Wednesday, 4 December 2019
Questions without Notice
My question is to the Minister for Families and Social Services, Senator Ruston. Can the minister advise the Senate how the Morrison government's sound budget and economic management is helping to strengthen support for problem gamblers, including through the recent announcement of the new national self-exclusion register.
I thank Senator Askew for her question on this really important issue that matters to all Australians—that is, gambling related harm. That is why this government is absolutely committed to providing support to the almost 240,000 Australians who experience harm as a result of gambling.
Last week the government introduced legislation, which I'm pleased to say passed last night in the House of Representatives, to establish a national self-exclusion register for online wagering. This is a significant piece of legislation, and demonstrates an absolute commitment to respond to the growing concerns in the community about the impacts and the high rate of gambling related harm caused specifically by online gambling.
The register is a voluntary process, where an individual can ban themselves from interactive wagering sites across state boundaries for periods ranging from three months to permanently. It's really important because, specifically, this tool, this first-of-its-kind-in-the-world tool, enables a gambler who sees the need to exclude themselves to be able to do so by a single action. They can actually have themselves deregistered from all gambling sites.
As much as possible, we need to also make sure that our policies allow Australians who love to have a punt to be able to continue to do so, but at the same time making sure that we have sensible and targeted measures to support gamblers who have faced and do face significant risks of harm. The register will be available to around one million consumers who currently have online wagering accounts.
Another very important feature of this particular register is that the sector, the gambling sector, has been very engaged and has made significant contributions to the development of this register to ensure that it is going to be workable for all Australians. To that end, I thank Responsible Wagering Australia and the wagering community for their very important interaction in developing this tool.
Unfortunately, we have seen that somebody who is an online gambler will have a three-times-higher likelihood of being a problem gambler than those who gamble by other means. Currently there is no uniform way in which somebody who self-identifies as having a problem with online gambling can take the necessary action to exclude themselves from websites. That means that, at the moment, those who are most vulnerable to having an issue with online wagering have to go to every website individually where online wagering is available and exclude themselves one at a time. Obviously this undermines significantly the effectiveness of an exclusion activity as a consumer protection tool, so by the introduction of this new measure we seek to streamline that process and to give people who self-identify as having a problem easy access to a solution.
Clearly this chamber would be well aware of the potential impacts of gambling related harm and the adverse impacts that can have on people's lives. The obvious one is financial wellbeing, but it can also impact on self-esteem, relationships, work performance, housing situation and of course physical and mental health. Last week the government actually released a baseline study into online wagering, which was undertaken by the Australian Institute of Family Studies. Some of the key findings from that study showed that participants reported having 2.3 wagering accounts, so an individual who had online wagering accounts was likely to have 2.3 of them. Eighty-three per cent of participants placed bets online using portable devices, such as a mobile phone, and 52 per cent of respondents were classified as being at risk. The National Self-Exclusion Register is a very significant measure in helping people to deal with these issues.