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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1057

Mr OAKESHOTT (Lyne) (20:08): This is an opportunity to thank those in this parliament who have pushed for substantial reform with regard to problem gambling to respond to two Productivity Commission reports over the last 11 years and also to put on the record some further work that, hopefully, the government can do along with some legislative reform that is expected shortly. The reason for putting this motion forward is that I hope the challenge of dealing with problem gambling as well as the issues of money laundering and transnational crime do not stop with the legislation before the House and all the debate that goes along with that. I hope as well that there is engagement with the states, where the fundamental problem of addiction lies—that is, the states are addicted and wedded to the revenue from electronic gaming machines and from the vast range of gaming and gambling options.

This motion is calling for a national cap to be agreed upon through a national partnership agreement or some equivalent. That should not, I hope, be too hard. Most if not all states now have a cap of some form. I would hope that through the Select Council on Gambling Reform a genuine discussion about turning that into a national cap could take place and could be the start of a long-term national reduction strategy underneath that cap. In the theme of other topics of last year, that fits in with the cap-and-trade model of long-term reductions in something that is a problem.

As well, a critical part of that will be breaking the link between state government revenues and gaming. On the back of the tax forum that occurred in October last year, a state tax working group has been formed. That is a bipartisan working group that includes the New South Wales Treasurer, Mike Baird, and the current Queensland Treasurer, Andrew Fraser. Of different political persuasions, they are working throughout this year to look at ways of harmonising state taxation and hopefully reducing some of those bad state taxes through negotiation with each other and with the Commonwealth. This is an opportunity, therefore, to feed into that process the topic of the moment, responding to the Productivity Commission and feeding in this issue of how to break the link between state revenue and gaming options. If that can be done—and I include in there not only electronic gaming machines but also online gaming, sports betting, the horses, the harnesses and the greyhounds—and if there can be a genuine conversation between the different jurisdictions, if a tax deal can be done that allows the states the capacity to raise revenue in other ways in a long-term strategy, that then allows a reduction in machines and achieves, I think, an important goal of therefore reducing problem gambling, about which most if not all members of parliament are concerned.

The Productivity Commission report that is the basis of the legislation about to appear before the parliament is an important one, but I hope that this House does not forget or reject the first Productivity Commission report from 1999, which really talked about proximity as being a core problem in the number of problem gamblers emerging in Australia. The fact that gaming machines were starting to turn up on every corner in New South Wales, for example—the decision to put poker machines into the pubs—really turbocharged problem gambling in Australia. So this question of proximity is very real as a cause of the problem but also an opportunity for us to consider in addressing the problem. If we can, over time, reduce the number of machines and reduce the number of sites where machines are, then we are reducing problem gambling as well.

I sincerely hope that the government, the executive and the parliament consider this motion and not only consider the legislation that is about to appear before the House but really push government to follow a COAG process as well. (Time expired)