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Tuesday, 18 June 2013
Page: 6215

Mr FRYDENBERG (Kooyong) (17:08): As a member of the Parliamentary Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, I rise to speak on the fifth report, The advertising and promotion of gambling services in sport: Broadcasting Services Amendment (Advertising for Sports Betting) Bill 2013. As someone who during the life of this 43rd parliament sat through a number of public committee hearings dealing with the issue of gambling, I must say that I am concerned by the pervasiveness of the gambling industry and the negative impact that gambling is having on the lives of many Australians. As a committee, one of the first issues that we dealt with related to pokies. There are 600,000 Australians currently playing pokies on a weekly basis. That is a large number. Of that number, 90,000 or 15 per cent, are deemed to be problem gamblers. While I firmly believe that the mandatory commitment proposal initially put forward by the government was not the answer, certainly more can be done in the area of counselling and support services for those who have a gambling problem.

As for the member for Denison, Andrew Wilkie, the chair of this committee and the person who had a personal signed commitment from the Prime Minister to introduce mandatory commitment, he has every right to feel aggrieved, as the Prime Minister dudded him, breaking her solemn promise because of political expediency.

The issue of gambling advertising in sport is somewhat different to pokies. Not confined to the pubs and the clubs, it has taken over our footy fields and is having a detrimental effect on our young. Sport-loving children today talk about their teams in terms of odds and margins, sometimes motivated more by the law of a bet than their loyalty to the game. In fact, the committee heard, and has reported on page 9, that young people are at risk and are particularly susceptible to gambling advertising. We quoted the 2010 Productivity Commission report, which looked at Canadian research that found that 42 per cent of youth reported that gambling advertisements made them want to try gambling, and that 11 per cent of males and three per cent of females sometimes or often gambled after seeing an advertisement. The Victorian Responsible Gaming Foundation agreed that these levels of gambling advertising had had a negative impact on children, saying that their research shows that children under 11 have difficulty distinguishing differences between advertising and program content. In particular, children under 10 have difficulty understanding the persuasive intent in advertising. Certainly, the use of sports personalities and media personalities to promote gambling means that young children have a difficulty in distinguishing between what is marketing material and what is neutral content. Those details are found in our report and highlight some of the issues that we face.

Today, no football ground or scoreboard, no team jumper or jersey, no television or radio broadcast, is immune from the pervasiveness of gambling advertising in sport. In fact, the line has, in some instances, become blurred between sports betting, advertising and sports commentary itself. Gambling in sport is no longer just about a friendly punt, which we would all, in this place, happily endorse. It has become a multi-million-dollar, and in some cases billion-dollar, industry. Personally, I find it frustrating to turn on the television on a Friday night to watch a game, or when it comes around to Brownlow night to watch the vote, to find myself bombarded with gambling advertising. It detracts from the game, or Brownlow night, as a form of entertainment, let alone the greater harm that it has the potential to cause.

What is more, gambling in sport has the real potential to threaten the integrity of the game itself. My colleague and friend, the member for Bennelong, a great champion tennis player, is in the House with me right now and he would know all too well that international experience has shown that the integrity of sports of all kinds can be threatened by too much gambling, and in Australia we do not want to go down this path.

Therefore, we, as legislators from both sides of the House, have a responsibility to rectify the situation and to do it as soon as possible. The community expects us and, indeed, I have many constituents who have raised this issue—young and old alike. More importantly, we should expect it of ourselves. That is why there is a recommendation in this report that we review the self-regulatory action being taken by the industry, for if they do not make the appropriate changes with regard to gambling advertising in sport, then legislative action should follow. This was the position first taken by the Leader of the Opposition, Tony Abbott, which has been followed by the Prime Minister and her government—a bit of catch-up politics. Tony Abbott said: 'We are natural deregulators, not regulators. But when you've got a significant social nuisance, I think it's important for government to at least be prepared to step in. It is just wrong that kids be learning about gambling before they are learning about the game. The game should be about performances, not about whether you might quickly make 10 bucks by guessing who scores the first goal or whether a team gets a particular score by half time.'

Therefore, I strongly welcome the decision by the broadcast networks in Australia to ban live odds during play. But the coalition has sent a clear message. If the industry itself does not act before the September election then the coalition has indicated its readiness to legislate a ban. I see this change as being important, but also a first step. I believe that in time the community will demand of our parliament that we take further steps.

In conclusion, this is an important report which I believe has helped inform the debate, and I take this opportunity to thank the secretariat, including committee secretary Lyn Beverley, principal research officer Natasha Rusjakovski, and administrative officers Ruth Edwards and Lauren Carnevale for their hard work and professionalism during the life of this 43rd Parliament. I also thank the other members of the committee, including the chair, the member for Denison, his deputy, the member for Canberra, and my coalition colleague and friend on the committee the member for Moncrieff. I am sure I speak for many on the committee when I say that having been a member of this committee has provided me with the opportunity to learn much. I see that the issue of gambling in sport as a topic vitally important to our community. Today, as in the future, these topics around gambling and gambling in sport more specifically will require the vigilance of this parliament and subsequent parliaments, and the best judgement of its members.

Federation Chamber adjourned at 17:17 .