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Thursday, 29 November 2012
Page: 13923


Mr WINDSOR (New England) (12:10): I rise to speak fairly briefly, I hope, on the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012 and to foreshadow some amendments that I will be moving in the third reading stage. I will make a few general comments before getting more specific. Problem gambling has been a concern for the community for a long time. I think in some ways it has displayed the value of the crossbench both within the Senate and in the House as the parliament tries to wrestle with a real issue in the community and develop a process that is not only acceptable to the community but that has general consensus throughout the community.

I would particularly like to thank the member for Denison, to whom the issue of problem gambling is of great importance. Senator Xenophon in the Senate as well has raised this issue over many years. I know there will be people that will not be happy with certain aspects of the final outcome of this legislation. But we would not be dealing with it at all if it had not been for the member for Denison. It has come at some considerable cost to him in pressure and angst as he has stuck to his guns. The other thing that needs to be said is the member for Dobell will be seconding my amendments, which I believe may well have the numbers to get up.

Some would say, as the previous speaker said, that there have been some games played in the last few days. I have been in politics for a while now and what I have always found is that the things that actually work long term have the widespread endorsement of various groups. I think we have just seen another classic example of that with the Murray-Darling Basin Plan, where the great majority of the parliament is going to endorse reform. In the great majority of communities there is acceptance of that reform and hopefully some degree of trust in that particular legislation. This bill has similar aspects in my view. Particularly in some of the country areas, it will be very difficult to work if people do not accept it.

The amendments I will be moving relate to the timing of the application of the bill. I will work through them briefly because we are still getting phone calls in my office from people who are obviously either being fed the incorrect information or do not have a full comprehension of what the legislation is about. The minister will correct me if I am wrong or out of kilter here, but those businesses that have fewer than 10 machines will have unlimited time in which to convert their machines to be precommitment and warning ready. Businesses with 11 to 20 machines—there are quite a few of those in my electorate—and those with fewer than 10 machines account for about 83 per cent of the poker machines within the electorate. Currently in the bill those with 11 to 20 machines have until 2020 to be precommitment ready. The amendments I will be moving, which will be seconded by the member for Dobell and endorsed by at least some of the other crossbenchers, will move that precommitment-ready deadline out another two years. Moving the deadline out will have significant meaning within the industry. It would mean that those medium-size clubs that do have some financial issues would be able to get to the stage that the bill wants them to get to. So there is an extension of two years. The clubs with more than 21 machines, the bigger clubs, will also—and I think this is very significant—if the amendment is passed, have an extension from 2016 through to 2018.

I have had my issues with the club movement—not so much with the hotel movement, but the club movement. My photo was left in a lot of clubs for quite some time when I agreed very early—and the member for Denison will remember this—not to support his original proposal. I did support the need for a trial, which is going to take place in the ACT. But my standing with the club movement now, or at least with some within the club movement, is not that brilliant.

But there are some additional measures which the clubs are willing to take, irrespective, as I understand it, of whether the legislation goes through or not. I think that is to their credit. If the additional two years are accepted—there are other amendments relating to manufacture and import and to the levy, but I will not go into the technicalities of all that—the clubs are prepared to put in place a range of additional measures. The member for Dobell might elaborate on that. I think, Minister, that when you see those measures, assuming the amendments do go through, you will see that they complement the legislation.

I think we are getting closer to acceptance on both sides of this debate. The trial is still very important in all of this. But I think there is movement at the station—I think we are getting closer to widespread acceptance. As we all know, and as I said at the start, if you can get widespread acceptance, you are probably more likely to get a real outcome at the end of it and to diffuse some of the political divisions which tend to plague us.

In closing, I recognise the work of the member for Denison and of Senator Xenophon. There have also been many others out there—Tim Costello, for example—who have been very proactive in raising this issue. If I were God—and I am not—I would ban poker machines. But that is not going to happen in the real world. I think we have to find real world solutions to the very real issues of problem gambling. I congratulate the minister, too, for wrestling with this monster. It is not an easy one. But it looks as if we may be getting somewhere near a conclusion where the great majority of people—not everybody of course—will be in agreement with the process.