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Thursday, 28 June 2001
Page: 28999

Mrs DE-ANNE KELLY (1:07 AM) —I think the Interactive Gambling Bill 2001 is a great bill, and I am proud to be a part of a responsible, caring government. Currently within Australian society we can see a mesmerising movement, a strengthening of dependence, a gambling psyche creeping into Australian life. Interactive gambling is exploiting the vulnerable and susceptible in our society. I am proud that we have sharp and decisive legislation to ensure that those who are vulnerable in Australian society are going to be accounted for. We know from the results of the Productivity Commission inquiry presented by the Treasurer in 1998 that there is a serious problem in Australia with gambling. With over $11 billion being lost annually by Australians, we cannot afford to overlook the implications.

Also contained within that report released by the Treasurer was the alarming fact that there are now in excess of 130,000 Australians with severe gambling related problems. Compulsive gambling specialists say that they are most concerned that the easy access of the Internet could accelerate gambling addiction. Dr Howard Shaffer, the director of the division on addictions at Harvard Medical School, believes that the Internet as a gambling vehicle will actually produce more dependence. He said:

As smoking crack cocaine changed the cocaine experience, I think electronics is going to change the way gambling is experienced.

Bill Saum, the director of enforcement for the NCAA, said:

We're concerned that athletes may be wagering over the Internet and that Internet wagering is about to explode on college campuses. What we would end up with is a significant number of closet gamblers, a number of whom would be athletes. That's a problem for all of us.

We have just heard the member for the Northern Territory. I am not for one moment saying that he has gambled in parliament— that would be unparliamentary—but on his laptop in Parliament House he could call up a site. We could even gamble away in Parliament House, should we so choose. Every Australian would say that that is absolutely unacceptable. By opposing this bill, the opposition are in effect not only selling out those right throughout Australian society in need of help or protection but are assisting those who would exploit the vulnerable in the Australian community. Addicted gamblers in Australia do not need another opportunity to have their houses sold out from under them.

A report released in America last year highlights the deep concerns of the American Psychiatric Association. Their concerns revolved around today's contemporary youth who, by virtue of having unprecedented access to credit cards and to the use of the Internet, are particular vulnerable. Today's youth have continually proven to be the largest demographic group to use the Internet and to spend the highest average time logged on. The association said that there are many online video and broader gaming sites which are targeting children and teens and increasingly including links to gambling sites.

I had my speech for tonight researched by a young work experience student, Casey Moon—somebody who uses the Internet and understands young people and the driving need for them to exploit the opportunities that the Internet presents. He also noted that 10 to 15 per cent of young people have reported significant gambling problems as a result of the Internet.

I notice that the opposition are opposed to this legislation. The reason for that is that they appreciate dependency, they like to see losers and they like to exploit weakness. The reality is that on this side of the House we like to empower people in Australia. We like to ensure that those who are vulnerable and susceptible are not able to gamble their home away while they are still in it. We like to empower Australians and ensure that they are winners, not losers. I deplore the policies of the opposition in regard to Internet gambling. We know that it is addictive, episodic and repetitive. We are ensuring that Australians are able to keep the assets and savings that they have to better their families, and not spend them, as the member for the Northern Territory is proposing, on Internet sites not only in Australia but also overseas. I notice from current newspaper articles that there is in fact a move from the minister—and I commend the minister and totally support his actions—that Australians betting on Internet sites overseas may not have their credit card losses supported by Australian banks. If that is the case, that Australian banks are going to do that and not allow Australians to lose on foreign sites, good on them! I commend the minister. The Labor Party are weak.