Monday, 26 March 2018
Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017; Second Reading
I rise after some anticipation, having thought we were going to get to this legislation last week, but here we are, one week later, and we have the piece of legislation before us: the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. Labor has a very strong record on addressing community concerns around gambling promotions during live sport. We know that Australia's a sport-loving nation, and the engagement over the last 48 hours with matters cricket gives us an indication of the depth of Australians' feelings about sport in this nation. We believe that Australians should be able to enjoy watching live sport without the unwarranted intrusion of betting odds and gambling promotions. In particular, it's in everyone's interest to ensure that children don't associate betting and gambling as a normal part of enjoying sport. Labor supports the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017 as a step in the right direction because it enhances consumer protections and sets up a platform-neutral approach to regulation in relation to gambling promotions during live sport. We welcome the government's move to extend restrictions to online platforms and avoid regulatory bypass.
This bill builds upon the leadership of the Gillard Labor government in 2013, which took the step of demanding that Australia's broadcasters amend their industry codes of practice to ensure a reduction in the promotion and advertising of gambling during live sport. Following Labor's intervention, the broadcast television industry responded by developing rules to restrict gambling advertising in live sports broadcasting and the promotion of betting odds. The updated codes of practice were then registered by the Australia Communications and Media Authority. At the time, both the Labor government and the ACMA noted that further action in this area might be necessary in future.
More recently, and in response to ongoing and significant community concerns, Labor formally called for stronger protections, noting that the industry should be given time to adjust to any changes. In March 2017, in the context of debate on the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill 2016, Labor moved a successful motion here in the parliament calling for stronger restrictions on gambling promotions during live sport. The announcement the government went on to make in May 2017 responded to Labor's call and was the only consumer oriented measure they announced in the raft of industry deals that were done to push their media law changes through the parliament last year. Unfortunately, it took the government another seven months before it introduced this bill into parliament in December 2017. Meanwhile, a range of people—parents and gambling experts included—continued to worry about children's level of exposure to gambling ads, especially during live sporting events. This delay means that new restrictions for online platforms contemplated by this bill are unlikely to commence at the same time as the new restrictions for broadcast platforms, given the time the ACMA will need to develop new online content service provider rules. Furthermore, and despite the length of time the government has taken to address community concerns, a host of issues are yet to be worked through under this bill. There's a high level of uncertainty amongst the industry and consumers about the exemptions that will be permitted by the ACMA under the new online content service provider rules. Addressing this issue has not been enough of a priority of the Turnbull government. However, we do support this bill, as I said, as a step in the right direction.
The aim of the government's approach is to create 'a clear and safe zone where parents can be confident children can watch live sport without experiencing messages that normalise gambling as a part of that sport', as I quote from the government's legislation. While the government's approach is intended to cause a reduction in gambling promotion during live sport, it remains to be seen whether the clear and safe zone that they declare will satisfy the Australian public in practice, given it cuts out at 8.30 pm. This is a time when high-profile sports programs are often still in play.
According to research commissioned by the Australian Communications and Media Authority, the majority of Australians—that is, 61 per cent—do not want gambling advertising during live sport broadcasts, no matter the time of day. However, the Turnbull government has acted to restrict gambling advertising during live sport between the hours of 5 am and 8:30 pm, as well as providing for a host of exemptions from the online scheme, when the majority of Australians don't want gambling promotions during live sport at all. While selecting the hours of 5 am to 8.30 pm does address the time that children are most likely to consume media, they do not address the timing of sports programming so neatly. Even the explanatory memorandum to the bill acknowledges this. It states:
… many sports events commence between 7pm and 8pm or take place on weekend afternoons when there are significant child audiences. 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.
It also states:
… the Department has received and continues to receive a significant amount of correspondence from the community, expressing concern about the impact of gambling advertising on child audiences. In a recent campaign the Department received over 1150 emails calling for gambling advertising in association with live sport to be banned.
Here it's worth noting that consistency in application of the restrictions is guided by the regulatory policy of the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which already applies in relation to broadcast platforms and which the bill extends to online content services. The regulatory policy provides that the parliament intends that different levels of regulatory control apply across the range of services, including broadcasting and online content services, according to the degree of influence that different types of those services are able to exert in shaping community views in Australia. Further, it provides that services be regulated in a manner that enables public interest considerations to be addressed in a way that does not impose unnecessary financial or administrative burden on providers of broadcast and online content services, among other things. Labor is cognisant of the regulatory policy and believes that industry should be afforded the time and the flexibility needed to alter business practices and contractual arrangements to address community concerns.
Here I would like to make some brief comments on the broadcast industry codes of practice that have recently been updated to reflect government policy in this area. Labor welcomes additional restrictions on gambling advertisements during the broadcasting of live sports between 5 am and 8.30 pm on commercial TV, pay TV and commercial radio as a step in the right direction. I note that questions remain about inconsistencies in the approach taken under these codes. The broadcast codes of practice, which have been registered by the Australian Communications and Media Authority and were announced on Friday, 16 March 2018, permit exemptions for low audience share channels on subscription television and, for technical reasons, treat time zones differently, as between platforms. While these differences may be justifiable under the regulatory policy of the Broadcasting Services Act, the simple fact is that the broadcasting platforms have not been treated the same way under the government's approach when both industry and consumers want consistency.
It's good to see that the ACMA has stated that it will closely monitor the operation of the additional restrictions in the updated broadcasting codes and, after 12 months, will consider whether to conduct a formal review of their effectiveness. In the name of consistency, Labor welcomes the move to extend restrictions to online services. Online platforms were included in the government's announcement, at the urging of the broadcast sector, over concerns about regulatory bypass and the need for a level playing field in a lucrative sports rights and gambling promotions market.
The bill seeks to introduce a platform-neutral approach to the restriction of gambling promotions during live sports coverage across broadcast, subscription and online platforms to achieve a level playing field and consistency in consumer protection. However, the bill to restrict gambling promotions during live sport on online platforms permits all manner of exemptions, the detail of which is yet to be worked through—after the legislation has passed the parliament. Under the Turnbull government's approach, neither industry nor consumers enjoy clarity or consistency around the application of the additional restrictions. While Labor acknowledges that the aim of the measures in this bill is to reduce gambling promotion online, the wide range of exemptions permitted under the bill, and the lack of policy guidance on those exemptions, causes many to wonder what this bill will actually end up achieving in practice.
For a sport-loving nation like Australia, the new online provisions are cast very broadly indeed. Schedule 8 covers the internet—pretty well! It applies to:
… any service that delivers or allows users to access content using an internet carriage service to the public and has a geographical link to Australia (if the service is targeted at individuals physically present in Australia or any of the content is likely to appeal to the public, or a section of the public, in Australia).
In recognition of the wide variety of online content services with different business models and technical characteristics, the explanatory memorandum to the bill states that 'the online content service provider rules will not need to regulate all online content services and the bill provides for a very broad range of exemptions'. The exemptions to the online content service provider rules will be considered by the ACMA once the legislation has passed this parliament. I note the concerns of the Digital Industry Group about inconsistent regulation. It will be interesting to see how the ACMA balances evidentiary and policy considerations as it considers specific and class exemptions, as permitted under the bill.
Further, I note the concerns of Responsible Wagering Australia, who submitted to the inquiry into this bill the following statement:
From industry's perspective, this [approach] results in a disjointed process under which the entity responsible for the legislation (the Department) cannot speak to nor provide assurances around which exemptions will apply—despite this being a pivotal issue for industry. Similarly the proposed entity responsible for the consideration of exemptions (the ACMA) is awaiting finalisation of the legislation before it will discuss possible exemptions in any great detail.
… … …
The Bill takes an expansive view of what constitutes an 'online content service' for the purposes of the legislation, with the legislation providing a mechanism for exemptions to be made by the ACMA. In our view, this approach provides no certainty to industry.
As I mentioned earlier, while the Turnbull government made its policy announcement back in May 2017, the legislation was not available publicly until this bill was introduced in the final sitting week of December 2017. And even now, in March, a raft of question marks still hang over this bill—a number of which were canvassed during the inquiry into this bill and will continue to play out.
I will now move to the proposed regulation of the Special Broadcasting Service by this bill. Let's start with the facts. SBS content is regulated by the SBS codes of practice—codes which apply to the SBS's radio, television and online services. Unlike the commercial broadcasters, whose codes of practice apply only to TV and radio services, SBS's online services are regulated by the SBS codes of practice. The SBS is committed to implementing appropriate restrictions on gambling promotions during live sport, in accordance with government policy, by 30 March 2018—this week—on both its broadcast and online platforms. Consistent with past practice, SBS will incorporate the new gambling advertising restrictions by reference to the FreeTV and CRA codes of practice that have been registered, so there will be consistency between services. In the online space, SBS will be ahead of the rest of the market by implementing restrictions to its online platforms this month. This is likely to happen ahead of the making of any rules by the ACMA, which is yet to be empowered under this bill to develop and implement online content service provider rules.
However, despite all this, this bill proposes to regulate SBS programming with rules developed by the ACMA. This implementation mechanism is inappropriate for application to a public broadcaster such as SBS. It permits a level of ACMA intervention over SBS programming that is inconsistent with SBS's independence and the co-regulatory framework in the Broadcasting Services Act. The SBS Act requires the SBS board to maintain the independence of the SBS and limits the matters on which SBS can be directed by the minister. In turn, the Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which this bill seeks to amend, recognises the independence of SBS and contains distinct processes for code notification, the investigation of complaints and any actions the ACMA may take in relation to the SBS. These actions are quite distinct from the actions the ACMA may take in relation to commercial and subscription broadcasters. It is really very simple: SBS should not be captured by the regulatory regime set out in the bill. Instead, implementation of new restrictions for the SBS should be achieved by establishing one set of rules in the SBS codes that cover both the broadcasting and the online platforms.
While in theory the bill permits the ACMA to exempt the SBS from online content service provider rules, there is no assurance the ACMA would do so. In any event, and with respect to the ACMA, rules around SBS programming should not be a matter of ACMA discretion. Furthermore, subjecting the SBS to this bill is contrary to the stated policy objective of the government to pursue opportunities for self-regulation and co-regulation to a greater, not a lesser, extent. As a matter of regulatory policy and practice in order to alleviate the burden on the Australian taxpayer, the SBS should be encouraged to self-regulate, which it is already doing. If the Turnbull government wants to regulate both broadcast and online platforms coherently, or alter the co-regulatory framework in the BSA vis-a-vis the SBS, it should conduct full and overdue reform of the BSA.
In essence, the bill highlights the ongoing failure of the Liberal government to adapt the regulatory framework for media and communications in the 21st century. The bill proposes to regulate online platforms by tacking yet another schedule for online services onto the outdated, pre-internet Broadcasting Services Act 1992, which is now over 25 years old. It clumsily draws the SBS into this regime. Overall for the SBS, including restrictions on gambling advertising during live sporting events on online platforms in the SBS codes would be clearer for audiences as it provides one port of call for complaints about SBS content. It enables a more efficient handling of complaints by the SBS and the ACMA, and it would appropriately preserve SBS's editorial independence from government.
Finally, in closing I wish to return to some evidence that promoted Labor's call this time last year for stronger restrictions. An ABC News story last year by Damian McIver mentioned concerns two high-profile AFL players had about the prevalence of gambling advertisements. Geelong defender Harry Taylor was quoted as saying:
I've got three kids at home and when my eldest can name a lot of the ads on TV, that is a bit of a worry …
Gambling advertising is out of control and I think it needs to change …
The obvious issue here is the effect this advertising has on children every time they watch us pull on our boots.
Research undertaken by Deakin University points out a number of very concerning issues with regard to children and gambling advertising on television. The research found that more than 90 per cent of children—90 per cent!—can recall having seen an advertisement for sports betting. About three-quarters of children aged between eight and 16 can recall the name of at least one sports betting brand. Approximately one-quarter can recall four brands or more. Seventy-five per cent of children think that gambling is a normal or common part of sport. Parents conveyed concerns that gambling advertising is so prevalent that it's changing the way kids think and talk about sport. When you look at these findings, you can understand why parents and the community in general are worried about our kids being subjected to gambling advertising, especially during live sporting events. Labor understands that Australians don't want children to associate betting and gambling with normal parts of enjoying sport. For these reasons, and with the reservations I've articulated, Labor supports this bill.
I rise to speak on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. This bill amends the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 by inserting a new schedule 8 to create a regulatory framework for the Australian Communications and Media Authority to make rules prohibiting or restricting gambling advertising for online content service providers. It provides for the first time a platform-neutral approach to restrictions on gambling ads during live sporting events. Sporting fans, including thousands of children, whether at the game or watching a broadcast, bear witness to an unprecedented volume of sports betting promotion before the siren, during scheduled breaks, on player jerseys, ground signage, scoreboard displays, and after the match and in highlight reels.
Whilst some form of regulation on gambling ads and associated promotion already exists, this bill attempts to restrict gambling ads on live sports coverage across television, radio and online platforms. This will include subscription television providers. The additional restrictions proposed in this bill prohibit the broadcast of gambling ads from five minutes before the scheduled start of play until five minutes after the conclusion of the live sporting event where the event occurs between the hours of 5 am and 8.30 pm. It provides ACMA with the power, if directed by the minister, to apply the gambling promotion restrictions detailed in this bill if existing codes of practice are not amended to include them.
This bill is the result of a lengthy campaign by researchers, community organisations and anti-gambling campaigners such as former Senator Nick Xenophon over concerns about gambling addiction and the well-established risk to children from being exposed to gambling saturation during sport. Whilst the Nick Xenophon Team support the bill, we have concerns about its implementation and the effectiveness of some of the measures. Put simply, this bill does not go far enough. It doesn't go far enough in achieving the policy intent, which is to protect children from the risks associated with being bombarded by gambling advertising. We know that the only way to protect children from the well-known risks associated with gambling ads and promotion is to remove them entirely from view. We can't pretend children ignore pre- and post-game entertainment and only sit to watch just before the game and stop watching immediately after. Given this, we will support the Greens amendment that extends the prohibition of gambling ads 30 minutes on either side of a live sporting event.
If we are serious about tackling problem gambling, we need to ensure it is not normalised. We need to ensure that kids are not primed to accept gambling as an ordinary part of sports—and life, for that matter—because of the advertising that is served up to them while they are innocently watching or listening to the cricket, soccer or footy with their families. This is why I will be moving amendments that will include a prohibition on all gambling ads during the hours of 5 am to 8.30 pm during G-rated programs and any sporting event on TV, radio or online, regardless whether the event is live or not. In instances where a sporting event has started but not finished before 8.30 pm, the NXT amendments will also extend the prohibition of gambling ads to 30 minutes after the conclusion of the sporting event. I would urge the Senate to support these amendments.
I note the explanatory memorandum states there is less of a concern where live sporting events are broadcast after 8.30 pm as children are less likely to be viewing at this time. This is not true. Children stay up late over the summer break watching the summer of tennis and summer of cricket, and teenagers don't go to sleep at 8.30 pm. I certainly wish mine did when they were younger! Under the provisions of the bill, a tennis match starting before 8:30 pm between tennis legends Federer and Djokovic at the Australian Open that goes for five sets over several hours would likely feature gambling ads between sets because they would be acceptable after 8.30 pm. We know that BBL matches were all shown during prime time and continued for three hours. Under the measures proposed by the government, there will be no gambling ads during the live match until 8.30 pm, after which gambling ads and promotions will be shown during scheduled breaks, such as the change of innings. For night AFL matches you won't see gambling ads during quarter-time, which will occur before 8.30 pm under the new regime, but you will see gambling ads at half-time and three-quarter-time when these scheduled breaks will occur after 8.30 pm.
After two years of experimentation in 2017, the AFL went all in with Thursday night footy, scheduling eight night matches. This will mean lots of gambling ads after 8.30 pm. This is why we thought it was important to extend the bans until 30 minutes after the end of play where the sporting event commenced prior to 8:30 pm. I encourage all broadcasters and online service providers to adopt these measures in their respective codes now. Former Senator Xenophon moved similar amendments in his Interactive Gambling Amendment (Sports Betting Reform) Bill 2015. During the inquiry into Nick's bill, the Australian Psychological Society made a submission stating:
… the proliferation of gambling advertising, particularly sports betting, is positioning gambling as an integral and 'normal' part of enjoying sports, and is paving the way for young Australians to become the new generation of problem gamblers.
The Gambling Impact Society of New South Wales told the inquiry that gambling advertisements often created triggers for those already struggling with gambling addiction.
At the time, broadcasters and sports-betting organisations argued against a ban, saying that people under 18 comprise a very small proportion of the audience for live sports events on television. This is simply untrue. Millions of children across the nation love sport. They participate at school and at local clubs. They attend games to see their sporting heroes in action, and they watch them on TV or portable devices at home. There are many sports specifically geared to children, like the Big Bash League, a domestic T20 competition, which has achieved record audience figures and match attendance year on year since its introduction seven years ago. Cricket Australia's efforts to attract kids and families with the BBL has paid off. More Australians are attending cricket than ever before. Last financial year, the BBL attracted an average crowd of more than 30,000 people at each match, making it the fifth biggest league in the world in terms of average attendance. Twenty of the 35 matches were sold out. These high crowd numbers were backed by strong TV ratings. More than a million viewers tuned in to watch the BBL—making it the most popular TV show 31 nights out of 35. A large proportion of this viewing audience are children, who stay up over the summer break until the last exciting ball is bowled. Sadly, CrownBet was a major sponsor for Channel 10's coverage of this year's BBL season.
The Nick Xenophon Team also do not believe that there should be broad exemptions. ASTRA's recently released draft code attempts to circumvent these bans on the basis of ratings and viewer numbers. There is absolutely no logic there. To exempt channels with an average low audience share is devious as children are watching, especially when there is a big event like the Super Bowl. On that basis, we will be supporting the Greens' amendment to specifically deal with this issue.
Gambling is a major problem in Australia. We have the highest per capita spend on gambling of any other country in the world. We stand alone as a nation of gamblers. This is shameful given that we know that a large proportion of this spend comes from thousands of addicted gamblers who have lost their homes, families, jobs and futures. The latest figures from Australian Gambling Statistics for total gambling expenditure in Australia show that the nation's gambling spend increased by 3.9 per cent between 2005 and 2016 to a whopping $23.648 billion—almost $24 billion. Total sports betting increased by 13 per cent in that time to $921 million. But by far the worst offender remains poker machines. Over $12 billion was pumped into greedy poker machines by Australians in that one year alone. These figures are astounding.
Underneath the cold facts lay the stories of thousands of families whose lives have been impacted, even destroyed, by gambling addiction and predatory gambling. Despite this, we have seen the money-hungry Australian Hotels Association fight tooth and nail against sensible measures to curb the harm from these insidious machines. Most recently, they waged a multimillion dollar war against SA-BEST in the South Australian election because of its opposition to predatory gambling. Another gambling lobby group even took to sending a gloating text message on election eve to the party leader, Nick Xenophon, that stated, 'We will kill you all off.' Well, good luck with that, because federally and at state level we will never give up the fight against predatory gambling—never.
The sporting codes are complicit when they take sponsorship dollars from sports-betting and gambling companies. The AFL has a $10 million a year deal with CrownBet, the NRL has a commercial deal with Sportsbet worth $60 million and Cricket Australia has a multimillion dollar deal with bet365, a sports-betting company hit with a $2.75 million fine in 2017 after being found guilty of luring new gamblers with false free bets offers.
Over half of the NRL's 16 teams are sponsored by sports-betting companies or casinos—over half. The biggest sporting codes in this nation have done a deal with the devil by partnering with gambling operators and sports-betting companies for sponsorship dollars. The Coalition of Major Professional and Participation Sports, made up of the major sporting codes—including the AFL, NRL, rugby, cricket, tennis, soccer and netball—made an astonishing submission to the inquiry into the bill, saying that they know that:
… know that a large number of our fans and supporters enjoy wagering on our sports and want to remain informed about the products and offerings that are available.
Well, I'm sure they'll manage just fine without those ads.
The submission didn't bother to acknowledge the legions of their fans who are children, and the inherent risks gambling ads and promotion pose to children, and yet the research is clear on the risks gambling ads do pose to children and adolescents. The Australian Gambling Research Centre has identified that gambling ads can increase adolescents' desire to experiment with gambling. Research also shows that children have significant recall of sports-betting brands when they are aligned with culturally valued activities such as sport. And children's recall of inducements used by sports-betting companies, such as free bets and cashback offers, may reduce children's perceptions of the risks associated with gambling.
Sports stars and celebrities often feature in gambling ads, with the research showing that the use of sporting stars and celebrities to promote sports-betting companies was attractive to children because of the instant recognition. The Nick Xenophon Team want gambling restrictions that create a safe zone where parents can be confident that children can watch sport without promotional content and messages that normalise gambling. This can only occur when we remove all gambling ads and promotion during the times that children are watching.
Gambling addiction doesn't discriminate. We need to be mindful of those most vulnerable and not mindful of vested interests. We have a duty to protect children from becoming the next generation of gambling addicts. The protection of children must be the paramount consideration. This is seemingly lost by those broadcasters and sporting codes who are increasingly reliant on sponsorship dollars from sports-betting companies and gambling venues. They need to break their own habit.
I rise tonight to speak to the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. In starting, I would like to concur with many of the comments made by Senator Griff. I think he's outlined the weaknesses of this bill extremely well. While of course the Australian Greens welcome the overall limits being put on gambling advertising as attempted in this bill, the legislation falls far short of what is actually needed. If we agree that our sporting events, when they are televised, should not be bombarded with gambling ads encouraging our young people and other citizens to participate in betting as they are watching the game, then of course we shouldn't be restricting ourselves to either the audience numbers on channels or the time frames that these ads are banned from. I agree wholeheartedly that 8.30 pm is not sufficient if we are genuinely going to protect our kids from these insidious ads that simply want to groom young Australians to be gambling addicts.
This chamber has had many a debate about the need to put restrictions on gambling throughout the country, whether it is in relation to disgusting, life-ruining and culture-sucking machines such as poker machines or whether ads should be promoted and available to encourage people to take up gambling and to participate in that type of activity. As the mother of an 11-year-old daughter, I find it obscene that we could be watching the tennis in the evenings and she could still, under this legislation, be bombarded with gambling ads. What has happened in this country where we've moved from sport being about sport to sport being about making money for gambling barons? What has happened in this country when we say that it's okay to be teaching kids more about the odds than about the technique of the sport and the game?
We're debating this bill in the context of what has been discovered over the last 24 hours: the scandal in South Africa, where the ball-tampering affair was discovered. The only reason that things like that shock Australians so deeply—and I think the response from the public has been fierce and severe, with huge disappointment—is that we like to believe that we have a fundamental belief in the spirit of the game. We believe in the spirit of sport for sport's sake—that it teaches good values to our kids, that it's about community, and that it's about understanding that there is a set of rules you play by and the best player will win. It's not about cheating, tampering or gambling.
As parents, we put our kids in front of the television to watch the grand final because we want our team to win and we want to be part of the national spirit of the grand final weekend. That isn't about having to put your hand in your pocket or get on your phone to hand over tens, dozens, hundreds or thousands of dollars in gambling revenue to people who don't give two hoots about the talent of the players or, indeed, the moral lessons that are being taught through sport to our kids. I find it sick that we have a situation where kids can be watching sport and—instead of learning about the techniques of the game, or seeing ads that suggest where they could go to get involved in their local footy or cricketing club or ads promoting the activities that many of these clubs are involved in in their communities—getting bombarded with gambling ads grooming them to be gambling addicts.
Of course we need to put restrictions on this. This bill goes some way to doing that, but it doesn't go far enough at all. Harmonising the laws to protect our kids and ensure that audiences aren't bombarded between 5 am and 8.30 pm is fantastic, but it is nowhere near what it needs to be. The Greens have moved an amendment to this bill that also deals with the ridiculous situation where there is a loophole that has been created depending on the size of the audience on a television channel. If you have a small enough audience, you can still bombard them with gambling ads. It is just preposterous! The channels that are allowed off the hook with this exemption, of course, fall under the banner of Foxtel. I will remind you that that's the same organisation that got $30 million of taxpayers' money from the minister, from this government, as compensation for the fact that they're not meant to be able to show gambling ads on their television stations. We've now seen the regulations. They've been handed down by ACMA, the Australian Communications and Media Authority. They came out last Friday. Lo and behold, there is an exemption in there, based on audience size, which would mean that some of the key sporting channels of Foxtel are not even bound by these new rules and regulations. Let's be clear: Foxtel didn't identify an existing loophole. The government didn't leave open an existing loophole; they've created a new one.
Who benefits from this? It's not the media industry itself. Every broadcasting network and every online content provider has to abide by the new restrictions. This exemption doesn't apply to the commercial broadcasters. It's not the community, who overwhelmingly oppose gambling advertisements during live sports events, and it's certainly not the kids and the children, who are supposed to be the ones being protected by this legislation but are instead having that protection fundamentally undermined. The only ones who benefit from this exemption are Foxtel, the same for-profit, News Limited, Murdoch-owned, subscription television station that got $30 million of taxpayers' money because they were crying poor that, if these gambling ads were taken off, they wouldn't be able to survive. They got $30 million in compensation and now we find they can do it anyway. It's obscene. These are Australian taxpayers' dollars. This is a company that we know don't pay enough tax as it is, yet they're being given taxpayers' dollars and they don't have to follow the same rules as everybody else.
But who could be surprised that this government would put the interests of Foxtel ahead of the interests of the public? I look forward to hearing from the minister in relation to this as we get to the committee stage. I'd like to know exactly what that $30 million is being spent on, because that taxpayers' money was handed out from the minister to Foxtel and yet of course not every taxpayer has the right to even watch Foxtel, because it is a subscription service. It is not free to air. So taxpayers have paid this amount of money to a company that then charges people to access its service. It's ridiculous. They are a government that gave Foxtel a $30 million handout because they were worried that their media mates weren't going to get enough money out of the Liberals' media reform. This is the reform bill that passed through this parliament last year. The truth is you just can't trust the government when it comes to handing out taxpayers' dollars and doing the right thing when it comes to the proper regulations that they talk about.
We are genuinely concerned that this bill has been watered down so much that it only deals with a small part of the problem. Senator Griff has outlined the issues in relation to the time zone—5 am to 8.30 pm does not deal with some of the most significant and largest live sporting events that Australian families sit down to watch year in and year out, such as the tennis, the Big Bash League, the rugby grand final and many, many others. To say that you want to introduce legislation and to have all of the kudos of cleaning up this industry, of protecting children and of listening to the genuine concerns of families about the impact that these gambling ads are having during live sporting events and then not to follow through is frankly pathetic. It's absolutely pathetic. You either do the job properly or move over and let somebody else do it for you. The government has watered this down so much that children are not protected. This doesn't deal with the issues.
The other issue in relation to this is that, while Foxtel got $30 million of taxpayers' money as compensation for removing these gambling ads—although, as we find out months and months later, they have exemptions to still show them—the commercial broadcasters, Seven, Nine and Ten, were given zero licence fees. They had their licence fees removed so that they didn't have to pay them anymore. That was their compensation for this. Yet, past 8.30, they can still play the ads. Past 8.30 at night, in prime time, they can still play the ads. So what did they really get those broadcasting licence fees reduced for? Really, what was that compensation all about? Of course, SBS, a public broadcaster, have been told they're not able to put these ads on air either and—lo and behold!—have said, 'We don't want to run the ads anyway.' We have seen the statement from the CEO of SBS, as recently as today, that they will comply with these regulations. But SBS didn't get any compensation from the government. So they gave $30 million to their mates at Foxtel, they gave free licence fees to the commercial broadcasters and they gave absolutely nothing to SBS. In fact what SBS, the public broadcaster, has got is almost $60 million worth of cuts from this government. That's what SBS got: a big kick in the guts and budget cuts. You can see there's a bit of a pattern developing here: public money going out the door to one group, cuts to another, and lots of: 'Wink, wink, nudge, nudge. It'll be right mate. We'll give you some exemptions. We'll lessen the impact here.' That's what's happened in relation to this.
Despite all of the fanfare when this package was first announced—it was done during the media reform debates this time last year; we had the Prime Minister standing up and saying that parents could be assured that their kids were going to be protected and that we wouldn't have gambling ads being shown during live sport—they paid off their mates so that they would get them to sit around the table, and then they weakened the regulations anyway. They haven't done the job properly.
The Greens will be moving amendments to this bill. We're happy to have a debate for as long as it takes tonight, if this bill is going to continue. We will also support the amendments put forward by both the Labor opposition and the Nick Xenophon Team, because we need to strengthen this legislation. It's been watered down so much that we need to make sure we give it some real teeth at least.
One of the amendments that the Greens will be moving is in relation to the quotas that broadcasters currently have in relation to local content, because we know that one of the key things that these commercial broadcasters want is to not have to show so much Australian made content on their television channels. This isn't about sport; this is about drama and this is about kids television. In this great big magical everyone-in-the-tent deal that the minister managed to pull off last year, he said: '$30 million for Foxtel. No licence fees for the others.' He did nothing about making sure there was a quid pro quo from these commercial broadcasters. Every sitting week, these broadcasters have been walking up and down the corridors in this place, lobbying members of parliament and saying 'We don't want to have to have quotas on the Australian content that is shown on our televisions.'
Channel 9, Channel 7 and Channel 10 don't want to have to show kids TV; they think it's too expensive. They don't want to have to invest in Australian made content; they don't think it's worth it, so they want the current quotas that are in place watered down. The government's given them a free ride, because they've taken away their licence fees, and now these broadcasters want more. They don't want to have to show Australian kids television, and they don't want to have to make Australian drama. That's going to have a huge impact on our Australian producers, on our content creators, on our writers and on our production staff. A huge Australian industry is about to walk out the door if these broadcasters don't have quotas enforced upon them.
We're having this debate on the eve of the content review about to be released by the government and the ACMA. If they do what the broadcasters want, they are going to say: 'We should have these quotas watered down. There should be no requirement for Australian made kids television. There should be no requirement, or little requirement, for Australian made drama.' Imagine not having Australian actors on television. Imagine our kids not hearing and seeing Australian stories. Imagine what happens when you turn on the television, or open up your on-demand service from whatever broadcaster, and all that your kids are watching is some of that junk television coming from the US. Australian kids deserve to hear and see and experience Australian made stories. Every Australian deserves to see their own community reflected back at them. Part of what makes the social fabric of a nation is being able to tell our own stories, to reflect upon who we are.
This government is on the eve of being able to take all of that away. So we're going to move an amendment during this debate to ensure that any changes to these quotas are disallowable by this parliament. We should be able to have a check and balance. At the moment, the government can change those quotas willy-nilly. I don't know what the minister is going to advise, but I sure as hell know what the commercial broadcasters would like to see. And if he's weak enough to give away all this public money and not stump up the regulations strong enough on this gambling stuff, we know that the minister and his government are not going to be strong enough to do the right thing by the Australian people and Australian kids and protect the jobs of Australian creators and the entire industry.
Being able to show that there is integrity in the system is essential. This minister has proven time and time again that he's prepared to do the bidding of the commercial broadcasters and Foxtel. He isn't prepared to put money into our public broadcasters and tells them that they can just suck it up and deal with the cuts. And the next big sledgehammer is going to hit Australian content, Australian stories and kids television. As a result, our Australian kids are going to suffer. Under this bill, they can wait up until 8.30 pm and be bombarded with gambling ads. If they're watching anything before that, chances are that, if the commercial broadcasters get their way, if the minister isn't strong enough to stand up to them, and if we don't put a check and balance in this legislation tonight, they're not even going to be watching Australian-made shows before 8.30 pm—before those sporting shows.
Some people in this place will say that these issues are different, but they are not. When the government negotiated this package with the broadcasters 12 months ago this was the quid pro quo. The Senate has every right to be a check and a balance on making sure that, if there are changes to the requirements of broadcasters, the Senate is able to say yes or no. It shouldn't just be at the discretion of the minister. So I appeal to you, as crossbenchers: don't give the minister the ability to dump Australian content at the flick of a pen, when it suits him. Make sure the Australian people are represented in the parliament. I move the second reading amendment, which deals with the need for SBS to be compensated:
At the end of the motion, add:
“, but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government must reinstate the SBS’s revenue shortfall of $9 million as included in the 2017-18 Budget.”
I rise to speak on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. I echo the sentiments expressed by my colleague Senator Griff but I also want to take this opportunity to address a particularly deceptive gambling product known as Lottoland. A few months ago, I was informed by someone that they saw a Lottoland advert during Channel 7's Sunrise program. It appeared as they crossed to the weather report, just after 7.30 in the morning. Lottoland is not a lottery as most people would be familiar with; it is a synthetic lottery that threatens the viability of the Australian lottery system and, with it, the incomes of over 4,000 newsagents and lottery agents who sell legitimate tickets in Australian lotteries.
Lottoland is registered in Gibraltar and pays no income tax on the money it earns overseas. Lottoland also avoids paying any local taxes like Tatts pays. It is licensed in the Northern Territory, but thankfully has been banned in my home state of South Australia. It is misleading and confuses the public. You can see why people are confused. Firstly, it is named Lottoland. You fill in an online form that looks like a lottery ticket but instead you are entering a bet. Lottoland causes confusion by saying, 'Manage all your lotto games in one place by downloading the free Lottoland app.'
The main 10 pages of Lottoland's website mentions the words 'lotto' and 'lotteries' a total of 423 times; that number excludes its own name, which has the word 'lotto' in it. Despite the misleading name, Lottoland is not a lottery at all. However, little has been done to make it clear that Lottoland is a fake lottery that bets on lottery outcomes. While the top 10 pages of the Lottoland website features the word 'lottery' 423 times, the words' 'bet' and 'betting', which are a more accurate description of Lottoland, are only used 243 times. Consumers need to understand that, after you look at the fine print, what you can win on Lottoland is often not what they say. Here is a quote from a recent expose of Lottoland on ABC's The Checkout: 'Lottoland is not a lottery. It's barely even a land. It's a bookmaker in Gibraltar.'
Secondly, what you can actually win is nowhere near what they say you can win. Thirdly, the jackpots are subject to a 35 per cent reduction because of US taxes, and Lottoland reflects that. Let's say you won $100 million. You get $65 million, and that's if you want it paid as an annuity over a 30-year period; it's less if you take a lump sum. Powerball takes off another 40 per cent, and so does Lottoland, so now your $100 million is actually $39 million. So when Lottoland says don't settle for less they mean settle for a lot less.
But that's not all. If the real lottery gets even more winners, your position gets worse. Even though you're not in a real lottery, they split your winnings as if you are. So if three Americans win the real US Powerball, you only get a payout as if you're the fourth; and if another person wins through Lottoland in Australia, you're the fifth. But after they reduce it to a lump-sum payout you only get $7.8 million. So you're not as rich as Lottoland said you'd be—and that's the case for two of Lottoland's biggest lotteries. After the winners of the real lotteries are paid out, the state governments gets 40 to 80 per cent of what is left. This situation is simply not good enough, and this is why I foreshadow that I'll be moving a second reading amendment calling on the government to ban betting on the outcome of lotteries.
Proceedings suspended from 18:30 to 19:30
) ( ): I apologise to senators for requiring a quorum just before the dinner break due to my not being here. I'd like to join with my Greens colleague Senator Hanson-Young in speaking on this issue. The Greens have a number of amendments that will be addressed when we get to the detail of the legislation. In my role as the Greens spokesperson for gambling, I want to put on record our strong concern at the continuing what I was going to call 'inability' but is clear unwillingness of the federal government to adequately address problem gambling. This bill purports to make a small measure to try to address gambling advertising online and in broadcasting, but it clearly has major loopholes, even with the inadequate measures that it's trying to put forward.
On top of that, we have the continuing inaction of this government—and, it should be said, of the previous Labor government as well—when it comes to the massive social harm that is done, particularly by poker machines in the community. That is something that the federal government can address, should it choose to do so, but they've clearly chosen not to do so. What we are now seeing, with major social and human harm being caused across most of Australia because of the world-record amounts of pokies proliferation, is a huge cost—a huge social cost, and a huge economic cost as well.
It is impossible to reach any conclusion other than that this world-record level of pokies per capita in Australia—clearly, the most of any country in the world—is a deliberate policy decision. It's an orchestrated outcome of decisions of governments, both Labor and Liberal, at state and federal levels to allow this to happen and to enable it to be brought about. Clearly, this is because of the significant amounts of money that the pokies lobby donates to both political parties. The Greens would certainly like to see donations from gambling interests banned entirely. If that happened, I think we would definitely get far better policy and legislative outcomes in this area, whether it's regulation of advertising and promotion of gambling or how we deal with it online or in the broader community. The fact that the federal government is legislating in the area of online content services and broadcasting shows that it has the constitutional power to do so. I am quite sure that, were they of a mind, the federal government could legislate national controls and standards for poker machines as well. That's something the Greens will promote, and we'll be pushing that issue more fully as we move into the federal election.
We saw at the state election in Tasmania that the fate of poker machines was a major issue. We don't yet know how much money the gambling lobby put into ensuring that their interests were looked after in that state election, because it hasn't been disclosed, but the amount was extraordinary. That is certainly not going to deter the Greens from continuing to push this issue with our various representatives in state parliaments and at the federal level. The issue in regard to this particular legislation and the way that it seeks to deal with advertising of gambling is a sign, once again, of government looking after its mates. Those are the loopholes that the Greens will try to close with amendments to this particular legislation.
Let's be clear: this is something that the public wants. The public does not want to see gambling advertising proliferating across sporting programs or after programs. They don't like to see the amount of influence that the gambling lobby now has through sponsorship of sporting teams. This is something that can be got rid of in the same way that it was with cigarette companies. We used to have cigarette companies sponsoring football teams and providing all the advertising around the grounds. We even had premierships and best and fairest medals named after brands of cigarettes. That was phased out. It was phased out with the conscious choice at the federal government level and financial assistance to enable sporting bodies to transition to other sources of revenue. I believe the same needs to happen in regard to the gambling influence in sport and, I might say, in regard to poker machines as well. At the federal level, we can provide financial incentives for states to move away from their dependence on poker machines, get rid of the massive social harm that they are causing and enable similar amounts of revenue and money to be spent in the community in ways that are not tied to such massive human harm. The sooner we can do that, the sooner we can put an end to some of the terrible suffering that poker machines and problem gambling cause.
I should say that I and indeed the Greens are not against all forms of gambling. We don't seek to ban it or rule it out. What we seek to ensure is that it's properly regulated. At the moment, particularly in the poker machine area but even in this measure before us now, it is not adequately regulated. There is not adequate protection against problem gamblers and gambling addicts being inappropriately targeted. The fact is that there has been some small progress in regard to trying to assist problem gamblers in the online space. The fact that that principle is accepted by the industry in the online space as a code of practice is good, but it does mean that it should be able to be applied in regard to poker machines. If it can be regulated and controlled with a set of standards in an online way, particularly in regard to people opting out universally across the country, then it can be done with poker machines as well. Poker machines these days are all networked. They are all basically plugged into each other across clubs, across casinos and sometimes across different venues as well. So the same opportunity is there and the same legal power is there, should there be the political will to do it. That is something that we certainly would like to encourage other parties to look at, as the Greens will be doing.
The final thing I want to say in regard to this area is to really point out the hypocrisy here at the policy level where we have government turning a blind eye to problem gambling and particularly to poker machine addiction, which is the worst and most addictive form of gambling that there is, while at the same time we have a minister in this government saying that we need to put all people who are on income support and receiving welfare payments on a cashless welfare card so they can't decide for themselves how to spend their money. They are using things like gambling addicts and people putting money in pokies as a reason why this needs to happen. If they're really concerned about the harm caused by people putting their money in poker machines then they should tackle the problem of poker machines and not further punish people who are addicted at the other end of the process. That's where they should be putting their attention if they are genuinely concerned about how people on welfare are spending their money—removing and regulating the danger of the deliberately addictive nature of poker machines being proliferated throughout the community.
In my own state of Queensland we have the state Labor government there continuing to push a policy of more casinos and somehow trying to create the myth that you need a big casino somewhere to create a tourist attraction. We are seeing that in my own city, in Brisbane, with the Queen's Wharf project. A huge amount of public land is being given over to the casino baron, with a huge pile of poker machines added to it. At the same time the state government are making it harder for small venues and live music venues with their restrictive lockout laws they are giving the casinos a complete exemption. We saw that in New South Wales as well, with their lockout laws—funnily enough, the casino gets an exemption. It is the same in Queensland. The casinos always seem to get an exemption.
The state Labor government are currently trying to do exactly the same thing in Cairns, on a smaller scale, as they have done with Queen's Wharf in Brisbane, and have a CBD casino. There is already a casino there, but they want to put a casino in the CBD—and, again, provide a developer with the use of some public land and just call it all a tourism hub, as though a casino is essential for a tourism hub. To make it profitable, it will inevitably rely on the local population spending money on the pokies. I was walking through the existing Cairns casino just a couple of weeks ago. The casino is 90 per cent pokies, I think. There are a few blackjack tables and a few other things, but 90 per cent of it was pokies. Clearly a lot of the people there were locals. It is clear that the existing casino relies on the local population putting their money into pokies to try to maintain its profitability. Why any government would be looking at building bigger casinos with more poker machines is beyond me. Certainly the Greens will continue to do what we can to stop that.
I repeat my praise for the state Labor government in moving to ban donations from property developers, because of the way they have clearly perverted the policy and decision-making processes at a local government and state level. Clearly the same thing has happened with the gambling lobby, and we need to see them, in particular, put into the same category. They cause just as much social harm—in fact, more social harm in lots of ways. The suicides, the family breakdowns and the crime consequences that come from gambling addiction are well documented. A body as dry as the Productivity Commission has examined this, and it has detailed the harm to productivity, purely from an economic side of things, because of our poker machine policy and our inadequate regulations around gambling.
What we should not be doing—and, unfortunately, are doing with the inadequacies in this legislation, unless the Senate can support the amendments that Senator Hanson-Young is putting forward—is opening up the risk of further social harm being caused because of inappropriate advertising reaching people that it shouldn't be reaching. We need a better regulatory regime, and I urge the Senate to look at the amendments that are put forward in this chamber to strengthen the regulatory regime being put in this legislation.
I rise this evening to make a contribution on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017. Certainly from my perspective, I think this demonstrates the responsiveness of the government to responding to two things: the first being the rapid change in the use of gambling-type technologies and the second being—and I think perhaps more importantly in this case—the very strong and clear community sentiment that was relayed to the government and to other members of this chamber and the House of Representatives. The community has, I think, drawn a very clear line in terms of what it finds acceptable in gambling advertising over some mediums. I'm pleased that the Minister for Communications and the Arts, Senator Fifield, has been quick to listen to those concerns, to understand those concerns and to respond to them in the legislative manner that we've got before us.
That doesn't mean, of course, that everyone in this chamber will agree with the proposal that is before us. As Senator Bartlett has alluded to and as Senator Hanson-Young alluded to in her comments earlier today, there are lines to be drawn regarding the proper scope of regulatory action in response to these and other changing circumstances. Having worked closely with the minister on the issue, I think that where the government is drawing the line is the most prudent measure. That doesn't mean that in the future other measures may not be properly canvassed and that those views and the views and attitudes of other stakeholders sought with regard to their appropriateness. But I think that, when you look at the detail of what's proposed here, this is a very, very prudent measure that properly reflects community concerns and it does so in a way that's totally consistent with the legislative or regulatory framework that operates in this area more generally as a starting point. That's why I think it is important that, when we do come to legislate on matters like this or extend the regulatory scope to respond to community concerns, we do so in a way that properly reflects the existing architecture of the laws and the regulations in that particular area, and I think that this bill does that.
In the brief time that's available to me, I want to reflect on a couple of things. I remind the Senate of the origin of this particular reform because it sits amongst some other media reforms which are a very, very important and sizable success story for this coalition government. Again, full marks to the Minister for Communications for pulling off what many people said was impossible. He responded accurately to concerns from industry stakeholders that the operating environment for them was becoming more challenging. The real losers over the medium to long term were not actually media proprietors—although I'm sure they would face some sort of commercial costs—but Australian consumers. I think that the media reform package that finally made its way through this place was a very, very necessary and timely measure.
There is another thing I want to talk briefly about. In this place we get to read lots of explanatory memoranda. I've got to say that many of them are tedious. They're very, very dry. If I could be so bold: they often don't have the depth of evidence that legislators are looking for to justify policy responses. I compliment officials from the Department of Communications and the Arts. The explanatory memorandum in this case was very, very dense—I use that word politely—in terms of properly articulating the problem that the government is seeking to address, and I'll come to that in a moment. Then I'll just briefly talk about why I think that this particular resolution is the right way to proceed and will make some comments with regard to the government's approach to SBS, because that's a matter that Senator Hanson-Young reflected on in her contributions.
I start by winding the clock right back. Sometimes it can be too easily forgotten how quickly the issue of gambling has progressed in our community and how quickly community attitudes have become much clearer in terms of what are acceptable approaches to gambling. I want to recount for the Senate some of the key points that came out of the Productivity Commission report that Senator Bartlett might have been referring to in his contribution. I don't believe—others will think differently—that the matter of gambling in our community is as easily rectified as some people would have us believe. Clearly, it has its origins in a range of issues, not least of which are psychological issues. I think it is a naive and very shallow response to only apply legislative or regulatory remedies to these issues to somehow rid us of the curse of problem gambling.
To begin, I want to remind people of some of the comments that were provided to us in the original Productivity Commission report. Even though it was some time ago, its observations are still quite pertinent. Not surprisingly to some, the report identified:
Gambling is an enjoyable pursuit for many Australians. As much as possible, policy should aim to preserve the benefits, while targeting measures at gamblers facing significant risks or harm.
While precision is impossible, various state surveys suggest that the number of Australians categorised as 'problem gamblers' ranges around 115,000, with people categorised as at 'moderate risk' ranging around 280,000.
It went on to say:
It is common to report prevalence as a proportion of the adult population, but this can be misleading for policy purposes, given that most people do not gamble regularly or on gambling forms that present significant difficulties.
Again it goes on to try to calculate or predict:
I think that's a particularly important point because some people come to this debate thinking there is a silver bullet. This point from the Productivity Commission recommendations or observations clearly demonstrates that even policy measures with modest efficacy can reduce harm and be worthwhile. It goes on to say that:
– Some have been helpful, but some have had little effect, and some have imposed unnecessary burdens on the industry.
In other words, it's been a mixed bag. Finally—and I think it was quite a prophetic final point in its observations—it goes on to say:
– There is a particular need to improve arrangements for national research.
Of course, what the Productivity Commission was talking about was the known problem, but what we are here tonight to discuss and to debate is trying to prevent that problem getting itself rooted into the minds and the behaviour of children, and then providing significant adverse outcomes as a result of that.
But these reforms are important. As I said, they come out of a much broader package of media reforms that the Senate successfully agreed to late last year, I think it was—it feels like a long time ago now. The broad package of media reforms that were brought to the Senate by the government and ultimately endorsed by this Senate were intended to, and will over time, improve the sustainability of Australia's free-to-air broadcasting sector, support the creation of high Australian content and modernise broadcasting and content regulation.
Importantly for us, the package does also include community safeguards in the form of additional restrictions on gambling promotions during live coverage of sporting events, provided on broadcast, subscription and online platforms. The additional restrictions will prohibit gambling promotions from five minutes before the scheduled start of the sporting event until five minutes after the conclusion of the sporting event, where the event occurs between the hours of 5 am and 8.30 pm. To reflect on the comments of Senator Hanson-Young and Senator Bartlett—I didn't get a chance to listen to Senator O'Neill's contribution—no-one doubts that this is an issue that is worthy of immediate remedy. No-one doubts the fact that there is a broad community call for action on the part of government. Certainly, for me and for the government, we're saying that the best remedy is a remedy that sits comfortably within our existing legislative and regulatory architecture, using ACMA as the primary regulator and using the codes that currently exist, but extending them across new platforms to provide the best possible protection for families and, by extension, the best possible protection for children. Whenever I listen to constituents raise the issue with me, hear it talked about in our backbench communications committee or even hear in Senator Hanson-Young's contribution, we know that children with their older brothers and sisters, parents and grandparents enjoy that great Australian pastime of sport participation and sport watching as a family. So anything that can be done to protect children is very worthwhile.
I just want to go back to the point of the explanatory memorandum. The explanatory memorandum makes the case for reform very, very powerfully, and, as I said in my opening remarks, provides much more depth in providing a policy justification for this action than many of the explanatory memorandums that I've had the opportunity to read. I want to briefly focus on three paragraphs from the explanatory memorandum.
The explanatory memorandum does an excellent job of identifying what the problem is that we're here tonight to rectify. It says:
While there are a number of 'time of day' and classification related restrictions on commercial free-to-air television that are intended to reduce children's exposure to gambling promotions, these do not apply to sports and news broadcasts. In addition, restrictions in relation to live sporting events, outlined in Appendix 3 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice (the code), do not restrict broader gambling advertising immediately prior to the match and in breaks with the result that there are significant levels of gambling advertising associated with live sporting events.
That's a statement that is well supported, because we know that from the anecdotal evidence we hear from constituents. It goes on to say:
There is less concern where these events are broadcast after 8:30 pm as children are less likely to be viewing at this time however many sports events commence between 7pm and 8pm or take place on weekend afternoons when there are significant child audiences. 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.
I think this is particularly important, because the statement is supported by some independent research. It says:
In a recent study, children aged 8-16 who regularly watched Australian Football League (AFL) and National Rugby League (NRL) matches were more able to accurately recall the names of sports betting brands (eg Sportsbet, TAB) compared to other sports like soccer. Further, many children were able to describe gambling sponsorships associated with AFL and NFL player uniforms. This demonstrates the 'normalising' effect of gambling and how intertwined it becomes with the sport itself. Gambling and sport are no longer disparate entities in the eyes of children but have become enmeshed.
I thought that was a powerful demonstration that the problem is not an imagined one. The problem is a real one, and does deserve some attention.
Finally, let me briefly touch on the legislative approach that the government has adopted and why I think it is a prudent one. I think this will be the subject of much of the debate as we approach the committee stage of the bill. When we explore the preferred action of the government, we know that it has taken a decision to, as far as possible, broaden how the restrictions will apply to online content service providers who provide live sporting events. Those will include: sporting codes, such as the Australian Football League, of course; telecommunications companies, such as Telstra and Optus; social networking companies, such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter; emerging live content providers; online wagering providers, such as Ladbrokes; internet protocol television; community television providers; internet radio providers; commercial free-to-air broadcasters; online platforms, such as SBS online platform; and subscription television broadcasters' online platforms. Parents and families can be confident that this regulatory approach will have the widest possible reach.
In choosing this particular approach, the government has been conscious that no existing legislation has attempted to impose broadcast-like program standards on online content services. To date, regulatory intervention in the online space has been limited to addressing content that causes significant harm to society. Existing regulatory frameworks, such as schedule 7 of the Broadcasting Services Act, and the Interactive Gambling Act, seek to prohibit or block access to harmful content, not to set standards around the provisioning of scheduling of content. The regulatory framework in the Telecommunications Act was also unsuitable as it does not regulate the content of content services. Following a review of the existing framework, the department considered that none were fit for purpose and that significant amendment would be needed to adapt each framework to address the proposed reforms. Given that the Broadcasting Services Act covers regulation of broadcasting content, it is practical to include the new online content restrictions in the same legislation and it will ensure consistency across platforms. As a result, the government has developed a targeted new framework, in proposed schedule 8 to the Broadcasting Services Act, to enable ACMA to make the necessary rules to restrict gambling promotions during live sports events.
So, at a variety of levels, this is a very prudent approach. I think the chamber agrees it's a necessary and timely one. It's one that is consistent with the legislative and regulatory architecture around these issues. You only have to look at the Senate committee report to see that there is a divergent view about how these things should be regulated, but I'm confident the government has chosen the most correct path. I'm sure that, as community standards continue to change and as pressure comes on the parliament from electors, if need be the government will be very responsive to other issues in the same way it's been very responsive to this one. I commend the legislation to the Senate.
I rise to make a contribution this evening to the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017 before us. I want to start with two words: Sam Pickles. Sam Pickles happens to be a character from a very Australian book called Cloudstreet, which you may be familiar with, Acting Deputy President Sterle. It is written about your home town of Perth, in Western Australia, where I also grew up as a boy. It's become one of the most read novels in Australia by a Western Australian author, Tim Winton, who you may also be familiar with. I was very fortunate to meet Mr Winton on Saturday night and had my copy of Cloudstreet signed.
In Cloudstreet the key character, Sam Pickles, is a likeable enough man who does his best for his family, but he's a terribly compulsive gambler. He has an addiction to gambling. The story talks about the life of the family and their challenges as they deal with Sam's gambling habits. The conclusion you draw is that he just can't help himself sometimes. He calls it 'the hairy hand of Lady Luck'. He believes in an external force that is somehow always going to deliver him the next win. Of course, he blows all the family savings and they lose their home and their friends. It's really about their trials and travesties. The book, while it might be fiction, is the sad story of a lot of Australians who have addictive gambling personalities and addictive gambling problems.
Any kind of addiction, whether it's gambling, alcohol, drugs or sex, tends to be seen in this society as perhaps a weakness or a philosophical or character flaw. In fact, it's very much a physiological problem. While I accept some of Senator Smith's assertions here tonight that we shouldn't be too prescriptive in trying to regulate for what he calls 'a psychological problem'—and, let's be honest, that's exactly what it is for many Australians who suffer from addiction, such as gambling addition—the government has a very important role to play, as it does in dealing with other forms of addiction. We have very strong rules, regulations and laws in this country around the use of illicit drugs. We regulate tobacco, alcohol and other drugs because of addiction and the negative externalities that are associated with people who are addicted. We know that gambling, as Sam Pickles shows in the book Cloudstreet, can not only ruin families; the problems can flow right through communities.
My home state of Tasmania has just had a state election that has seen the Hodgman government re-elected on the back of the mother of all pro-gambling industry election campaigns that I have certainly ever seen. Senator McKim, who's been through a few elections in Tasmania, would say the same thing. We don't know how much money the gambling industry has pumped into this election. We're guessing it's several million dollars, if not way more than that. Because of Tasmania's gambling laws, we may never know exactly how much money big gambling has put into the Tasmanian election.
The Greens have been campaigning for decades to remove pokies from pubs and clubs in Tasmania. We've worked with stakeholders right across the board. We've looked at the problems of problem gambling, addiction, and the amount of money being lost through pokies to local communities and to local businesses where that money would be spent otherwise. The government don't mind it, because they pull in some tax, but we've estimated, through ACOSS and TasCOSS—the Tasmanian branch of ACOSS—and a number of other stakeholders, that we are talking about tens of millions of dollars of revenue each year being taken out of the Tasmanian community and going directly into the pockets of those big gambling companies, in particular the Federal Group. That is owned by one family, the Farrell family. They are based in Sydney, but they set up Federal Group in Tasmania and essentially it has a monopoly on gambling in Tasmania. We have casinos and a number of pubs and clubs that have slot machines.
We have had lots of debates in here about problem gambling around slot machines and pokies. This is different, because it is about advertising for sports bets, but the principle is essentially the same. For someone who is addicted to pokies, the addiction is fed by bright lights, stimulation, noise and, of course, the idea that somehow the hairy hand of luck is going to come down on their side of the ledger. It is no different with sports betting on TV. When someone with an addiction problem is sitting down in front of their TV and they get into a sports event that they are highly into, especially if it is their team, these things also offer stimulation. These are the sorts of things that the committee uncovered when we looked at this, and the online gaming inquiry that the Senate Environment and Communications Committee held last year also talked about the systems that have been put in place in online gaming. But the principle is basically the same.
The philosophical question is: does the government have a role to play in trying to regulate and reduce the harm from problem gaming, whether it is problem gaming online, problem gambling through online sports betting or gambling through pokies or other forms of gambling? And of course we do. The bill that we have before us today doesn't get to the heart of the matter as far as the Greens are concerned. Senator Hanson-Young, my colleague—you were a bit worried then, weren't you, Senator Hanson-Young, as you thought I wasn't going to add the second part of your name—gave a great speech in here tonight where she basically said that, on behalf of Foxtel, the government has deliberately produced a loophole to let channels like ESPN get exclusive rights to broadcast gambling ads to children. We don't think it's satisfactory that any ban on sports betting finishes at 8.30 pm. When I get the chance to sit down and watch the AFL—which is, sadly, very rare these days—8.30 pm is not even getting towards half-time. That's when things are starting to get warmed up. Usually, it is not until we get to later in the game that things start getting pretty tense.
Why ban online sports betting at 8.30 pm? Who came up with that arbitrary line? Is that when we think children go to bed? Well, they don't. My children certainly don't go to bed at that time. They go directly online or they do other things. I don't think the old-fashioned 5.30 pm to 8.30 pm when you get tucked into bed really works anymore, if that is what has driven this decision—but we can ask Senator Fifield about this during the committee stage. Sports events like the Big Bash—and I can think of lots of other events—can go to much later at night. Sometimes the tennis will go until midnight, depending on who is playing and how many tie breaks you get, especially in the fifth set. But the same point applies: why turn it off at 8.30 pm?
I want to get back to the loophole that I mentioned and that Senator Hanson-Young mentioned. Let's be clear: this loophole wasn't identified in this legislation. They didn't leave open an existing loophole in this legislation; they created a new one. And who benefits from this loophole? It's not the media industry. Every broadcasting network and online content provider has to abide by the new restrictions, although we've made it clear we don't think those restrictions are anywhere near good enough—especially to prevent children from picking up the habits of online sports betting. This exemption doesn't apply to them. It's not the community, who overwhelmingly oppose gambling advertisements during live sporting events. It's not children, who are supposed to be protected by this legislation but are instead having that protection undermined. The only one who benefits from this is Foxtel.
Who could be surprised that this government would put the interests of Foxtel above the interests of the public? This is a government that gave Foxtel a $30 million handout because they were worried their media favourites weren't getting enough money out of the Liberals' media reform deal with Senator Xenophon and One Nation. I remember those special deals from not so long ago very well. This is the government whose communications minister received a fancy pair of cufflinks from Foxtel a week after the deal came through. He may indeed even be wearing those tonight! We can ask that question during the committee stage.
The Australian Greens think the intent of the bill is too important to water down, especially when we've come so far, with the inquiries we've had and the time it's taken to get the legislation to this point. I remember having a very late night in here with Senator Xenophon a few years ago on online betting. I remember going to an inquiry in Melbourne where Senator Conroy presented to the committee in his new role with the gambling industry. We've come a long way, so why don't we get it right? Tonight may be the opportunity for us to do that, if we can convince the Senate that we should strike while the iron's hot.
This is about protecting children, not about protecting this government's media mates. The amendment before us today rights a wrong by closing a loophole that puts children at risk just so Foxtel can make a buck. It shuts down the ability of the regulator to agree to carve-outs and exemptions like the one it signed up to on Friday. It means that the regulator can't be asked to sign on the dotted line for any gambling regulations that actively undermine the intent of the prohibition.
It's the job of this place to make legislation better. That's what we are; we're a house of review. It's our job, through the committee stage and through consultation across all party lines, to make legislation better. That's what we'll do tonight—certainly, that's what the Greens are going to attempt to do. This is not a political colour issue—a left-wing or a right-wing issue. This is actually about getting it right, especially for those who have problem-gambling addictions, and about protecting children from going down that road. If you think that children and teenagers aren't susceptible to this, then think again, because the evidence shows that is not the case. I heard that evidence when I was on the committee.
When the Prime Minister was asked about what he wanted to achieve from this bill, he said:
Parents around Australia will be delighted when they know that during football matches and cricket matches, live sporting events before 8:30pm, there will be no more gambling ads.
Let me say that again: the Prime Minister thinks there should be no more gambling ads during live sporting events when there are children watching. The Prime Minister says that the intention of this regulation is to protect children and help parents. I don't imagine the Prime Minister believes that children who live in homes with Foxtel connections or—as I mentioned earlier—those, like my children, who are often up past 8.30 pm are any less deserving of that protection. Yet that's exactly what this exemption for low-audience-share channels, which was signed into effect on Friday, has done.
The amendment is an opportunity to put the Prime Minister's stated intent into effect. It makes explicit that the intention of the bill is to make sure the regulations of gambling promotions in live event coverage are applied consistently across all broadcasting services. It then requires that ACMA checks that the intention of the bill is reflected in any code of practice that it includes in its register. It prohibits ACMA from including a code that undermines the intention of the bill. It gives ACMA the power to remove a code that does not satisfy the bill's intention, which, if this amendment proceeds, would include the Foxtel carve-out that I have mentioned today. It would also prevent giving consideration for a broadcast service's audience share when applying gambling regulations for live coverage of a sporting event. It also increases the time when the prohibition of gambling promotions during live co-produced sporting events kicks in, taking it from five minutes before the event begins to 30 minutes before.
As the government's own explanatory memorandum makes clear, all the analysis and research indicates that the majority of gambling promotions are in the 30 minutes prior to some football matches. That may be so, but I must say tonight and get on the record something that has been a big source of frustration for me. I think the worst online sports-betting gambling ads are the ones on the side of the Adelaide Oval, those flashing lights when you are trying to watch the footy. You are trying to follow the football and what's going on and then your eyes are drawn to these 'place a bet' ads. I don't know if I'm right, Senator Hanson-Young, but most of them seem to be at the Adelaide Oval. It is a personal dislike of mine. Not only am I opposed to Sportsbet and its advertising on TV; it really shits me when I'm watching the football and I get distracted by these flashing lights. They are not just a billboard that's been put up. They flash, and they run really fast. So the wording of 'place a bet'—on whatever it happens to be—goes right around the oval like a firecracker. It's almost impossible to miss if you are watching the footy. It is really, really hard to miss.
That's right—when you are meant to be watching the ball. This is a very serious matter and we've made it very clear that these kinds of things are detrimental to problem gamblers, as they potentially are to children.
We believe that kids should be able to watch the pre-game show without being bombarded by a flurry of gambling advertisements. Kids shouldn't have the sporting experience linked to gambling every time they turn on the television. The idea that we want to protect children from being exposed to what all the research shows is dangerous should not be controversial. Children should be protected no matter how many are watching the program. Would we protect 50,000 children watching a sporting program but not 10,000 children doing the same? Why are we protecting children based on numbers, not on principle? The Greens amendment is about saying, 'Just because Foxtel ask for the right to exclusively market gambling ads to children doesn't mean we have to give it to them.' It seems that News Ltd get a lot of what they ask for in this place. It is about showing this government that there is a way not to compromise on good intentions simply because someone gave you some cufflinks one time. We are fixing a problem that was introduced by design, but it's a chance to protect children and push back on a broadcasting service that thinks it should be exempted from that responsibility. When we go into the committee stage Senator Hanson-Young and the Greens will be raising these issues, and I'm sure—much to your delight, Minister!—we will go into more detail on these issues.
Briefly, to summarise, problem gambling is a big issue in this country. It goes across all sorts of platforms. From online gaming on computers at home to sports bets on TV, we get an incredible amount of stimulation. Did you know you can place a bet on who is going to kick the next goal, where it is going to be kicked from or which team is going to do it next? There are all sorts of things you can bet on during a game when you are caught up in the excitement of it all. Or it could be pokies. We need to accept that the government has a role to play in minimising the damage that problem gambling and problem gaming causes not just for individuals and their families but for communities and, often, the economy. This is money that could be spent elsewhere. We don't believe with that physiological addiction that is so evident, especially in poorer communities like we have in Tasmania that have pokie addictions and state governments that have pokie addictions, that not regulating those industries because you're in the pockets of big gaming or, in this case, creating exemptions because you are in the pocket of Rupert Murdoch and News Ltd is good enough. Tonight is a chance for the Senate to get it right, to do our job, to scrutinise the legislation before us and to make sure this amendment will get the balance right on the original bill that came through this place, which I and my colleagues and many other senators in this place contributed towards. So I will be sitting here with Senator Hanson-Young during the committee stage and we will look forward to asking the minister a few more questions about his cufflinks.
Thank you, colleagues, for contributing to this debate on the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content Services and Other Measures) Bill 2017 tonight. As has been canvassed, this bill will introduce a new regulatory framework which may be used to regulate gambling promotions on online content services. The bill will also establish a regulatory mechanism that can be used to apply the new gambling promotion restrictions to broadcasting services if necessary. As we know, that's not likely to need to be the case.
The government has indeed listened to community concern about the scheduling and the quantity of gambling promotions shown during live sporting events, particularly in the context of the impact of these promotions on children's audiences. In response to this, the government's broadcast and content reform package included new community safeguards in the form of additional restrictions on gambling promotions shown on broadcast during live sporting events in children's viewing hours. I like to describe this as being a community dividend from the media reform package. These additional restrictions will prohibit all gambling commercials and promotions during live coverage of sporting events from five minutes before the scheduled start of play to five minutes after the conclusion of play. These restrictions will apply between the hours of 5 am and 8.30 pm. Importantly, the government determined that these new restrictions should apply across commercial free-to-air television, the Special Broadcasting Service, subscription television, commercial radio and online content services. The gambling promotions reform will mean that for the first time broadcast-like program standards will be applied to online content services.
The bill, once enacted, will add schedule 8 to the Broadcasting Services Act 1992. Schedule 8 is an enabling framework that will allow the Australian Communications and Media Authority to make service provider rules which regulate gambling promotional content shown on online content services in conjunction with live coverage of sporting events. Broadcast sectors have worked closely with the government and the ACMA to ensure that their codes are appropriately amended. I'm grateful for the constructive engagement of industry on implementation of this important community safeguard within the existing co-regulatory framework. This engagement has resulted in registration by ACMA of industry codes giving effect to these additional restrictions for commercial free-to-air television, subscription television and commercial radio. The new broadcast rules take effect from 30 March. The announced gambling promotion restrictions will establish a clear safe zone during which parents and carers can have confidence that children will not be exposed to gambling promotions by viewing live sports events. The bill will facilitate the implementation of these restrictions.
There are a number of amendments that have been circulated, and the government will address these in the committee stage. A number of them seek to extend the restrictions beyond that which the government is seeking. These are significant new restrictions and build on those put in place by the Gillard government, as has been mentioned by Senator O'Neill. I appreciate that there will always be an argument to go further and, indeed, we are moving to a point today beyond that which has previously been the case. But the government, in formulating these new restrictions, has sought to achieve an appropriate balance. We wanted to establish a clear live sports safe zone for parents and carers in children's hours whilst still allowing for a legal adult recreational product to be advertised in an appropriate way.
In this area, there is always a balance to be struck between community safeguards, logistics and technical capabilities, and how and when a legal product should be able to be advertised. Free-to-air broadcasting in particular relies on advertising revenue to be viable and, given the popularity of sport broadcast to Australians for free, this was a relevant consideration for the government when seeking to strike the right balance.
Of course, these reforms take place in a wider context. The government is responding to widespread community concern about the prevalence of gambling advertising during live sporting events, which ratings data does indicate are popular with children and young audiences. We're taking the opportunity to provide a community dividend from our broader media reforms. The government has listened to the concerns that regular exposure to gambling advertisements during live sport normalises gambling in the eyes of children and can encourage vulnerable people to gamble. In light of these concerns, the government has decided that the existing rules are not meeting community expectations and that additional restrictions are required to provide appropriate community safeguards. There are existing restrictions that were put in place by the previous government, and the maintenance of these existing restrictions will reassure viewers who are worried that they will be saturated with gambling advertisements after 8.30 pm.
Appendix 3 of the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice already restricts when betting advertisements or the promotion of odds are permitted. For example, during a live sporting event, gambling advertisements may only be shown at designated times, such as before and after play, and during scheduled and unscheduled breaks in play. They cannot be shown when a broadcaster goes to a commercial break after a player has kicked a goal or scored a try. In addition, the promotion of odds is not permitted during play or scheduled breaks or in unscheduled breaks during a live sports event.
I want to thank the peak broadcasting bodies for their work in voluntarily implementing the new restrictions in their code. They engaged constructively with the ACMA to draft amended codes, which the ACMA ultimately registered. So I put on record my thanks to Free TV Australia, Commercial Radio Australia and the Australian Subscription Television and Radio Association for working to implement these additional restrictions through their codes. I also acknowledge that the Special Broadcasting Service has indicated it too will implement the additional broadcast restrictions, all of which take effect from 30 March.
There has been some commentary about the use of 8.30 pm as the cut-off for the additional restrictions. There is a clear rationale for choosing this as the time after which the new restrictions won't apply. Broadcasters are required to place a high priority on the protection of children from exposure to material that may be harmful to them. These requirements are given effect via program standards and industry codes of practice. There are long-established practices under broadcasting legislation to ensure that children are not exposed to certain types of ads. For example, the current rules prevent commercial television broadcasters from showing advertisements or promotions for alcoholic drinks until after 8.30 pm, intimate services until after 11 pm and television programs that have a classification of M or higher during G or PG programs until after 8.30 pm. The specific requirements under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice are as follows: an advertisement for alcoholic drinks may only be shown between 8.30 pm and 5 am every day, and between 12 pm and 3 pm on school days. Alcohol advertisements may also be broadcast as an accompaniment to sports programs broadcast at any time on weekends and public holidays. There are similar requirements for other products.
I should mention for the sake of completeness that there are a number of government gambling advertisements that have exemptions which are longstanding. The proposed ban will not apply to promotions in relation to government lotteries—Lotto, Keno—or contests. These are currently exempted under broadcast codes of practice and haven't caused significant community concern in the context of live sporting events. In contrast, advertisements for lottery betting services are not exempt from the additional restrictions. Live sporting events that consist of horse, harness or greyhound racing: these events exist predominantly for the purpose of betting and do not appeal to mainstream audiences, perhaps with the exception of the Melbourne Cup. These exclusions are consistent with the current longstanding approach in industry codes of practice. Further exceptions under the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice include a commercial relating to entertainment or dining facilities at places where betting or gambling takes place, a reference that is accidental or a reference that is an incidental accompaniment. Senators will be aware, as I mentioned earlier, that these new gambling restrictions were introduced as part of the major media reform package legislated by the government last year. These were landmark reforms and contained the protections from gambling advertising for children. They also modernise and assist the broadcasting sector and recognise change in consumer viewing patterns.
The reforms demonstrate that the government is listening to community concerns. We've acted. Our reform package enjoyed the unanimous support of Australia's media industry. We should acknowledge that free-to-air broadcasters play an important role in providing access to high-quality Australian content, such as sporting events, current affairs, drama and children's programming, for all Australians. However, as colleagues know, they are operating in an increasingly competitive and challenging environment, due to the entry of online service providers. Audiences now have viewing opportunities across more platforms than ever before. Audiences are increasingly fragmented and advertising revenue for commercial broadcasters is falling, as competition in the sector increases. Our broadcasting and content reform package has modernised regulation and helped position the sector to deal with these existing and future challenges more effectively. The key elements of the package, as colleagues might recall, were the abolition of broadcasting licence fees for television and radio, allowing broadcasters to better compete with other media platforms, but, it's important to add, the introduction of a price for the use of spectrum by broadcasters to better reflect its use. Other elements include: protecting Australian children with further gambling advertising restrictions; broad-ranging amendments to the anti-siphoning scheme and list; a comprehensive review of Australian and children's content; and a funding package for subscription TV to support the broadcasting of women's and niche sports.
These reforms will ensure the ongoing production of high-quality Australian content and will strengthen the competitiveness of our broadcasting sector. But the package also acknowledged that the broadcasting sector is facing increasing competition and that measures such as the new gambling advertising restrictions did happen in the context of a broader media reform package—hence the government's decision to abolish broadcasting licence fees and also to make sure that the new restrictions on gambling advertising apply to all platforms. I would like to put on record again my thanks to the broadcasting sector for engaging with the government in such a constructive and cooperative manner, as this reform package was developed and ultimately legislated. This is significant reform in an area where reform is hard, and it was only possible with the good faith and engagement of the broadcasting and media sector. Broadcasting licence fees, which I've touched on, were a relic of an era of analog media regulation. They couldn't be justified any longer in an increasingly competitive media environment. The fees were introduced at a time when broadcasters had a privileged position. These days, commercial TV and radio broadcasters do face strong competition.
I thought it might be helpful to go back and ponder and reflect, just for a moment, on the significant media reform package of which what is before us is a part. I am tempted—but will resist—to go through the amendments to the anti-siphoning scheme and list; I'll take those as read. But this legislation is really one of the final pieces in the delivery of our comprehensive media reform package, and I commend this legislation to my colleagues.
I move the second reading amendment standing in my name on sheet 8404:
At the end of the motion, add:
", but the Senate is of the opinion that the Government should legislate to prohibit betting on the outcome of a lottery."
Labor is sympathetic to the concerns behind the amendment moved by Senator Patrick and is consulting with stakeholders on the issues that relate to Lottoland. Labor acknowledges concerns about the impact of Lottoland on consumers and small business and its implications for regulatory and tax structures in Australia. As Labor said in the Senate during the debate on the Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill last year, Labor are sympathetic to the concerns about Lottoland and we understand that Lottoland is a fast-growing online bookmaker in Australia. It is licensed in the Northern Territory and has a foreign parent company. Lottoland invites consumers to bet online on the outcome of a lottery but isn't itself an official lottery but a so-called synthetic lottery.
On 27 September, Labor wrote to the chairman of the ACCC to convey concerns about representations made by companies that offer betting on lottery results, such as Lottoland, that may mislead or deceive consumers into believing that they are purchasing a lottery ticket or directly participating in a lottery, and we invited the ACCC to investigate whether consumer law has been breached. In response to Labor's letter, on 25 October 2017 the ACCC undertook to continue to review developments and complaints received in relation to Lottoland. More recently, in November 2017, the Labor government of the Northern Territory moved to ban Northern Territory licensed bookmakers, including Lottoland, from accepting bets on the outcomes of Australian based lotteries.
But this is not the end of the matter. Like many other sectors, newsagencies and lottery retailers have been very disrupted by digitisation. The sale of official lottery tickets remains a key element of the newsagency business model and contributes to state and territory revenues via lottery taxes. Online betting bookmakers which allow customers to bet on the outcome of official lotteries such as Lottoland have implications for traditional business models and related consumer protection, regulatory and tax structures which deserve closer examination. We note that a number of other jurisdictions around Australia have acted to deal with the issue of betting on the outcome of a lottery and we note the grassroots campaign Lottoland's Gotta Go! has effectively raised the profile. Labor is currently looking into these issues. We do have real concerns about betting on the outcome of a lottery, but we're not in a position to support this second reading amendment this evening. I indicate for the record that Labor will continue to consult further on this issue.
The Greens support this amendment. We think it is just another rank example of how gambling in this country is absolutely out of control. When you get to the point where you can make a bet on a lottery, there is something wrong. This bill, broadly speaking, deals with one part of the insidious gambling industry. We know that the gambling industry has so much power in this country. They won the Liberal Party government in Tasmania. They tried to destroy South Australia. If we in this place can't even get ourselves on the same page to clamp down on this insidious industry that thrives on the misery of people, then we shouldn't be here. We should all be voting for this amendment, and we should be getting it through.