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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13116


Mr CIOBO (Moncrieff) (12:35): by leave—I rise to speak to the report from the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform tabled this morning. I must say I am particularly surprised to hear the comments from the deputy chair. Today represents the tabling of a report which could only be described as woeful. I am not commenting on the report itself but on the process. Based on one day of hearings, we have a report being tabled on new legislation that is being introduced by the government and supported by the member Denison that will adversely affect an industry that employs hundreds of thousands of people.

Before the deputy chair leaves the chamber, I would highlight the deputy chair's comments about industry consultation and the time frames involved in the rollout of voluntary precommitment that the government is implementing. Apparently industry says that it is possible to do so within the time frames outlined in the draft legislation that the report alludes to. How completely wrong. For the deputy chair to come into the chamber and say that industry believes this is achievable is highly misleading because the deputy chair knows full well the evidence that coalition members heard, the evidence the chair heard and the evidence the deputy chair heard.

The advice from industry was that there will be mass noncompliance. They were their words: mass noncompliance. Industry made it clear that this was effectively a kiss of death, not because of voluntary precommitment but because of the time frames involved. This government is running headlong into trying to achieve its result for no other purpose than it happens to suit the member for Denison.

The member for Denison is a sincere man. I believe that he sincerely holds the views that he holds. I think that he does not particularly care about the impact this is going to have on industry—that is my view. I believe it is his view that in the balance between impact on industry and impact on problem gamblers, he would rather side with the problem gamblers—and so be it.

The impact of this draft legislation will be profound. It will cost jobs. It will result in mass noncompliance. The committee's report does not address these facts. There is only one group that the department consulted with that says the time frame is achievable. From industry consultation and from stakeholder consultation, it is not possible for this time frame to be complied with. Mass noncompliance will be the consequence and job losses will be the consequence—and to hell with the impact of that, say the majority of the committee. Not so the coalition. We support voluntary precommitment. The government was out there saying it wanted mandatory precommitment because that was a part of the deal that was done before the Prime Minister turned her back on the member for Denison and double-dealed him on this—as she did the Australian public on climate change but that is another debate for another day. When the Prime Minister did that, the reason we were out there then saying we should have voluntary precommitment was that we understood there is no silver bullet. There is no panacea to problem gambling in the same way there is no panacea to alcoholism or to those that face morbid obesity; yet for some reason the majority of this committee took the view that they have got the solutions. Well, it is simply not going to result in any meaningful outcome. In fact, it is going to threaten livelihoods and threaten the industry.

In addition to that, the draft legislation does outline mandatory withdrawal limits on ATM machines within licensed venues. We have tried to be constructive as coalition members and to work with the majority with respect to the amount of money that can be withdrawn. The amount of money that was first recommended by the Productivity Commission will be indexed.

In addition, I think there is a greater principle at stake here—that is, government policy which says to people who do not have a gambling problem, which is of course the vast majority of recreational poker machine users as well as the vast majority of the Australian population, that there is a limit on how much of their own money they can access from an ATM based on its location. The government has now deemed it okay to say how much of your own money you can withdraw from a machine based on the location. Safeguards already exist of course and problem gamblers can be excluded from using ATMs in licensed venues. They can have lower daily withdrawal limits—arrangements they can choose to enter into with their bank provider, in the same way that they might choose to have voluntary precommitment. Notwithstanding that, when it comes to ATMs the government is happy to mandate behaviour that it believes is appropriate.

My final point is about the most insidious issue. It is a point that is not really addressed in the majority report. It is absolutely the case that this is shaping up to be the precursor to a biometric system of identification across the Australian population, especially for those who want to use poker machines. There are members on the committee who I understand hold the view that in order to achieve the compliance required under this draft legislation and to achieve state based regulation around voluntary precommitment, a database will be needed at each of the state regulators that monitors players' activities. In the absence of a biometric system, such a database would be useless. It would not be possible to monitor players' activities if you do not know who the player is. Believe it or not, some problem gamblers may resort to using two, three, four or five cards, and this is why it has to be linked back to identity. The chairman and I have had this debate before and, based on views and comments on the public record, I know that that is absolutely where this is going. This is the first door. For that reason, coalition members do not support the majority report and why we have lodged a dissenting report.