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Thursday, 9 February 2017
Page: 515

Senator FIFIELD (VictoriaManager of Government Business in the Senate, Minister for Communications and Minister for the Arts) (15:38): I move:

   That these bills be now read a second time.

I seek leave to have the second reading speeches incorporated in Hansard.

Leave granted.

The speeches read as follows—


Online gambling has grown with consumers moving away from traditional gambling products to betting online using smartphones, tablets and other digital devices. In 2014, $2.4 billion was spent on online gambling by Australians - which was double the amount ten years earlier. Australia's high rate of gambling expenditure and strong adoption of digital technologies makes it imperative that there is a strong and enforceable regulatory framework to protect Australians from the adverse effects of illegal online gambling services.

To support this objective, in April this year, the Government announced it would implement 18 of the 19 recommendations in the 2015 Illegal Offshore Wagering Review in a three staged process.

The Interactive Gambling Amendment Bill is the first stage of the Government's process to implement the recommendations in the Review. It will complement the other stages to establish a national consumer protection framework to minimise problem gambling and consult on other disruptive measures to stop offshore operators from providing illegal interactive gambling services to Australians.

Key findings of the Illegal Offshore Wagering Review

The Review found that the amount of money being spent on illegal wagering services could be as high as $400 million annually with a further $100 million in lost taxation revenue and product fees. Previous estimates found the total amount of money spent on all illegal interactive gambling services was close to $1 billion annually.

Offshore gambling has detrimental effects on the Australian wagering, racing and sporting industries, problem and at-risk gamblers, consumers and government. Offshore gambling operators do not pay Australian taxes, racing or sporting fees; they do not share information regarding suspicious betting activity with law enforcement or sporting bodies which risks the integrity of Australian sport; they offer gambling services prohibited under Australian law; they can be used for money laundering and other criminal activities; and they provide minimal to no harm minimisation and consumer protection controls which poses a threat to problem and at-risk gamblers.

The Review showed the rate of problem gambling is higher among interactive gamblers compared to gamblers more generally − 2.7 per cent of interactive gamblers are problem gamblers compared to 0.9 per cent of all gamblers. The devastating effects of problem gambling is not just felt by the gambler but also his or her family, friends, colleagues and the community.

The Review concluded that the aim of governments should be to reduce the scope of illegal offshore gambling activity and control the associated harms through a range of disruptive and deterrent measures and strong enforcement of regulation.

Minimal enforcement of the Interactive Gambling Act

The key piece of legislation to protect Australians against illegal online gambling services is the Commonwealth's Interactive Gambling Act. The Actprohibits the provision and advertising of prohibited interactive gambling services to persons in Australia.

Stakeholders informed the Review that the existing approach to enforcement of the Interactive Gambling Act was insufficient to deter offshore operators from providing prohibited online gambling services to Australians. There have been no prosecutions under the Interactive Gambling Act since its inception in 2001 despite a considerable number of complaints made by Australians in regards to illegal online gambling services.

The borderless nature of the internet enables Australians to access hundreds of illegal online gambling sites on their computers and smartphones. Stakeholders assert that offshore operators ignore the provisions of the IGA because they are not well enforced.

Criminal prosecution is considered likely to be unsuccessful or ineffective due to the competing priorities of the Australian Federal Police, uncertainty around the legality of services under the Interactive Gambling Act, evidence requirements and the offshore location of gambling operators.

Some of these challenges were highlighted in 2015 when a number of Australian licensed wagering operators launched 'click to call' in-play betting services. The ACMA assessed these services as potentially a prohibited interactive gambling service and referred the matter to the Australian Federal Police for investigation. The Australian Federal Police declined to investigate due to competing priorities and ambiguity around the legality of these services under the Interactive Gambling Act.

The Bill sets out to address these challenges. It will clarify the law regarding illegal online gambling services and empower the ACMA by strengthening the enforcement mechanisms under the Interactive Gambling Act.

Reforms to the Interactive Gambling Act

The Bill will prohibit a person providing regulated interactive gambling services to Australians unless the person holds a licence under the law of an Australian State or Territory. This amendment will clarify the licensing requirements for interactive gambling services in Australia and will provide a simple to establish key criterion for enforcement agencies when investigating whether to take action against unlicensed services. It is expected that reputable gambling organisations will obtain a licence in Australia or cease providing illegal services.

The reforms will introduce a civil penalty regime to be enforced by the ACMA which will allow the ACMA to be responsible for the entire complaint handling process from receipt to enforcement. The ACMA will be able to issue formal warnings and infringement notices, and seek civil penalties and injunctions. This amendment will allow for a quicker and more focused response as formal investigation or prosecution processes will not depend upon the priorities of other agencies.

These penalties will also apply to any person that supports the provision of illegal interactive gambling services to Australians. Criminal offence provisions have been retained in the Interactive Gambling Act to allow the ACMA to refer complaints to the Australian Federal Police for more serious cases.

The Bill will prohibit 'click to call' in-play betting services. These services allow consumers to place a large number of bets in a short period of time which can lead to serious gambling problems. The Government is committed to closing down these services as they undermine the intent of the IGA to limit the scope of problem gambling in Australia.

The reforms will enable the ACMA to notify the Department of Immigration and Border Protection of the names of directors or principals of offending gambling services so they can be placed on the Movement Alert List and any travel to Australia can be disrupted.

These enforcement actions will be combined with a number of measures to build relationships with international regulators and raise awareness of Australian gambling laws and the risks associated with illegal gambling services.

Firstly, the ACMA will be able to notify international regulators of information relating to interactive gambling services. The offshore location of many gambling operators makes it difficult to enforce the IGA. Establishing productive relationships with international regulators to raise awareness of Australian gambling laws and receive assistance in any enforcement actions will assist the efforts of the ACMA to enforce the IGA in relation to foreign entities.

Secondly, some offshore gambling websites deliberately target Australian consumers by using Australian imagery and colloquialisms. Many consumers are unaware that these sites are not licensed in Australia and that there is limited legal recourse if they run into any difficulties obtaining winnings or deposits from these operators. The Bill will establish a register to be published on the ACMA website to raise awareness of wagering services that are licensed in Australia to ensure that persons looking to gamble will not inadvertently use an offshore site.

The combination of clearer legislation, stronger enforcement measures and awareness raising activities will assist in ensuring Australians are protected from illegal gambling services.

Other related amendments to the Interactive Gambling Act

The Bill contains related amendments to complement the ACMA's increased enforcement role, including to simplify and streamline the complaints handling and investigation process to remove mandatory requirements to refer matters to the police and enable the ACMA to handle the entire process from receipt of complaints to enforcement, similar to its complaints handling and enforcement role in relation to other legislation. The Bill also contains provisions to clarify the legality of services provided in licensed gambling and wagering venues and for the development of a legislative instrument to determine what constitutes a sporting event for the purposes of in-play betting under the IGA.

As mentioned, this Bill is the first stage of a three stage process the Government is taking to implement the recommendations in the Review.

The Government is working with State and Territory governments to establish a national consumer protection framework. It is imperative if we are to protect Australians from offshore gambling providers, we must ensure that proper protections exist in our own industry. The Government is also consulting with internet service providers and financial payment organisations on technological options to further disrupt the access of illegal offshore gambling services.


For too long, the Interactive Gambling Act has struggled in its role of keeping Australians, in particular problem and at-risk gamblers, protected from the risks of illegal online gambling services.

A combination of clearer laws, an active regulator and stronger enforcement measures will send a clear message to operators that Australia is serious about compliance of its gambling laws. Whilst there will remain practical and legal challenges in prosecuting overseas entities, these measures are expected to reduce the provision of prohibited interactive gambling services to Australians.

I would like to thank the Hon Barry O'Farrell for leading the Review and the many stakeholders across the wagering, racing and sporting industries, academia, responsible gambling organisations, consumers and government who provided their views to inform the development of this Bill.

I commend this Bill and look forward to implementing the next stages of the Government's response to ensure Australia has a strong and enforceable regulatory framework for online gambling.


The Migration Amendment (Visa Revalidation and Other Measures) Bill 2016 amends the Migration Act 1958 to support important Government initiatives which seek to promote Australia as an attractive destination. It will also facilitate the use of enhanced technology to improve the traveller experience at the Australian border.

Schedule 1 - Visa Revalidation

Schedule 1 to the Billcontains amendments to the Migration Act to introduce a visa revalidation requirement. This will support the pilot of the proposed new 10-year validity visitor visa to ensure that only genuine visitors retain the right to travel to and enter Australia.

Tourism is a vital part of the Australian economy, providing employment for around 600,000 Australians and accounting for more than $120 billion of economic activity. The Government is committed to boosting tourism across the nation, which in turn helps grow our domestic economy.

The introduction of a 10-year visitor visa will encourage repeat visits by genuine tourists and business people choosing Australia as their preferred destination. However, 10 years is a long time and it is likely that an individual's circumstances will change throughout the visa validity period.

To manage the risks that this may present, Schedule 1 of the Bill introduces a mechanism that will allow for the Department to seek revalidation of certain information from visa holders over the life of the visa, either through a 'routine' revalidation or a 'public interest' revalidation.

This 'revalidation' will be used to ensure that visa holders continue to meet genuine temporary entrant, identity, health, character, passport, national security and other criteria over the 10-year period.

The introduction of a 'routine' revalidation requirement will simplify visa processes for frequent travellers. It means that, after completing a visitor visa application and being granted a visa, a frequent traveller won't need to do so again for up to 10 years. Instead, they will only need to periodically revalidate some key details. This will result in a significant reduction in red tape for low risk, high volume travellers to Australia. It is an example of how we are making the visa process for travellers easier, and seamless.

It is expected that the introduction of longer validity visas will also lead to an increase in the total number of visitor visa holders overseas. In terms of travel facilitation this is a desirable outcome, allowing potential visitors to more easily take advantage of last minute travel deals and choose Australia as their preferred destination - but we also need to consider the risks. A serious incident overseas, for example, may create a situation where it is in the public interest to reassess a number of longer validity visa holders' individual circumstances.

Accordingly, Schedule 1 of the Bill also introduces a 'public interest' revalidation check to manage specific, serious, or time-critical risks in relation to an identified cohort of visa holders. In such circumstances, issuing a personal Ministerial revalidation requirement will immediately prevent specified visa holders from being able to travel to and enter Australia until they successfully revalidate their visa. This will ensure that we have up-to-date information on an individual's circumstances and we can effectively mitigate potential risks to the Australian public, while providing a streamlined mechanism to facilitate travel as appropriate.

In our digital age, international travellers increasingly expect to be able to transact with the Government online. Accordingly, governments are increasingly playing a role to deliver seamless, accessible and timely services to clients to meet both public expectations and a broader digital transformation agenda.

Revalidation is consistent with this digital approach by facilitating real time interactions online between visa holders and the government. It provides an online mechanism for visa holders to update the information they have previously provided (for example contact details), as their circumstances change.

The amendments in Schedule 1 of the Bill will ensure that both the integrity of the visitor visa framework and public confidence in the visitor visa programme are maintained as the new 10-year visa is introduced.

Schedule 2 - Cessation of Visas not in effect

The amendments made by Schedule 2 clarify the circumstances in which a visa can cease to be in effect under the Migration Act.

While most visas come into effect immediately upon the grant of the visa, there are a small number of visa classes that are granted, but do not come into effect immediately.

There is currently ambiguity as to whether a 'ceasing event' under sections 82, 173 and 174 of the Migration Act can apply to a visa that has been granted, but not in effect.

The amendments contained within schedule 2 will ensure that, subject to limited exceptions, a visa will cease if a relevant ceasing provision applies to it, even if the visa is not in effect at the relevant time.

This measure is particularly important in light of the new revalidation check framework being introduced by Schedule 1 of the Bill which will increase the number of persons who may hold a visa that is not in effect at a particular time.

Schedule 3 - Contactless Immigration Clearance

Finally, Schedule 3 of the Bill makes amendments to support the next generation of contactless SmartGates.

In 2014-15, over 19 million travellers arrived into Australia of which over six million self-processed through our automated immigration clearance system known as SmartGates. Forecasts suggest that the number of travellers arriving in Australia will increase by almost 25 per cent over the next four years.

To meet the challenges associated with the ever increasing number of travellers, this Government continues to implement new technologies at our borders to ensure that the ABF can continue to facilitate traveller flows, minimise delays and to identify persons of concern.

As part of the 2015-16 Budget, the Government committed $93.7m to the Seamless Traveller initiative which included the expansion of SmartGates, and when fully implemented, we expect 90% of travellers will self-process through these gates.

The next generation of SmartGates use leading edge technology to confirm a traveller's identity without the traveller having to present their ePassport. The live facial image of the traveller at the SmartGate will be compared with a verified image from departmental holdings to confirm a traveller's identity.

As such, travellers will no longer be required to physically present their passport unless specifically requested, therefore reducing the time it will take for a traveller to self-process through a SmartGate. However, while they may not be required to present it, it is important to note that travellers will still be required to hold a valid passport, and carry that passport with them whilst travelling.

In addition to faster processing, and a reduction in queues, contactless technology delivers stronger security at our border, as the identity of the traveller is based on a facial image as a unique identifier, instead of document based checks.

This automated system will remain voluntary and travellers can choose to use SmartGates or be processed by a clearance officer. Contactless SmartGates will be available to both Australian citizens and non-citizens departing and arriving into Australia, expanding the self-processing option to a greater number of travellers.

Additionally, as more and more travellers self-process through SmartGates, Australian Border Force officers can be freed up from manual processing tasks to focus instead on higher risk traveller interventions.

Introducing contactless technology into our border clearance processes is an important step in strengthening border security as traveller numbers continue to grow, and the amendments in Schedule 3 of this bill will enable the use of this world class, contactless SmartGate technology.


In conclusion, this bill makes a number of important amendments that will not only ensure that visa holders continue to meet entry requirements under the 10-year visitor visa pilot, but also support improved and streamlined passenger movements at our borders.

I commend the bill to the chamber.

Debate adjourned.

Ordered that the bills be listed on the Notice Paper as separate orders of the day.