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Wednesday, 28 November 2012
Page: 13687


Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff) (12:02): What an extraordinary speech that was by the member for Denison on the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 and the two related bills. In fact, I would put it as one of the most extraordinary speeches that I have heard in this chamber—not on the basis of its soundness and not on the basis of its dispassionate approach to good public policy and good policy advocacy but on the basis that it was so completely filled with sanctimony and moral superiority and an attitude that if you are not with me then you are part of some evil cohort destined to ruin the lives of thousands, maybe tens of thousands, of Australians.

Let me make it very clear from the outset that I stand here as someone who is concerned about problem gambling, despite the empty rhetoric that comes from the member for Denison. I challenge the member for Denison, and indeed all of those who wring their hands in this chamber and outside this chamber and claim that they have moral superiority when it comes to being concerned about the lives and the families of problem gamblers. They do not. The reason they do not is that this is not a choice between black and white; this is not a choice between saying, 'I stand with the families of problem gamblers,' or, 'I stand with those that are involved in the industry.' It is much more sophisticated than that. It is much more grey than that. It is much more complex than that.

The attitude of the member for Denison, like that of many in this debate, betrays the problem gamblers that he tries to assist. Not once did I hear the member for Denison make reference to the personal internal challenges that those who struggle with addiction must face. Instead, we heard a litany of gross overexaggerations from the member for Denison about how the problem is the evil industry that causes these issues. That is the betrayal of the problem gamblers that the member for Denison and others seek to help.

The problem with the approach that has been adopted by the speaker previous to me is this: while he expresses profound concern about the devastating impact of problem gambling, I do not hear the member for Denison—or other advocates out there—adopting the same approach with those who are, for example, addicted to alcohol. I believe the impact of alcoholism is as strong on those individuals and their families as the impact of pokie addiction. I also do not hear the member for Denison and others going out there and talking about people's addiction to food. There are people who are morbidly obese. The cost to the public payroll as a consequence of that morbid obesity is significant and profound. Believe you me, a father or mother upon whom a family is dependent who dies of a heart attack or stroke at 40 years of age leaves just as much of a hole in their family's lives as does a pokie addict who unfortunately takes their own life. But there are no claims from the member for Denison or others about those that are addicted to food. There is no finger-pointing at the industry, no-one saying that the industry is the problem.

Let us continue the madness of the approach that is put forward by the member for Denison and others. What about those who are addicted to credit card shopping? There are people who get over their heads when it comes to the amount of money they put on their credit cards. I would suggest the number of Australians indebted on their credit cards because they cannot control their spending would far exceed the numbers of Australians who are addicted to poker machines. Where is the focus on the industry when it comes to those who cannot control their spending on credit cards? There is no mention. They are apparently not victims, nor are those who are morbidly obese, nor are those who are alcohol dependent. Instead, there is this complete preoccupation, driven by the member for Denison and others, about poker machines.

It is not that simple. Apart from the glaring hypocrisy of singling out one particular industry over a multitude of others, each with almost equal, if not more significant, impacts on taxpayer dollars, the reality is that that is all conveniently brushed aside by those who like to pretend that this is all about the evils of the club industry and the hotel industry. Well, it is not. It is certainly not that. There are of course some irresponsible operators. I am not going to pretend that there are not. But I also sincerely believe that the industry labels them irresponsible operators and the industry works in a constructive way in an attempt to ensure that those people do not continue to operate in the industry. Why? Because it is uncommercial, in the first instance. Even if that is not a good enough reason, even if profit motive is not a good enough reason, I also believe it is because, at their core, these people who make decisions have families and these are community clubs that benefit their community, and they know the negative outcomes that flow from operators that are irresponsible.

So, on a number of levels, I reject completely the approach of and, most importantly, the sanctimony that comes from the member for Denison, because it is a fraud perpetrated on problem gamblers. They need to see through the rhetoric that we hear from the member for Denison. Frankly, the comments about and accusations made against members of parliament on either the Labor side or the coalition side that in some way we sell out our point of view on the basis of electoral donations is an absolutely shameful and disgusting comment to make. It strikes me that the member for Denison likes to throw out these allegations but when it comes to standing up and backing it up he runs for the hills, not even having the courage—and I know exactly what the member for Denison was saying—to stand up to the comments he made only a minute earlier.

Mr Wilkie interjecting

Mr CIOBO: You had your opportunity! I think the member for Denison needs to realise that he needs to follow through. It is one thing to stand here in cowards castle, as we call it, and to level accusations at Labor members and at coalition members, but it is an entirely separate thing to back it up. I say to the member for Denison: if you have an ounce of backbone, if you have any evidence, go out there and say it. Do not cast aspersions in this chamber. Do not make accusations without having the backbone, the spine, to support your comments, because those comments are disgraceful.

I note, in addition to that, that the member for Denison has Betfair in his constituency. I do not see too much concern expressed by the member for Denison for those that are engaged in Betfair's exchanges. Likewise, I note that the member for Denison and Senator Nick Xenophon, the No Pokies party senator, are very happy to stand alongside GetUp! They are very happy, when it comes to measures like this bill, to stand alongside an organisation like GetUp! What do we know about GetUp!? Its principal financial backer is actually a key supporter and one of the founders or operators of a thing called NextGen Gaming, one of the biggest operators of not EGMs but online poker machines. They are happy to take the money from an online poker machine operator. They are happy to stand alongside NextGen and GetUp!

Mr Wilkie: Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. That was an outrageous accusation. I have never received a cent from the GetUp! organisation. I want that recorded in the Hansard, please, and I would ask the member for Moncrieff to correct what he has just said.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Murphy ): The member for Denison will resume his seat.

Mr CIOBO: I said that they are happy to stand beside GetUp!, because they have done joint doorstops and numerous media campaigns with GetUp! In fact, GetUp! and Senator Xenophon stood alongside each other at the Woolworths AGM only a week or two ago.

Ms King: Mr Deputy Speaker, I raise a point of order. I am reluctant; I know that this is a very passionate debate. But I would ask you to draw the member back to the content of the bill, please.

The DEPUTY SPEAKER: The parliamentary secretary will resume her seat.

Mr CIOBO: It is clear to me, and let us just make the record very clear on this as well, that problem gamblers have a problem by definition in the same way that alcoholics do, in the same way that people who spend more than they can afford on their credit cards do and in the same way that people who are morbidly obese do. They all have problems. In fact, I think it would be a human condition. We could say that each of us does, and they are personal challenges that we must overcome. To suggest that there is a silver-bullet solution in legislation like that before the House today is to betray the problem at the core of this issue.

For that reason, we are bound in our obligation to the Australian people to make policy decisions based upon good and sound public policy, reasoned public policy, recognising that the decisions we make in this chamber have a profound impact in the community. We do not do it on the basis of some simplified, distilled-down view of the world that says it is industry or it is the problem gambler. We owe it to those who are affected to do it on the basis of sound public policy. Sound public policy, when you scrutinise this legislation, does not support the case for this legislation.

First and foremost, the reason why this legislation is not a panacea is that it is undeliverable. For those that manufacture EGMs, for the industry that employs roughly 200,000 Australians, for the industry that supports community clubs throughout the country, for the industry that provides a great deal of recreation for millions of Australians—very few of whom have a problem when it comes to controlling their gambling—the consequences of this legislation are significant. This legislation—which, by the way, was slammed through the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform with one day of hearings—is going to massively impact on the ability of this industry to keep people in jobs, to continue to invest in local communities and to continue to operate for the benefit of employees, employers and the community.

The member for Denison and others would say, 'Well, I don't care. If there's a consequence to that I don't care, because this legislation has got to go through, because we've got to be seen to be doing something. Even if it's not everything I want, it's better to do something than it is to do nothing.' Well, I am not sure that is the case. Industry has made clear that this legislation will not be able to be complied with in the timeframes that have been assigned to it. In the first instance there was confusion, and I would suggest that the member for Denison, based upon questions that he asked in the committee hearing, was confused about this exact matter.

For starters, new games that have to be applied across EGMs require regulatory approval from state and territory based regulators, and in order to be compliant with this legislation new games will require approval, effectively, within 12 months. That is almost impossible for the industry to deliver, because they rely upon the regulators approving the development of new games. So the industry has a gun held at their heads saying, 'You must comply and roll out new EGMs in 12 months that have regulatory approval. Oh, by the way, we haven't spoken in any meaningful way with state government regulators.' We had the South Australian regulator indicate that the department had not even spoken to them about what the requirements were going to be.

We have an industry employing 200,000 people. We have the threat of significant job losses. We have small clubs being forced to engage in expenditure that, in many instances, is likely to drive those clubs to the wall, but apparently that does not matter. Apparently it is the better to do something than to do nothing. What we are seeking to do as a coalition is to say that the timeframes in this legislation are unrealistic and undeliverable. In fact, the timeframes in this legislation are not even in accordance with what the Productivity Commission recommends. The question would be: on what basis were the timeframes altered? Were they altered because it is good for industry? No. Were they altered because this government has more superior insight to the problem than the Productivity Commission? No. They were altered for one reason, and one reason alone, and that is the member for Denison. That is reason the timeframes on the legislation were altered.

I say to the member for Denison in the concluding moments of this debate: the families of problem gamblers are important, but just as important are the families of employees in the pub and club sector. These are families who rely on a breadwinner with a job in the pub or club industry that helps to pay the mortgage for those families. You will not help the family of a problem gambler by putting an employee or by putting a family on the breadline, on the dole, when it comes— (Time expired)

Government members interjecting