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Tuesday, 27 November 2012
Page: 13553


Mr BALDWIN (Paterson) (21:08): I rise tonight to oppose the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 and cognate bills, this insidious legislation that will deliver no more than what is already out there. Only this Labor government, supported by the member for Denison, would believe that introducing another layer of bureaucratic regulation will cure an addiction. It won't. It is the same as saying to an alcoholic, 'We'll limit you to one drink a day, and that will cure your addiction.' It does not work that way.

Anyone who has dealt with people with addictions understands one thing: it is education, information and intervention that address addiction. Only a fool would believe that someone with a serious gambling problem would voluntarily put forward a limit on themselves on how much they will spend. Only a fool would believe that that would restrict them to this one form of gambling, because when they have hit their limit they will then move home to the computer, go on the internet and gamble that way, or they will go to the track and bet on the horses. They might slip down to the SP or down to the TAB. You see, this is incomplete.

This is a dirty deal that was done to get government. This was a deal that was put to the back blocks and then, when they needed the member for Denison's vote, resurrected again. In fact, it was the minister who said back in May that voluntary precommitment would not work. But here we have this hypocritical move where the legislation has come forward. I just have to wonder: which bill is it that they need the vote of the member for Denison to achieve, for which they have sold out an industry? They are prepared to sell out an industry such as the clubs and hotels to the tune of $1 billion—that is what the cost of this will be—for a vote. That is an expensive little vote—expensive for other people. By the way, it amounts to around a $120 million cost for the clubs and pubs in my electorate of Paterson. It is $120 million in my electorate and $1 billion across Australia that will not be spent upgrading facilities, employing more people—

Mr Craig Kelly: Charities.

Mr BALDWIN: And that is the critical one, my friend: supporting the charities in the community. It is the football team and all those little sporting events. When somebody has cancer and they need to do a fundraiser, the pubs jump in. They put on the day or the afternoon and they raise the money because they care about their customers and their community. This is an uneven-handed approach.

I sat in this House when the government wanted to address another form of addiction: binge drinking. They said, 'What we've got to do is get rid of the alcopops by whacking up the tax. If we put up the tax, it'll stop the binge drinking.' They raised $300 million. I cannot remember the last time I saw an ad on the TV, heard one on the radio or read something in the paper on binge drinking from that $300 million that went into consolidated revenue.

They were a government that had a problem with binge spending, which they tried to address by taxing what they thought was binge drinking. By the way, ask any publican how the sales of 750-millilitre bottles of spirits and one-litre Cokes are going. All of a sudden, in that situation, kids that had been drinking a set amount of alcohol per drink were now drinking unregulated mixes of alcohol.

This is not about a gambling addiction; this is a spending addiction, because the government also want to introduce two levies. They want to introduce a federal pokies tax to set up a gambling research centre, and they want to replicate a tax that is being collected by the states. I have long said—and I have said to the hotels and to the clubs—that more needs to be done to have people on the ground doing the work that the Salvos and Vinnies are out there doing now, intervening on a one-on-one basis, identifying the problem and working with people. More needs to be done to use the current systems of voluntary precommitment that exist within these pubs and clubs. This is heavy handed. This is a backdoor way to raise more pokie tax at a federal level, setting up another layer of bureaucracy and penalising those with the skin in the game who are out there working for their community, building businesses and employing people.

The government has introduced a mandatory precommitment trial in the ACT. That trial has not been completed. Where is the matrix of evaluation or the benefits to the community? How many people signed up? How many people actually hit the limit that they put on there?

You see, this is a rush and bust in a deal that was done for another reason. Our Prime Minister might not remember what she signed when she was a lawyer, but I bet she remembers the deal she signed with the member for Denison, a deal which she broke and which she has now had to resurrect. This Prime Minister did this deal, broke it and put it to the backburner. I say to the Minister for Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities that he probably has a smile on his face because it is probably his bill that he has had to get the member across the line to support, which is why this bill has come back on.

The other issue that worries me is the limit and location placed on ATMs within venues. Obviously those that decide this legislation have no understanding of what happens in regional and rural country areas in particular, where the ATM in the pub or the club might actually be the bank for the town. Putting a limit on them will affect people's ability to draw cash out to go and buy groceries or petrol or spend as they need to. Importantly for the businesses involved, it has been found that around 70 per cent of money that has been withdrawn from these ATMs is actually spent on food and beverages in those facilities. So putting these caps on will have a negative effect on businesses in the regions.

The industry, in a letter written to the minister by Gaming Technologies Association, has put to the government that what it wants to do with the introduction of these machines will not be able to be completed. A letter dated 22 November by Gaming Technologies Association to the Minster for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs states: 'We write in response to the release of the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 and the public hearings held last week by the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform. Having had the opportunity to consider and analyse the bill and the evidence presented at the hearing, we write to advise you that the requirements of the bill cannot be met. The bill requires that all new gaming machines must be precommitment capable by 31 December 2013. The definition of "precommitment capable" has been left to regulations, about which formal consultation has not begun.'

The government have put a time line in but they have not said what is required in the regulations. They have said they are going to produce a whole new bureaucracy and there are going to be two levies—not one but two. But there is no costing, nothing set out in the forward estimates, nothing in the explanatory memorandum. The industry does not know how it is going to be taxed by this government. Across Australia, gambling licence fees and taxes are collected by the state governments. That is what needs to remain and those state governments must take responsibility in working with industry to address issues such as problem gambling. Putting it back down to the state government level, they can use some of the taxes they already collect to invest in intervention and education services. The idea of collecting whole new taxes to satisfy a vote required in this parliament from the member for Denison for this hung government, at a cost of over a billion dollars to the industry, is ridiculous to say the least.

Gambling can be a problem—it can be a very big problem—and so can alcoholism. They both have effects on the family; they both have effects on the community. But this bill is a voluntary precommitment. There are not too many gambling addicts who are going to line up to set a limit. The issue here, and the one that worries me, is that this precommitment must be linked to a state based data system. I think that is part of the nanny state, and it is a back door entry to mandatory precommitment. I cannot see it as being acceptable. The clubs and the pubs have spoken to members opposite. Indeed, in your role as member for Robertson, Madam Deputy Speaker, I know they have been in touch with you. They are taking this matter very seriously. At the end of the day there is not going to be a lot of upside that is not already being delivered, because there already is voluntary precommitment. But there is going to be a massive cost impact on this industry, and that is unfair.

I do not intend to delay the House any further. I have made my point. We will oppose this legislation. We will oppose it vehemently. We believe that those that are investing and providing jobs and opportunity in the community deserve to be supported. They cannot be taxed twice on their poker machines—by a state government and a federal government. They cannot have it explained to them that this is about providing good when they are already providing voluntary precommitment. This is just another level of bureaucracy that will not address an addiction one iota; it will not make one measurable difference. It is a shame this government has had to sell out an industry for the sake of a vote.

Debate adjourned.