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Wednesday, 8 February 2017
Page: 319


Mr TUDGE (AstonMinister for Human Services) (16:54): I rise to sum up. In doing so, can I thank all of the members who have spoken on this bill. Many have given very impassioned speeches about their concerns, about the issues to do with problem gambling, to do with illegal offshore providers and also, as we have just heard from the member for Kingsford Smith, some of the concerns around gambling advertising.

This bill originates out of the Barry O'Farrell review into illegal offshore wagering. That review was a comprehensive review looking predominantly at how we can prevent some of the dollars going offshore to illegal offshore gambling companies. In making his recommendations he also covered a number of areas and gave us strong recommendations as to how to make the overall gambling environment a safer one as well. In essence, his recommendations fell into three groups: firstly, how we can do more to crack down on those illegal offshore gambling providers; secondly, to fix up, if you like, the click-to-call issue by clarifying the law to ensure the original intent of the Interactive Gambling Act is adhered to; and thirdly, to introduce stronger consumer protections.

This bill squarely deals with those first two. It deals with cracking down on the illegal offshore gambling providers and it does clarify the law to ensure the original intent is adhered to as far as the click-to-call issue goes. In relation to this third issue of stronger national consumer protections, we are absolutely committed to implementing those recommendations and in some places going further than the recommendations. We are working very cooperatively with the states and territories as we consult appropriately, as we should, before introducing such measures.

I will just quickly outline a quick summation as to the major measures contained in the bill and particularly those measures which deal with those illegal offshore gambling providers. I should also just recap why they are a problem for Australia. They are a problem for many reasons. Obviously, money goes offshore when it would be otherwise better spent in Australia. It also creates greater consumer protection risks because when you bet on an illegal offshore gambling provider, clearly you do not have the same sort of legal and consumer protections that you would if you were betting on an Australian licensed provider. Of course, we know that some of those illegal offshore gambling providers are actually connected to large crime syndicates. So we have a very strong interest to ensure that we are not inadvertently supporting those crime syndicates through bets which Australians may be placing, not knowing where those gambling providers are domiciled and who they are connected with.

Consequently, Mr O'Farrell made a number of recommendations which we are implementing in this bill. First of all, it amends the law to make it very clear that it is unlawful for an unlicensed offshore provider to be providing bets to Australians. We think that alone will make quite a big difference, as it has done in other jurisdictions. It particularly makes a difference for those gambling companies who are domiciled in what I would call responsible jurisdictions, because they will ensure that Australian law is adhered to.

Secondly, the bill empowers the Australian Communications and Media Authority—ACMA—with new civil penalties to ensure that the rules are enforced. Currently, the Interactive Gambling Act only provides criminal offences for most of the provisions of the act. Consequently with criminal offences there is a much higher burden of proof and we have in fact had no prosecutions under that, despite the fact that there have been 140 complaints made to the Australian Federal Police. Civil penalties, we think, will be more effective.

Thirdly, we are introducing what we call other disruptive mechanisms to deal with these illegal offshore gambling providers. The most important one which is contained in this bill is that it will enable the company directors of what you might call recalcitrant illegal companies to be placed on our movement alert list. That means if they try to come into Australia they will be picked up at the border. So that is another important disruptive mechanism.

Finally, we will be creating a register for the benefit of Australian citizens so that they know exactly which ones are Australian licensed providers and which ones are not.

We think these measures will have a very significant impact on reducing the amount of money which is flowing to those illegal offshore providers. It will not stop it all. The experience internationally is that nothing can stop all of the money going to illegal offshore gambling providers but in most cases it does have a demonstrable difference, and we think it will in this particular example. I should mention we are also exploring some other disruptive mechanisms with the ISP providers and the banks.

The second major thing that this bill does, as I mentioned, is clarify the law in relation to what is known as click-to-call in-play betting. We have made it crystal clear that we have no intention of expanding the amount of gambling products in the Australian marketplace. We think there are enough already. But with one of those, the click-to-call in-play betting, we think some of the gambling providers have in essence been either flouting the law or, certainly, flouting the intention of the law in how they have gone about their business. So this bill clarifies the law to make it crystal clear what the original intent of the Interactive Gambling Act was, and I think that will be welcomed.

As I said, the next tranche of reforms, which we will be introducing, will be stronger consumer protections. Mr O'Farrell outlined for us a number of those which he believes we should introduce. We have said that we will be very determined to introduce those as part of a national consumer protection framework. I am pleased to report to the House that I have been having very good discussions with state and territory gambling ministers in relation to this. We have in-principle agreement across all of the 11 measures which we have said that we will do.

These will include, for example, prohibiting gambling companies offering lines of credit to their customers to continue to bet with even if they are out of money in their savings accounts. It will include a national self-exclusion register, which we think will be of great benefit to gamblers who want to self-exclude from a particular betting provider, and in doing so they will be able to self-exclude from all betting providers as a way of managing their own gambling expenditure. It includes the provision of greater information back to the gambler as well, so they know exactly how much money they are spending and how much money they may be losing.

I think that this national consumer protection framework will be very important and, indeed, will be the most significant set of measures that this federal parliament has ever introduced in order to deal with problem gambling. We are working very cooperatively with the state and territory ministers on that as well as having ongoing consultation with the sector.

I will deal with the Labor amendments which have been put up by the member for Franklin. The amendment, which is being proposed by the member for Franklin on behalf of the Labor Party, in essence concerns gambling advertising and promotion during sporting events. We certainly acknowledge the concerns which many Australians have in relation to that.

I should point out, however, that different jurisdictions already have different rules in relation to broadcasting. While in some respects we acknowledge the concerns which the member for Franklin has raised in this amendment, we cannot support the particular amendment, because we do not think it has been thought through properly—which I am sorry to say is quite typical of the Labor Party. If we pass this amendment, in effect it would mean that on Melbourne Cup Day you would not be able even to show what the odds were for the most famous race in Australia. For the race that stops the nation you would not be able to say who the favourite is and who the long shots are. We do not think that this motion has been thought through. Consequently, while we acknowledge some of the concerns out in the community, we cannot support this amendment. I do point out, though, that we have ongoing discussions with the broadcasters in relation to advertising issues.

I will conclude by thanking again all the members who have spoken on this bill. I thank the Labor Party for their cooperation throughout the process of developing this bill. We had good consultations with several members of the Labor Party in relation to this bill in order to keep them informed and hear what their concerns might be. We also had good consultations with some of the independents both here as well as in the Senate.

I also thank the sector, who have engaged with us very constructively. I would like to think that we have been upfront in relation to our intentions, that we have listened to what they have had to say and that this bill does incorporate the concerns that they have raised and what they hope to achieve. Of course you cannot please everybody, but I think that we have been genuine in the way that we have gone about consulting in relation to this bill. We do think it will be very significant in dealing with those illegal offshore gambling providers. We do think that it clarifies, introduces and makes stronger the laws to ensure the intent of the Interactive Gambling Act, as it was originally enacted, is there.

Finally, once we have all the measures from the national consumer protection framework in place, it will have a very strong impact in providing a safer environment for people to gamble while still allowing them, if they want to punt, to be able to have a punt.

I again thank the House.

The SPEAKER: The original question was that this bill be now read a second time. To this, the honourable member for Franklin has moved as an amendment that all words after 'That' be omitted with a view to substituting other words. The immediate question is that the amendment moved by the member for Franklin be agreed to.