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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2867

Senator XENOPHON (South Australia) (17:33): I am grateful to Senator Back for giving me this opportunity to speak. I promise to keep it down to eight minutes; I will do my very best to keep it within eight minutes. I support Senator Di Natale's motion and congratulate him for bringing it on. This proposal, in the bill that he has introduced recently, mirrors many of the proposals that I put in a bill that I introduced in this chamber in June 2011—the more, the merrier. To me, it will be a great day when we have a bill from either the coalition or the government, or both, mirroring what Senator Di Natale is trying to do and what I have been trying to do. It is because enough is enough: we have gone too far in relation to this.

This is a very serious issue. I refer members to the evidence given by Associate Professor Samantha Thomas, from the University of Wollongong. She is an expert researcher, who has researched the impact of this sort of pernicious, insidious gambling advertising on children. Her studies and surveys are extensive. In a snapshot: parents are concerned that kids are talking about the odds and not the games. There is an increase of embedded memories, if you like, of advertising, where kids remember it. That is very disturbing. That kids are able to recall the brand name of gambling companies—children who are six, eight, 10 or 12 years old—is very disturbing.

We also have a situation with young men, where odds talk is being embedded into conversations as part of the culture. Young men feel pressured into gambling because of this pernicious advertising. Gambling is now part of the peer group: if they do not participate in it, they are not part of that group. That is sickening. Let us clear this up once and for all—and perhaps Senator Di Natale will have an opportunity to sum up the debate: the new whiz-bang proposed code, which is being proposed now, still allows for advertising before the game, of odds being spruiked before the game and at quarter-time, half-time, three-quarter time and after the game. It just stops those live odds. It is better than nothing—it is better than a kick in the head—but it does not deal with the issue, which is that we are being bombarded with gambling advertising. You will still be able to see the ads for the various gambling companies—Sportsbet, Sportingbet, Tom Waterhouse or whomever—during a game. Kids can see that as well.

That is very, very important. We must tackle this. What I proposed back in 2011, and what Senator Di Natale is proposing now, is not extra regulation, as Senator Humphries has characterised it. It is about closing a loophole. Currently, under the Commercial Television Code of Practice, the situation is that you cannot have gambling advertising during G-rated periods, but there is an exemption for news, current affairs and sporting programs. It is for sporting programs where the greatest impact is felt. This is about closing a loophole. You should not have the odds being broadcast and you should not have gambling advertising during G-rated periods. This is the fundamental issue.

There is an inquiry about this. It is public knowledge that there is an attempt to get Tom Waterhouse to appear before the inquiry. I cannot comment to say anything other than that, but I would welcome him appearing. I would like to take a moment or two to quote what former Wallabies great, author and commentator Peter FitzSimons said in his column on 24 April in the Sydney Morning Herald. It is headed 'Waterhouse's submission is a joke that's not funny'. I will just quote a few paragraphs from that. It starts off with Mr FitzSimons saying:

Bring it in tight, Tom Waterhouse. Yes, yes, yes, it is me again, and no, I don't have particularly hard feelings because you're suing me for defamation at the moment. Nothing personal, what?

Nevertheless, because of that legal action, I have of course tried to temper my remarks when it comes to your statement to the joint select committee on gambling reform on Tuesday, where you robustly defended your ubiquitous presence on sports broadcasts across Australia, asserting your right to flog your sports betting operation as you please.

So let me, as delicately as I can muster, as carefully as possible, choose my words delicately ... with malice towards none ... with charity to all:

If you wrote the statement to the select committee, give yourself an uppercut. If someone wrote it for you, pretend you're Mark Bouris on Celebrity Apprentice and say loudly: "You're fired."

In that statement, you say you have, "No intention of targeting children through our advertising ..."

What are the kids then? Collateral damage? Whether or not the kids are specifically "targeted" by your company is hardly the point? The point is that they ARE hit, regardless. The point is that while the government has the brains to have a ban on gambling advertising on programs children are likely to be watching, there remains the ludicrous exception of sport, which millions of Australian kids watch for hours on end!

The point is that because of this exposure gambling chat in the playground is now endemic, and many young Australians think that gambling is glamorous instead of the brain-dead loser pursuit it actually is. So you didn't specifically target them? So what?The outcome is equally devastating—a time-bomb that will go off when they have more than their lunch money to lose.

I congratulate Peter FitzSimons for those comments which reflect the overwhelming opinion out there in the community.

I spoke to Peter FitzSimons about his columns. He gets overwhelmed by the number of comments and people writing in to him or tweeting him. There is a strong, visceral community reaction to this. There is a revulsion about the way the odds are being rammed down our throats. When six-, eight- and 10-year-olds are talking to their parents in their homes about the odds and not about the game then you know we have gone too far. That is why we need to ban gambling advertising during G-rated periods.

I note what has been said about overregulation. But in May of last year I did a joint press conference with the opposition leader, Tony Abbott. I was very happy to do that joint press conference with him on the issue of online gambling. Statements that the opposition leader made about how we have gone too far were a very pleasing development. I disagree with the opposition leader on his stance on poker machine reform, but we have a lot of common ground in terms of online gambling. I do not think that what this motion is about, what my bill in 2011 was about or what Senator Di Natale's recently introduced bill was about is that far away from the comments of the opposition leader. The opposition leader's comments are very much in line with overwhelming community opinion.

We have had enough. Leave kids alone, for goodness' sakes. We have a ban on G-rated programs having gambling advertising, but there is an exemption for sporting programs. Let us close that exemption down. If the opposition and the government will not come on board, that is fine because I will make sure right up until 14 September, election day, that this is an issue. I will thank you both for giving me an issue to fight the election on. But I would rather it not be an issue. I would rather there be some unanimity in this chamber to reflect the overwhelming community opinion that we need to do something about what has become an insidious activity that is damaging our kids. Give us a break. Let's support a ban on gambling advertising and on the odds being pushed down our throats so that we can protect our kids.