Note: Where available, the PDF/Word icon below is provided to view the complete and fully formatted document
Transcript of joint doorstop interview: Parliament House, Canberra: 31 May 2012: online gambling



Download PDFDownload PDF

Joint Doorstop Interview with Senator Nick Xenophon, Parliament House May 31, 2012 Subjects: Online gambling.

EO&E..............................................................................................................................................................

TONY ABBOTT:

It’s good to be here with Senator Nick Xenophon. Nick and I don’t see eye to eye on every aspect of the gambling issue but we are very much united in opposing this latest recommendation from the Government for a very substantial expansion of online gambling. I’m not against gambling as such. I think that Australians are entitled to gamble responsibly but this is a whole new frontier of gambling which the Government is proposing to open. Now, the problem with this recommendation from the Government is that if it goes ahead, every computer is a casino. Every smart phone is a poker game and that’s just not on as far as the Coalition is concerned and that’s why I’m happy to be here shoulder to shoulder with Nick Xenophon.

The problem with online gambling as I’ve said time and time again throughout this reform discussion is that it is a dark cave into which people can so easily retreat and there they are beyond help. If you are gambling on your smart phone, if you are gambling on your computer, you are absolutely on your own and it’s when you are on your own that you are most likely to get into trouble.

Nick?

NICK XENOPHON:

Thank you, Tony. I’m very pleased to be here with the Leader of the Opposition on this important issue. Reverend Tim Costello wanted to be here today. He couldn’t be because of a prior commitment in Brisbane but he wanted me to read out this statement and it goes as follows:

“I congratulate the Coalition for taking this stand. The next gambling wave targeting the younger generation is online. It is uninvited and unsought. With online gambling we know the greater the accessibility, the greater the addiction and family suffering. Australians want less of these predatory products and the addiction that goes with it, not more.”

Not only do I endorse that position but in addition to that, I think it’s important to look closely at what the Government is recommending. Stephen Conroy almost two years ago said that the risks of opening up online gambling would simply be too great, that would outweigh any supposed benefits. There’s been a complete backflip from the Government in relation to that and that raises some serious questions. Is the Federal Government looking at online gambling as their next big revenue source? The Commonwealth has been the last best hope for gambling reform because it doesn’t have the reliance on gambling revenue that the states do and Tony Abbott is absolutely right. If you open this up you will unleash a new tidal wave of problem gambling, particularly amongst younger Australians.

QUESTION:

Tony Abbott Federal Member for Warringah | Leader of the Opposition

Senator, what have you heard from the Government regarding this proposal? Have you had any talks with them?

NICK XENOPHON:

I think the Government’s report speaks for itself. There has been a complete change of the Government’s position. It is very disturbing. This will open up online gambling and the fatal flaw in their argument is that they say a billion dollars is being spent on online sites overseas. That comes from a sports betting agency, if you look at the footnotes, so that itself is deeply flawed, but the Government says that if we go down the path of liberalising it in Australia we can clamp down on the overseas sites. The measures they suggest are measures that could be used right now and I think Tony may have something to say about issues of enforcement but the act hasn’t been enforced. That’s why we’re getting the leakage that we have and it can be enforced according to the Australian Bankers Association in their evidence before a joint select committee inquiry on gambling by attacking the financial transaction by blacklisting those sites which isn’t difficult to do.

QUESTION:

Senator, have you spoken to the Greens in the upper house about this? Is there any indication of what they’ll do?

NICK XENOPHON:

Look, can I say that I speak regularly to Senator Richard di Natale, the Greens spokesperson on gambling and he shares a very similar view to mine in relation to mine in relation gambling. So, with the Coalition opposing the Government’s movements and supporting protecting Australian consumers, particularly young Australians, then, you know, there’s no such thing as a sure thing but I think it’s pretty clear that this with the support, the help of the Coalition and the Greens, any attempts to liberalise online gambling will be defeated in this country which is good news.

QUESTION:

Isn’t the problem though that every computer is a casino or potentially as Mr Abbott says anyway because those offshore sites and the access to international gambling sites and might not it be better as legislators to regulate rather than prohibit? Prohibition doesn’t work.

NICK XENOPHON:

The damage is caused by the financial transaction. The Government in its own report is saying you can actually nip these financial transactions in the bud. The concern is this - if you legalise it, if you give it the sanction, the seal of approval of the state, of the Australian Government it then becomes more socially acceptable, you get that cultural shift in gambling. So, however ubiquitous online gambling is now, you will see an exponential increase in it and the research - and this is the argument given in South Australia, in Queensland, in Victoria, for the legalisation and the expansion of poker machine gambling. We now know they’re the only state that doesn’t have anything like the problem gambling rates in the East is Western Australia because they’ve limited their poker machines. So, if you expand a form of gambling that is potentially so addictive, and as Tony Abbott said, there is no help out there, the accessibility of it is a key factor driving addiction, then the problem will be much greater.

QUESTION:

So, Mr Abbott, then, if the alternatives are banning or regulating, which are you?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, what we’ve got here is a government recommendation to extend online gambling and I’m saying that we’re against it. There is more than enough gambling in Australia already. I think Australians have a right to gamble responsibly but we do not need to open a whole new frontier and that’s what the Government recommendation would do. That’s why the Coalition is against it.

QUESTION:

The experience in WA, where of course, there aren’t pokies, there aren’t gaming machines outside of casinos, Clubs WA argues that online gambling is higher in WA than elsewhere. If that’s the case, then isn’t the Government right in at least trying to regulate what does exist?

NICK XENOPHON:

That’s not right.

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, look, Nick will have something to add on this but the issue here is not better regulation, the issue here is the extension of gambling to a whole new area and I’m saying: no, enough is enough. We have enough of this already. We don’t need a new frontier of gambling in a society which is already very well served by gambling options should people choose responsibly to use them.

NICK XENOPHON:

In relation to the issue of online gambling in WA, I’ve actually asked that question at the joint inquiry and the position is this: there is no evidence that there is more online gambling in WA. Love to see where the clubs have got that figure from in WA. Clearly they’ve got a self serving position because they want poker machines, but it isn’t supported by facts.

QUESTION:

The two of you obviously sat down to discuss online gambling reform. Did talk get onto pokies reforms as well?

NICK XENOPHON:

We’re always talking about the pokies.

TONY ABBOTT:

Look, I’ve had lots of discussions with Nick about pokies changes and they’ll be ongoing.

QUESTION:

As in what would be your policy?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, our position is that we don’t support mandatory pre-commitment. We never liked it, as we made crystal clear in the discussion paper that went out last year. We don’t support it, won’t support it. What we do support, though, is voluntary pre-commitment, more counselling and closer, not laxer, supervision of online gambling.

QUESTION:

You’re talking today on the position of social consciousness, about not expanding gambling opportunities so people don’t fall into the depths of an addiction. Yet, on poker machines, where there’s a very strong political strong lobby in favour of the poker machines, you are not doing the same thing.

TONY ABBOTT:

But I am not suggesting new poker machine venues. I’m not suggesting more poker machines. I’m just saying that the way

forward on gambling reform in respect of poker machines is voluntary pre-commitment, more counselling and I think closer, not laxer, supervision of online gambling.

QUESTION:

So, you’re against more casinos, like James Packer’s new casino in Sydney?

TONY ABBOTT:

Well, that’s not the issue today. The issue today is a government which wants to open a whole new frontier of gambling to turn every computer into a casino, every smart phone into a poker game. Now, enough is enough in this area and that’s why I say the Coalition won’t support this recommendation.

Thank you.

[ends]

© Tony Abbott MHR 2010 | Authorised by Tony Abbott MHR, Level 2, 17 Sydney Rd, Manly NSW 2095

www.tonyabbott.com.au