, and the figure is certainly higher now. Of that cost, $2.2 billion emerged from family and relationship problems; $1.6 billion emerged from emotional and psychological issues, including suicide and violence; and $1.3 billion emerged from financial losses. What could be more urgent than acting to curtail these costs, especially amid a national cost-of-living crisis that worst affects our most vulnerable, who are also the targets of gambling ads?

I welcome the recent steps taken by the opposition to recognise the extent of the problems created by gambling advertising and public concern about its ubiquity, but the evidence indicates that further ring fencing of gambling advertising and merely banning it before, during and after sports broadcasts will not work. The opposition's intent to present its own bill in the other place, diluting much-needed action with very limited bans, is another reason debating the bill I have presented is urgent.

The last time further restrictions were introduced, by the previous government back in 2017, research undertaken by the Australian Communications and Media Authority found that the total volume of gambling adverts on TV and radio increased by 50 per cent, averaging at 948 individual spots per day. Ads merely travelled into other programming, including sports news, magazine programs, comedy and films, all of which attract young viewers. Do we want to simply reconfirm that mistake?

When it comes to the scourge of gambling ads either we can commentate or we can act. We can talk about it or we can legislate it now. I thank my fellow crossbenchers for their support and urge the House to support bringing on debate on the Broadcasting Services Amendment (Prohibition of Gambling Advertisements) Bill.

Photo of Ian GoodenoughIan Goodenough (Moore, Liberal Party) Share this | | Hansard source

Is there a seconder for the motion?

9:57 am

Photo of Allegra SpenderAllegra Spender (Wentworth, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to second the motion. I thank the member for Goldstein for introducing this important private member's bill and I rise to support the suspension of standing orders so that we can debate it immediately.

Problem gambling is an urgent issue in Australia and one that needs an urgent response. We have been elected to this parliament for over one year now. It is conservatively estimated that during that time problem gambling has cost Australia $5 billion. In fiscal terms, the cost to government of the impact of problem gambling would be enough to make it an urgent issue, but the true cost, the real urgency, is the human cost. It's the impacts on families and relationships and on mental health and wellbeing that weigh most heavily on our community and that we must address. UK studies have shown that problem gamblers are three times more likely to consider or attempt suicide. Sixty-eight per cent of people surveyed by the Australian Gambling Research Centre believe that gambling is dangerous for family life. Gambling is making us sick and hurting our most precious relationships.

At the same time, the escalation of gambling advertising again tells us this parliament needs to address this urgently. The gambling ad spend in Australia has tripled over the last 10 years. Every day almost 1,000 television ads are shown to the Australian community, to our Australian children, and these ads are getting through. A Victorian study found a staggering 31 per cent of 12- to 17-year-olds had gambled at some point in the past and that TV ads for gambling were the most frequently reported type of gambling promotion they had seen, at 73 per cent. These kids aren't even allowed to gamble yet, but almost a third of Victorian young people surveyed had gambled in the past.

Our community wants this to stop. The Australian Gambling Research Centre found that 77 per cent of Australians believe there are too many opportunities for gambling nowadays, and 59 per cent believe that gambling should be discouraged. The community has spoken and it's time for the parliament—urgently—to listen. My community in Wentworth wants to see this change.

One of my community members told me that their seven-year-old daughter had asked them what a 'same-day multi' was. A seven-year-old should be discovering the joys of playing team sports, of watching sports with their friends and family, not being educated about the odds and the pay-offs. But this is what is happening with our current advertising regime.

Australia seeks to be the best in the world at sport. We strive across the sporting codes to do it, but the one code we are absolutely No. 1 at is gambling. Australians are the worst problem gamblers in the entire world. This is a championship that we should not be trying to fight. It is ruining our lives. We must stop this—and stop this urgently—for future generations.

10:01 am

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise to support the motion to suspend standing orders to urgently debate the bill put forward, to ban gambling advertising, by the member for Goldstein. I thank her for bringing this on with urgency.

As a parent, it's incredibly distressing to see the prevalence of gambling advertising. It's incredibly urgent that we debate this bill today because we owe the Australian people leadership. That is what the purpose of this place is. We must step in. The government must step in and enact regulation and ensure there are protections in place when we have rampant harm occurring. That is what the gambling industry is. Let's call it out for what it actually is.

If I can draw on my sporting background, in the 1990s we realised that drugs in sport was a major issue, that it had major long-term health harm and implications. And we acted. Governments around the world acted around drugs in sport and gambling harm. But now, let's call it for what it is, gambling is the modern-day drug of sport. It is impacting the health of Australians, and sometimes children as young as 12 are being targeted by gambling advertising. We know it is impacting the enjoyment and participation in sport. It is a harm that is so great to Australians in our community. It is doing immense harm to Australians.

We spend more on gambling, per capita, than any other country—around $1,300 per month. In 2020-21 we lost over $25 billion in gambling. More importantly, we lost loved ones. Families and relationships broke down. People were physically hurt and abused. Mental health suffered. Over a third of Australians gamble in a typical month. The losses are 20 per cent higher than in other countries because of our sports betting advertising regulation.

Prior to 1993 you had gambling with the TAB. Then government stepped in. It deregulated and allowed gambling advertising on all sports. What we've seen is this accelerated growth of harm and impact in the community. Sports betting advertising is everywhere. It's on the TV. It's on social media. It targets people. It's on radio, print, jerseys, around the stadiums and is pushed to people non-stop.

We're world leaders in gambling, and by urgently debating and passing this bill we can be world leaders in preventing these harms. We did it with tobacco. We led the way. We can do it for gambling. Stop gambling ads now, by debating this bill.

10:04 am

Photo of Stephen BatesStephen Bates (Brisbane, Australian Greens) Share this | | Hansard source

I rise in support of the suspension of standing orders to debate this bill because gambling companies have sucked hundreds of billions of dollars out of Australian communities and it's getting worse. Figures compiled by the Alliance for Gambling Reform show that Australians gamble 20 per cent more online than any other country in the world, and in 2021 we lost $11.4 billion to pokies. My home state of Queensland has sadly surpassed Victoria as the second-biggest pokie state in the country, with more than $2.7 billion in losses and with residents within the Brisbane City Council local government area losing $591 million in 2021 alone.

The gambling advertising that is saturating our media landscape is harmful and dangerous. It is particularly dangerous for young people, but our governments are doing nothing to stop it. Of course, we welcome the minor steps that have been proposed or taken, whether it's the ban around sporting events or a ban on gambling using credit cards. The Liberal Party have recently suggested some minor changes—ones this Labor government has yet to even engage on—but these are fiddling at the margins when our communities need urgent action. There is a clear reason why the old parties haven't taken action on regulating gambling in advertising. Both the major parties have accepted more than $9 million in donations from the gambling industry over the last two decades. Political donations from the gambling industry amounted to $2.165 million last year alone, which was a 40 per cent increase on the previous year.

The Greens are the only political party with a clear, comprehensive platform to take action on gambling. We want to see a national gambling regulator to ensure a consistent approach rather than a patchwork of a regulation that gambling companies and casinos can exploit. We want to see a universal and mandatory precommitment system to protect those at risk from gambling harm. We want transparency about the impacts of gambling, starting with clear reporting on which local government areas are hardest hit by the gambling companies. We want a ban on all gambling advertising, including street signage, TV, radio and online ads. Finally, the gambling industry should not be able to sponsor sporting teams and major events. These changes would make a real difference in people's lives.

10:06 am

Photo of Monique RyanMonique Ryan (Kooyong, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I also rise in support of the member's motion to suspend standing orders to debate this bill. Sports wagering is the fastest-growing form of gambling in Australia. Australians lose more than $7 billion to it annually, and the urgency around this debate relates to the fact that, every day, gambling is doing Australians harm. For a lot of people, gambling is a recreational pastime like any other. That's okay—for adults. It's not okay when gambling is being sold to Australian children with reckless abandon.

Sports gambling has a particular risk. It's so accessible. It's not hidden away in casinos. It's integrated into primetime sporting events that hold real cultural significance for Australians. Every time our kids watch the footy, they see sportspeople who they respect spruiking something which causes our children harm. The sports betting industry spent $280 million on advertising in 2022. Seventy-eight per cent of Australians saw a sports betting ad every week. Forty-one per cent saw more than four every week. During sporting games, on Instagram, on the sides of buses—sports betting ads are everywhere. I have a 14-year-old son who can quote the odds to me. These ads are normalising risky behaviours for our children. And so I do support the member for Goldstein's move to ban all sports betting advertising on TV and radio. I note that this proposal does not include online ads, as they currently are subject to a House committee inquiry, but it's really hard to imagine that online ads are not having a similar adverse effect on our children, as are other forms of sporting advertising.

I'll make one further point. In this place, independents have a strong, proud history of taking new ideas to the table and debating them in a sensible and responsible way. This is politics done differently, and that's what we're doing today. I really urge the major parties to join with this important proposition developed by my colleague the member for Goldstein. This is an important idea which is already gaining a lot of traction with Australian people. It should gain traction with the Australian major parties.

10:09 am

Photo of Mr Tony BurkeMr Tony Burke (Watson, Australian Labor Party, Minister for Employment and Workplace Relations) Share this | | Hansard source

I'll be brief in my remarks, because I do understand there are more members of the crossbench still wanting to rise to speak. First of all, as is always the case, the government won't support the suspension of standing orders. But, similar to a debate that we had some months ago over the banning of Nazi symbols, where there was a private member's bill sought to be brought on for debate, the fact that we are not supporting the suspension should not be taken as the government being opposed to the principle behind actions that are being sought. I think that's shown in good faith by the Attorney-General introducing the legislation that he did immediately before this debate commenced.

On the issue before us now, I want to thank the member for Goldstein for bringing it forward in the way that she has and assure the House that the government is committed to ensuring online gambling takes place within a robust legislative framework with strong consumer protections. Like many Australians, we too as a government are concerned about the extent of gambling ads and their impact, and this is one of the key reasons why the House of Reps inquiry into online gambling and its impact was established—to consider those experiencing gambling harm. That inquiry is due to report in the coming weeks, and its recommendations will underpin the government's consideration of what further reforms are required to reduce gambling harms, including to the rules around gambling advertising.

I'm encouraged by the support for change across the parliament, including the advocacy by all the members that we've heard from so far in the debate. When we do act in this area, we want to make sure that our approach is comprehensive. Importantly, we need to consider the multiple channels over which advertising is delivered, and that includes television, radio, outdoor advertising, branding and, importantly, social media. That's why the government will await the House of Reps inquiry final report before proposing changes.

10:11 am

Photo of Sophie ScampsSophie Scamps (Mackellar, Independent) Share this | | Hansard source

I too rise to support the member for Goldstein's motion to suspend standing orders. Thank you very much also to the minister for his comments there about supporting a debate in future about gambling advertising and online gambling. We need to debate this issue urgently. It is currently a public health crisis. The gambling advertising is all pervasive, and there's no escaping it. It's got to a point where it's causing an enormous amount of harm not only to current generations but to future generations too, because we know our children are being exposed to gambling advertising constantly online, on TV and on radio. So, if we don't act now, we have a huge problem coming ahead of us. Yes, it can be the occasional bit of fun for adults, but for many it is actually a destructive lifetime addiction. There's family breakdown; there's domestic violence. It can cause crime; it can cause bankruptcy. It can cause so much harm and, of course, mental ill health that we do need to act now. We can no longer stand by while we allow this toxic environment to flourish.

I wanted to tell a little story, just very briefly. My husband was a Brumby back in the 1990s. Back then it seemed more of a wholesome game. There were families, there were children, and they were sponsored by Canberra Milk. Last night, I walked past a life-size cut-out of a Brumby who, smack bang in his middle of his chest, had gambling advertising, and I can't tell you how disappointed I was. Sport has been hijacked by the gambling industry. We can no longer sit and enjoy our leisure time without being targeted and bombarded with gambling advertising, and this is a toxic environment that we are allowing our children to grow up in. Worse than that is the online targeting—the individual targeting of our children with gambling advertisements. The information is mined; it is harvested. They are labelled, and they are individually targeted. Young boys in particular are targeted with gambling advertising. What this means for them in the future I can only wonder. They are preyed upon.

It is now a public health crisis. We need to be building healthy environments for our children, both in the real world physically, while we watch TV or we play sport, and online. We know that our communities are begging us to act. They are begging us to lead on this. Seventy per cent of the public wants to completely ban gambling advertising from TV. We did it with smoking, and now we need to do it with gambling. They are both addictive, harmful products. We need to be world leaders in gambling restrictions and building an environment where our children can flourish again.

Photo of Milton DickMilton Dick (Speaker) Share this | | Hansard source

The question is that the motion be disagreed to.