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Wednesday, 26 June 2013
Page: 7226


Ms BRODTMANN (Canberra) (16:00): As the deputy chair of the parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, it is a pleasure to speak on the tabling of the committee's sixth and final report. This report covered the remaining bills referred to the inquiry: the Poker Machine Harm Reduction ($1 Bets And Other Measures) Bill 2012, the Anti-Money Laundering Amendment (Gaming Machine Venues) Bill 2012 and the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Virtual Credits) Bill 2013. I take this opportunity to put on the record the government's work in this area during the life of the committee.

The government is committed to addressing problem gambling and it has taken a number of steps to progress reform in this area. In November 2008, the government asked the Productivity Commission to inquire into problem gambling in Australia. The report was presented in February 2010. The COAG Select Council On Gambling Reform was established in 2010 to develop a national response to the findings and recommendations of the Productivity Commission report. In May 2011, the select council agreed that pre-commitment is a useful tool to help people set limits on how much they want to spend on poker machines and it was agreed to support the required infrastructure for pre-commitment technology in all jurisdictions. Building on this agreement, there was consultation with stakeholders, including consultation on an exposure draft of the national gambling reform legislation. In January 2012, the government outlined its approach to helping Australians affected by problem gambling.

The National Gambling Reform Act 2012 is the first time the federal government has legislated to address problem gambling. New poker machines will be capable of pre-commitment technology and eventually all poker machines must be part of a state-linked pre-commitment system but smaller venues will have additional time for implementation. The government also announced the development of electronic warnings and cost of play displays on poker machines, a $250 a day ATM withdraw limit from ATMs in gambling venues—excluding casinos—and additional counselling support. Self-exclusion arrangements will also be strengthened and there will be improved training for staff in venues. The government committed to and has been working on a large scale trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the ACT. Clubs ACT has decided to postpone the trial until after the federal election, but work continues on optimum trial design and trial preparation.

The committee's third report covered the area of prevention and treatment of problem gambling. The committee made a number of suggestions to improve the messages in social marketing initiatives, including campaigns and education initiatives to address stigma and stereotypes. I note the government is conducting a trial project which aims to reduce the stigma of problem gambling by supporting former problem gamblers, or people affected by problem gambling, to talk about their experiences at community awareness sessions. Findings from this project will be used to further explore the consequences and causes of stigma and how this can be reduced or mitigated.

In the area of online gambling, the government has undertaken a review of the Interactive Gambling Act 2001. The final report was released in March and the Minister for Broadband Communications and the Digital Economy announced that the government would work with states and territories to implement a national harm minimisation and consumer protection standard for all licensed online gambling activities. In consultation with states and territories, the government continues to further examine the recommendations of the review with respect to enforcement and deterrence, advertising, education and awareness and social media. The recently tabled report, on the promotion of sports betting, recognised the level of community concern on this issue. There is a great level of community concern on this issue. The government has listened to the concern and in May the Prime Minister announced that live odds would be banned during the broadcast of live sports matches and generic gambling advertisements would be banned during play. The government has also taken steps to safeguard the integrity of sport by establishing the National Integrity of Sport Unit to work with stakeholders to ensure a national approach to regulation and to prevent match fixing through education programs.

The committee heard during its inquiries about the need for more targeted and coordinated research. The national gambling reform act 2012 established the Australian Gambling Research Centre to enhance national gambling research. I very much welcome that initiative. The centre begins in July and will be located within the Australian Institute of Family Studies. The government has indicated that areas identified by the committee as requiring further research will inform consideration of the centre's work agenda.

It has been a privilege to be deputy chair of this committee and to see the tabling of its final report. I thank the member for Denison for very capably chairing the committee. I thank my fellow committee members and I would particularly like to thank the secretariat, who did excellent work and often in very short time frames. I would like to thanks and commend Lyn Beverley. I commend the report to the House. (Extension of time granted.)

It was an incredibly enjoyable journey being on this committee as deputy chair. At really highlighted to me the fact that there are significant issues with problem gambling in the community. We heard throughout the course of my time on the committee about people who are suffering significant economic hardship, people whose marriages have broken down, people who had lost their homes, people who had lost custody of their children and people who were experiencing significant hardship as a result of gambling addiction. It really underscored to me the fact that there is a problem in the community and that we need to do something to address it. We as a government have engaged in a number of initiatives to address it through a number of mechanisms, most recently in the sports betting area.

I know that all of us here will have received an enormous amount of emails and other feedback from the community about how people were greatly offended by the intrusion into the pleasure of sport that came with live odds betting and sports-betting advertisements. It was a tsunami in many ways. There is no way that you could miss it when you were watching sport on a Saturday afternoon. There was, rightly, an outcry amongst the community and we as a government responded to that outcry.

For me, one of the most rewarding elements of being on this committee as deputy chair was the fact that we managed to take a close look at the research in the field and it highlighted a number of gaps in the gambling arena. First off, gambling is not actually recognised as an area for research under the NHMRC grants criteria, which makes it difficult for researchers who want to enhance our understanding of the issues associated with problem gambling and its impacts. It is difficult for them to gain an understanding if they cannot get grants. I really welcome the government's initiative to establish the research centre. That will ensure that we gain a greater understanding of these problems and through that gain a greater evidence base. Our response can then be based on what is actually happening in the community rather than on small pockets of research. It has been an incredibly rewarding experience and it has highlighted for me that the research is a real soft spot. I welcome the fact that we have established this centre and I look forward to hearing of the research that emanates from it in a range of areas, including the problem gambling area—the impact of sports betting advertising, of poker machines and a whole range of gambling components which impact on the community, particularly on children. One of the areas that was highlighted was the potential impact on children of sports betting advertising and gambling advertising in the community.

Research was one of the areas which I was particularly pleased with, with the gaps that were highlighted. Our hearings and the inquiries highlighted these gaps, and as a result we did not have a strong evidence base on which we could develop appropriate policy reactions. I believe that the policy reactions we have developed have been appropriate, but it would be helpful to have that very strong evidence base moving forward in our response as public policymakers to this issue which is a concern to the broader community.

I would particularly like to thank the committee which worked on this. It was a committee of very colourful characters with very passionate views. Senator Xenophon is well known as a very strong advocate of this issue and he has been a long-time advocate. It was a pleasure to work with him. He is so knowledgeable in this arena and so passionate about the issue, as is the member for Denison, Mr Wilkie. They are both very committed to eliminating problem gambling in the community, establishing the right policy reactions and frameworks and establishing the right research evidence base to address those issues. I would also like to thank Senator Madigan, who also added a great deal to the committee with his observations, as well as those from the other side of the chamber. Generally we had a bipartisan approach to the issues and a bipartisan concern. While we had differing reactions to the responses to those issues that were highlighted in the inquiries, I believe that we all went into the inquiries and into closer examinations with a strong will to improve the situation and to ensure that we can, as far as possible, eliminate problem gambling in the community.

It is a significant problem in the community. We heard from people who have been very badly damaged physically, economically, socially and emotionally, and it is very important that as policymakers we establish as many mechanisms as possible to ensure that these people are protected in the future, as well as children. There are pockets of evidence where research is being done—and I commend those who are conducting the research—which show that children are engaging in gambling, particularly sports gambling, at a very young age. We have all heard stories from nieces and nephews or sons and daughters recounting to us the odds of a particular game that is taking place. Rather than sitting and enjoying the game, they are recounting the odds for who will win and who will not win. We cannot allow that sort of culture to grow. That is why I really welcome the initiatives that the government has introduced on the sports betting front.

I commend the report to the House. I enjoyed the opportunity to be the deputy chair of this committee and I look forward to hearing the response of the community to this report, which is comprehensive.

Debate adjourned.