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Friday, 15 November 2002
Page: 6534

Senator ABETZ (Special Minister of State) (2:37 PM) —The government opposes this amendment and feels very strongly about it. This is a proposal to repeal section 271, which makes it an offence for somebody to engage in rash and hazardous gambling that materially contributed to that person's insolvency. I indicated yesterday, and I want to repeat and put on the record again, that there have been circumstances where people, when asked, `Where has the money gone?' have said, `Oh, we knew we were in trouble, so the rest of our money was spent down at the casino and we lost everything. Bad luck.' Then, when this particular provision is pointed out to them, all of a sudden they admit that the money was in fact given to Uncle Joe or Uncle Andrew or whoever it may be and squirrelled away, and the money is then able to be retrieved for the benefit of creditors.

Why anybody who believes in sound public policy would believe that rash and hazardous gambling in these circumstances should not be made an offence defies the government's comprehension. I indicated yesterday that it is very rare for somebody to be prosecuted. If I recall correctly, there are about 600 bankrupts per year who name gambling as the cause of their bankruptcies. It is a horrendous figure and ought to make all the state Labor governments around the country sit up and take notice of the social damage of gambling. That aside, on average over the last few years there has been only one prosecution per annum under this clause. So it is not used against those who have a problem or an addiction; it is for rash and hazardous gambling, which unfortunately has been tried as an excuse by certain people that have in fact squirrelled away finances to their Uncle Joe or Uncle Andrew or whoever it may have been. Then, when this offence is pointed out to them, all of a sudden they say, `Well, in fact we didn't gamble it; here it is,' and it is able to be distributed amongst the creditors. We as a government oppose this amendment but, as indicated, will not divide on it. However, that should not suggest that we do not feel very strongly about the matter.