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Thursday, 16 May 2013
Page: 2871


Senator GALLACHER (South Australia) (17:50): I rise to make a contribution in this debate. I listened carefully to the outline of the issue from Senator Di Natale in relation to the outrage amongst sports fans. I cannot entirely agree with that. In my own household at least one non-sports fan does not like it, but, whenever I am enjoying a barbecue and watching the football, most of the other people are quite interested—but they are adults.

The argument is that there is a barrage of ads, disturbing evidence that kids can identify sports betting agencies and that the consciousness of children is being altered or informed. Well, that is just a very successful advertising campaign. That happens with breakfast cereals and with Coca-Cola, and it happens with everything. So I do not think you can say that sports betting is the cause of their altered consciousness; it is advertising that does it. The reality is that we will have a whole generation growing up in front of very large, interactive smart TVs with smart phones. Prohibition is not the way forward. We are a nation that stops for Melbourne Cup Day. There are sweeps in every school, in every workplace and in almost every household.

As Senator Stephens said, we are a nation of voracious gamblers. We do have a significant number of problem gamblers and we do not want to increase that number of problem gamblers. We certainly do not want to encourage children to commence betting below the legal age or to have an appetite for betting. But, if you have ever taken your son to the Rugby League or the football, you would know that tickets have always been sold on the first try-scorer. You bought your ticket—in those days it might have cost 20c—and if you had the right number you won a prize: a meat tray or whatever. This type of betting on sports has been around. What we are experiencing now is the insidious nature of technology. We have smart phones and smart apps—download a smart app, get Tom Waterhouse on your iPhone or your other type of smart phone.

I understand the sincerity that, in particular, Senator Xenophon brings to the debate. He is absolutely right: he will campaign until there is no breath left in his body on these issues, because that is in his nature and that has certainly been his demonstrated track history. The reality is that we need to look at what the government is actually doing. The government is indeed taking action to reduce the promotion of live odds during sports coverage. We are working with the broadcasting industry who have proposed amendments. They have responded to community concerns. They have a very big and growing business. In their view, they have to get their act together, otherwise legislation could be introduced that will restrict their opportunity, but I do not believe they are out there trying to get kids to bet. I certainly do not believe that.

Under principles agreed between the industry and the government, there will be no promotion of live odds by commentators at any time during a sports broadcast. There will be no advertising of live odds during play, with clearly identified ads restricted to scheduled breaks in play, such as at half-time. The government's preference in general is for action to be taken through the co-regulatory framework of broadcasting regulation. For now, the government will evaluate the effectiveness of the measures proposed by the broadcasting industry before considering any further action, such as this type of legislation. In this space and for this reason we do not support, and I do not support, the Greens bill at this time.

The government recognises that problem gambling and the relationship between sport and gambling are very serious issues. We have acted and continue to act across a range of portfolios to address these issues. The concern that has been expressed here today, targeted towards one particular betting agency because he is the most highly visible agency and has made a real success of his business in a very short space of time, is probably flawed. We need to address the fundamentals.

I do not mind if my grandchildren learn about betting, because if you learn about betting you basically learn about losing. You do not get odds of 10 to one because it is a sure thing. You get odds of 10 to one because there is a nine times chance of losing. I do not think you can hide people, children or otherwise, away from the real world and then at the age of 18 turn them out for someone else to cultivate into a gambler. I do not mind having exposure at the right times. I do not think it is appropriate before the PG sort of rating period. I do not think we should be advertising gambling, as someone has already said in the debate, in the cartoon hours, but there is no doubt that kids will be watching football and nine o'clock is not going to stop them from watching football. If a game is scheduled to go a bit later, there are plenty of households in which children below the age of 18 or below the age of 10 do not go to bed until midnight. There are plenty of households which are fanatical about the round-ball game. A lot of that is played in the middle of the night. I do not think an arbitrary curfew is the answer to this. I think education is the answer. I am not all that convinced that this exposure is 100 per cent detrimental. It may be detrimental to a certain number of very vulnerable people, but they will probably have that vulnerability with or without this type of activity by betting agencies.

Sporting bodies, broadcasters and the gambling industry all have an important role to play to ensure that our sports do not become swamped with gambling messages. At the end of the day, you want to see your team win. If you happen to bet on the way through and you are of a legal age, I do not have a problem with that. I do not think any government will ever change that ability. If you are of a legal age, your team is in the running and you want to have a punt, it will be available to you. What has attempted to be the subject of this debate is whether we have a younger and more vulnerable group of consumers who have been groomed and turned into problem gamblers. I do not think there is any evidence to say that is the case.

I heard Senator Back's story about growing up in Kalgoorlie. I grew up in the Northern Territory. Someone else mentioned that two flies could be bet on. I am certain that there have been occasions when I have been tempted to bet on one of those flies. It has not made me a problem gambler, it has not made my children problem gamblers and I do not have any friends or family who have turned into problem gamblers, and we have had exposure to gambling—of a legal nature and perhaps of a more dubious nature—throughout all our growing up years.

What is really intriguing is whether having a smart TV or an iPhone—the ability to download a betting app to an iPhone and link it to a credit card or a betting account and to bet at any time—is essentially more addictive than what has always been the case, where you can walk to a TAB or an outlet like that to place a bet. I have a TAB very close to where I live and on occasion I have gone there and made a bet. I have noticed younger punters coming in and trying to pick a whole range of options regarding betting on the AFL, soccer, golf or whatever, but if they have sat down, worked out what they can afford to lose, filled out the correct ticket and are over 18, I am not sure that there is a problem. How they got to that stage seems to be what this debate is about. As people get to the legal age of being able to drink, vote, represent the country in the Army or go to the TAB, or bet in whichever way they want, I am not sure that regulations are ever going to change any of that. I am not sure that we can put up legislation or amendments in this place to have the effect that some people in this place want.

Sitting suspended from 18:00 to 20:00