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Wednesday, 23 March 2011
Page: 3021


Mr CIOBO (9:42 AM) —I rise to speak about this Labor government’s grubby deal with the Independent member for Denison to introduce a mandatory precommitment scheme with respect to poker machines. This is an issue of great importance to me and I know to many communities across Australia. We know that the Labor Party, as part of its desperate bid to secure government for itself again following the last federal election, chose—without any real scientific or intellectual backing—to support a call from the member for Denison for the introduction of a mandatory precommitment system—in other words, effectively a licence to gamble. All Australians will no longer, as a result of Labor’s policy, have the choice to decide to have a flutter on the pokies unless they go through what is effectively a registration process.

For me, this matter has been brought home by recent correspondence that I have received from a number of community clubs. The Broadbeach Bowls and Community Club estimates that pokie precommitment, or Labor’s mandatory precommitment, will be the final nail in the coffin for them. It will be a blow to their club and a blow more broadly to the Gold Coast, who are currently bidding for the right to host the 2018 Commonwealth Games. The Broadbeach Bowls and Community Club is slated to be the venue for the bowling segment of the Commonwealth Games, should we secure it. This is a club that simply cannot afford to introduce mandatory precommitment technology that Labor’s Big Brother approach to defining the lives of all Australians would force on them. The average age of their members is currently 60, and bowls is for many their only recreation. The club’s closure as a direct result of Labor’s myopic policy would be a big blow to their lives.

The club has written to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, and to the Assistant Treasurer, Bill Shorten, but are yet to receive a reply from either of them. In their letter, which they copied to me, the Chairman of the club, Barry Gilbert, wrote:

Our Club is important in our community. We provide recreation and interaction with a broad spectrum of backgrounds, average age being 60 years of age. The proposed reforms would close not only Broadbeach Bowls and Community Club but dozens of similar organisations throughout the whole of Australia …

It concerns me that the Labor Party, having done this deal with Andrew Wilkie, is now looking at introducing mandatory precommitment even though it will do nothing to help problem gambling. Problem gamblers have a problem. They are irrational. Labor’s proposal, which will allow problem gamblers to set their own gaming limits—which could for many be unlimited losses a day—will not be a solution and will jeopardise clubs.