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Thursday, 1 November 2012
Page: 8799

Gambling


Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:26): My question is to the Minister representing the Minister for Families, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Senator Chris Evans. On 22 January Minister Macklin publicly released to Clubs ACT her offer for a trial of mandatory precommitment in the ACT. On 27 January, following media inquiries to the minister's office about the conflict of interest of giving money to Labor clubs in the ACT, urgent advice on this was sought from Oakton consulting. What is the overall cost of the ACT poker machine trial, and how will the government ensure there is no conflict of interest involved in Labor- and union-connected clubs receiving $725,000 in monthly incentives, or around 25 per cent of the moneys earmarked for this trial, according to information I received under FOI?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:27): I suppose the first point to make is that I do not take advice from those who take money from big tobacco about the principles that ought to apply to moral judgements about where one takes one's donations from. So I want to make it clear that the outrage expressed in the question bears no scrutiny. We have a system where any donations to political parties are made public through proper declarations through the AEC. Those are publicly available and I do not wish to comment on the detail. I do not have any detail before me.

The senator would know that today we have introduced into the parliament the first national legislation to tackle problem gambling, which includes a staged, evidence-based pathway to precommitment. We know of course that, while gambling is enjoyed by many Australians in moderation and is a legitimate industry, it is also the case that we have a large number of people who suffer from gambling addiction and that that addiction causes great pain to them and their families.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: Mr President, I rise on a point of order on relevance. Minister, I asked you a direct question. You have not answered my question. Perhaps I could assist you by tabling folio 45 from material that I received under freedom of information, which may assist you in answering my question. I seek leave to table that document.

Leave not granted.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: No, I did not think so.

The PRESIDENT: Order! Minister, you have 38 seconds.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! Wait a minute, Minister. When there is silence, we will proceed.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: The senator well knows the courtesies that are observed before seeking to table documents in this place, a lesson that was reinforced to us by Senator Heffernan's behaviour over an incident we all remember. If the senator were serious about seeking to table that matter, she could show it to our manager and whip under the normal procedures and the courtesies we are all supposed to show to each other. I do not currently have a briefing on folio 45 of the senator's FOI application, so this is a gotcher moment. (Time expired)







Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:30): Mr President, I ask a supplementary question. I refer to the fact that the government is refusing to release the Oakton advice, which I have also sought under FOI, by asserting it is part of the deliberative process. How can consultants' advice, which was prepared and paid for after the government had already made and released its decision for an ACT poker machine precommitment trial, be regarded as deliberative?


Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:30): The question goes to the result of an FOI request lodged by the senator. The senator apparently had her FOI request refused. That would have been done in accordance with the normal procedures that apply under the legislation.

Senator Fierravanti-Wells: It goes to the fact that you are refusing to release information.

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! On both sides.

Senator CHRIS EVANS: FOI applications are made under the legislation, the Public Service directions, that apply to FOI requests. The decision maker makes a decision in relation to that request and the advice is provided to the applicant. There are also appeal mechanisms open to applicants which the senator can pursue. To suggest that I should interfere in the FOI process, the legal processes, is of course improper and, if I did, I would be accused of improper interference.





Senator FIERRAVANTI-WELLS (New South Wales) (14:32): Mr President, I ask a second supplementary question. I refer to the FOI decision letter to me of 28 May which also argued that the Oakton advice should not be released on public interest grounds. Now that the legislation is before the parliament, Minister, will the government release Oakton's advice? What could be the public interest against the release of advice which will show how the government should deal with its gross conflict of interest?

Honourable senators interjecting

The PRESIDENT: Order! When there is silence on both sides we will proceed.



Senator CHRIS EVANS (Western AustraliaMinister for Tertiary Education, Skills, Science and Research and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:33): In the argument put in that supposed second supplementary question the senator answered her own question by saying that the proper processes had apparently led to a result that she did not like. I am sorry, Senator, I grieve for you. You used the proper processes, you got a result that was in accordance with those proper processes and you do not like the result. I have been a Dockers member for many years. We have not had many good results, but I just have to suck it up, because that is the way it goes. So, Senator, if you are unhappy with the FOI result—

Honourable senators interjecting

Senator CHRIS EVANS: There is no arrogance about Dockers supporters, Senator, I can tell you. We have nothing to be arrogant about. Mr President, I cannot assist the senator by interfering in the FOI request. I know the opposition have had a bad week—they are all over the shop—but, quite frankly, you ought to be able to do better than this in terms of question time.