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Monday, 13 February 2012
Page: 1060

Mr NEUMANN (Blair) (20:18): I thank the member for Lyne and I note the presence of the member for Denison and their longstanding commitment to gambling reform in this country. We have just heard everything about what is wrong with the opposition. Not once in a speech of five minutes did the member for Moncrieff, who sits on the same committee as me, the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform, offer one solution, one idea, one notion—not a scintilla of a suggestion—in relation to good gambling reform policy in this country. The coalition always say no. That is the reality. I thank the member for Lyne for moving this motion. As he knows, the states and territories traditionally regulate gaming machines. The COAG process has in the past and will continue in the future to discuss gaming reform in this country. The Productivity Commission investigated caps in 1999 and 2010. The Productivity Commission remained sceptical about their effectiveness as a harm minimisation measure, as you would know. Their report said that, at the current level of gaming, machine caps are likely to be largely ineffective in addressing gambling harm. The Productivity Commission recommended a cautious approach to relaxing gaming machine numbers whereby no further increase in the number of gaming machines should be made.

The government agrees with the recommendations of the Productivity Commission report. We agree that precommitment is a more effective measure to reduce problem gambling. About 500,000 Australians are at risk of gambling problems, and in my household I was one of them. My father, tragically, when he was alive, had a gambling problem which meant that we lived not just in a working class background but in poverty. He had an alcohol addiction as well. So this is not just political; it is personal for me. To hear the member for Moncrieff talk about that and to politicise this issue in that way is a disgrace. These are important matters.

This government, along with the member for Denison, who has agreed to support legislation—and I ask the other crossbenchers to do something—is going to tackle problem gambling in a way that no government has had the guts to do in the past. We will have a trial of a mandatory precommitment scheme, supported by the Productivity Commission, in the ACT. We will bring in a $250 daily withdrawal limit from ATMs, because about 85 per cent of the withdrawals at ATMs at pubs and clubs are for less than $250. Electronic warnings and cost-of-play displays on poker machines by 2016 are another reform we are going to undertake. There are many other reforms, including additional funding to support 50 new financial counsellors and improved training for staff in pokies venues.

Why do I say this is important? In my electorate we have 42 venues, boasting—I use that word advisedly—1,169 poker machines. In the Ipswich City Council area, the average expenditure per poker machine each month is $5,024. Figures show that gaming machines in Ipswich collect on average about $7 million a month. So Ipswich has a big problem in this regard. Ipswich punters are losing over $5,000 a month on each machine.

There has been a campaign of misinformation attacking this Labor government, the member for Denison and anyone seriously wanting gaming and gambling reform in this country. We see the normalisation of gambling at football matches and on TV screens. We see young men think it is normal to do this. We see older women and older men sacrifice their pensions. The misinformation from Clubs Australia and Clubs Queensland has been disingenuous and inaccurate, and they should be ashamed of themselves. The truth is that Australians lost about $10.5 billion on the pokies in clubs and pubs in 2008-09. And, much worse, during the floods in my home town of Ipswich in January 2011, we saw a significant increase—about an eight per cent increase—in people trying to recover and trying to get back the money they lost during the floods. Clubs that are not dependent on problem gamblers will not have a problem, and it is a point I have made repeatedly. I thank the member for Lyne and the member for Denison for their commitment to gambling reform. We want to work with you to make sure we achieve good outcomes for the people of Australia.