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Thursday, 28 June 2001
Page: 28998

Mr SNOWDON (1:02 AM) —What a nonsensical diatribe! We heard from the shadow minister his description of the Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 as hypocritical, unworkable and a dog's breakfast—an apt description of this legislation. The hypocrisy which knows no bounds in the coalition was given frank expression by the previous speaker. His admission was very clear: the problem gambling was with those people who pull the poker machines, go to the supermarket and get scratchies and go to Tattslotto—they are the problem gamblers, not the people on the Internet. And the Luddites on the other side are trying to tell us that, somehow or another, this piece of legislation is going to stop people gambling on the Internet. I have a suggestion. I could ask the Clerk, who is sitting at the desk here, to go into the Internet and click onto a gaming site anywhere in the world except the United States. He would be able to do it right now. While you are sitting here, Mr Speaker, he could be gambling on a site in the Caribbean right now, and nothing in this legislation could prevent him from doing so.

There is only one way to deal with the issue of gambling on the Internet, and that is to have a properly controlled and regulated system. I actually sat in here one day—much to your chagrin, I am sure, Mr Speaker, when you hear this—and when the Prime Minister was up on his scrapers during question time telling us how he was going to control Internet gambling, I switched on to an Internet gaming site in the Caribbean. As he was speaking in question time, I could have been gambling, from this very desk, on an Internet gaming site in the Caribbean. And there is nothing in the world that could have been done by the government to control the fact that I was gambling on the Internet, apart from saying, `Don't do it here in the House.'

Mrs De-Anne Kelly —I rise on a point of order, Mr Speaker. We have just heard a contempt of parliament, indulging in—

Mr SPEAKER —The member for Dawson will resume her seat. The member for the Northern Territory was merely making an illustration that was entirely in keeping with the debate.

Mr SNOWDON —This legislation seeks to make it an offence for a person to provide interactive gambling services to a customer who is physically present in Australia. What a nonsense! What sort of enforcement will there be to stop people gambling on these overseas sites? There can be none; there will be none. As we know, the borderless characteristic of the Internet and its electronic commerce means that access cannot be denied. Since the geographical and legal domain of the Internet is undefined, legislation may be legally enforceable but practically impossible, as we all know. Take for example the case of Napster in America. The intellectual property rights of music are legally protected. The provision of music in MP3 format online infringes on the rights of artists, but law enforcement officials in the USA are finding it impossible to control or prevent consumption in cyberspace. The power has shifted to consumers and away from gatekeepers—something this government has yet to learn.

I will conclude my brief comments by pointing to a couple of headlines in recent newspaper articles. A headline in the Sydney Morning Herald on 21 June this year said `Poised to be a thriving Australian industry, now all bets are off'. This article concluded by saying:

Lasseters Online, Australia's first and only surviving Internet casino, said the bulk of its $14.3 million in revenue came from off-shore.

Then it quoted the CEO, Peter Bridge, who said:

The upsetting thing is we have to tell those players we know to go and take their luck with Dodgy Brothers in the Caribbean.

That is going to be the effect of this legislation. Two other headlines that I will mention include one in the Canberra Times on 29 March this year, which said, `Gambling ban not the way to go'—and it is not the way to go—and a second one in the Financial Review, also on 29 March, which said, `Gambling ban doesn't add up' and the subheading said, `A contradictory decision that combines the worst inclinations of King Canute and a colonialist.' And that is what it is. It is an absolute farce, it is hypocritical, it will not work and it is, as the shadow minister described, an absolute dog's breakfast.