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Monday, 26 November 2012
Page: 13113


Mr WILKIE (Denison) (12:23): On behalf of the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform I present the committee's advisory report, incorporating dissenting reports, on the National Gambling Reform Bill 2012, the National Gambling Reform (Related Matters) Bill (No. 1) 2012 and the National Gambling Reform (Related Matters) Bill (No. 2) 2012 together with evidence received by the committee. I ask leave of the House to make a short statement in connection with the report.

Leave granted.

Mr WILKIE: Thank you. On 21 January this year the Prime Minister announced a package of poker machine reforms, and the bill which the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform has now inquired into reflects that announcement.

In essence, the bill requires—and the committee supports—that all poker machines in Australia be fitted with pre-commitment technology and dynamic warning displays and for virtually all ATMs in poker machine venues to have a $250 daily withdrawal limit. Regarding precommitment, the legislation specifies that all new machines must have the technology from the end of 2013 and that the remainder of the national fleet must be progressively retrofitted. Venues with more than 20 machines have until the end of 2016, venues with 11 to 20 machines have until 2020 and venues with 10 or fewer machines can change over their machines in the normal replacement cycle.

Crucially, while the use of the precommitment system is to be voluntary, machines and/or systems must be capable of preventing unregistered play. In other words, they must be capable of mandatory precommitment at the flick of a switch. To further strengthen this arrangement, the committee suggests players should be able to set their limits away from venues and poker machines, that decreases to the limit a person can lose should take effect immediately and that transaction statements be provided on request and regularly to help people keep track of their losses.

The committee also recommends that the Productivity Commission's review of the implementation of this legislation include the ban on biometrics, the issue of linking precommitment to loyalty schemes, whether or not there are grounds for further exemptions or extended deadlines for smaller venues in regional and remote areas, and the issue of including EFTPOS transactions in the $250 per day ATM withdrawal limit.

The pokies industry has expressed concern about the one-size-fits-all time lines and conditions placed on the states and territories in the bill. But this concern is unwarranted, because the bill is not prescriptive and solutions can be determined on a state-by-state basis from a broad range of technical options. In any case, there are a number of precommitment systems already running in Australia, giving the committee confidence the industry can meet the time lines.

Industry is also concerned about the cost. The poker machine industry is not being asked to replace all its machines overnight as it would have us believe; in fact, the conversion of most machines is more than four years away, as is the deadline for jurisdictions to have installed or upgraded their networks.

In any case, let us put all this in perspective and remember the Productivity Commission found that in 2008-09, national expenditure on poker machines was $11.9 billion. How much of this was lost by problem gamblers? The answer is some $5 billion. That is right: some $5 billion was lost by problem gamblers on the pokies in just one year. Yet the industry says the spending of just a fraction of one year's loss spread across a number of years is unacceptable. Frankly, I do not know how some of them sleep at night.

The bill also establishes $250 daily withdrawal limits on ATMs in gaming machine premises other than casinos. The ATM Industry Reference Group wants this amount increased plus a 12-month lead-in time. While the committee cannot support the increase limit, it does agree more time is warranted and recommends an end 2013 deadline.

While the committee welcomes the establishment of the Australian Gambling Research Centre within the Australian Institute of Family Studies, I wish to correct the impression that this fully delivers on the recommendation made in the committee's earlier reports. What is needed is a genuinely independent, fully transparent centre with the strongest possible research credentials. Only time will tell if the Australian Gambling Research Centre has what is needed and whether or not governments are genuinely committed to fund it.

The bill is much less than what might have been, and the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform's report includes a number of dissenting and additional comments. Nonetheless, the bill is a significant first step towards meaningful poker machine reform in Australia and it has the support of the committee majority. On behalf of the committee, I thank all those who assisted the inquiry. I would also like to thank the deputy chair and the committee secretariat for, again, doing a fine job in sometimes difficult circumstances. I commend the report to the House.

In accordance with standing order 39(f) the report was made a parliamentary paper.