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Monday, 26 March 2018
Page: 2182

Senator HANSON-YOUNG (South Australia) (21:00): I'd like to know whether the minister accepts the argument that, for sporting events that run later than 8.30 pm, children will be subjected to gambling ads as a result of the lax nature of these rules. This pretence, per se, that somehow 8.30 pm is the magic time that all of our children are in bed or that the television is switched off strikes me as fanciful, frankly. I take the minister's point that he doesn't want to give us an entire list of all the fixtures of various different sporting codes. The question was about the absurdity of suggesting that, at 8.25 pm, it's wrong to play gambling ads, but, at 8.35 pm, it's somehow okay to play gambling ads. If you think it is wrong, if you think that we shouldn't be ramming these adverts down the throats of our children and young people, then stop them. Stop them if you think that gambling ads are insidious and ruin the spirit of what watching sport in Australia is for and what is appealing about the nature of being a sporting nation. We all rally behind our team or the Australian players, if it's an international fixture. If it's an individual sport like tennis, then we're all rallying behind Sam Stosur or somebody like that. Why are we saying that it depends on the time zone—the time that that show is on—as to whether gambling ads should be able to be shown?

Furthermore, I'd like to understand why the minister has allowed the loophole based on audience numbers for certain channels on Foxtel, where it's okay for ads to be played because of a smaller audience number. Again, I appeal to you. I'm asking what the rationale is for the government to say: 'On one hand, gambling ads are bad. On the other hand, they're only so bad that they shouldn't be shown before 8.30 pm or they shouldn't be shown anywhere but on these smaller channels on Foxtel.' It's a mixed message, Minister. I wonder why you would go to all of this effort to put in place these changes, these regulations—to try and clean up what is an insidious and life-destroying industry, to take on those gambling barons, to say you're going to cut down on this—and then not actually do it properly. It's as if this legislation has been born out of simply wanting the kudos without actually having the teeth to make sure it happens. You can't be half pregnant. You either have to follow through and make sure these rules are in place or you accept that you haven't really dealt with the issue at hand.

We all know that there are some live sporting events that start prior to 8.30 pm, but many run much later. Some of them don't even start until 8.30 pm. There are live sporting events that are on the subscription television services that children do watch, and yet you have these bizarre exemptions. There's one for Foxtel, and another for the time frames for the broadcasters. It just doesn't make any sense. Can the minister please outline what is his rationale?

Senator Smith talked about needing to draw the line somewhere. It seems to me that the line has been drawn based on what suits the commercial interests of the broadcasters and the commercial interests of the gambling industry. We know what happens when there is a live sporting event on: the later it gets in the game, the more exciting it gets and the tension rises. That's when those insidious ads tell people to start betting, and that's when those ads really are at their most powerful. That is what addiction is all about: grabbing people at their most vulnerable. And when children are watching these games—these games are getting tighter and tighter, it's getting later and later and there's an opportunity to see whether it's going to get turned around in the last quarter—that's when these insidious ads drag vulnerable people into spending their money to place a bet.

We watch sport because of the enjoyment of the game. As parents, we sit down with our kids to watch a game of football because it's something to enjoy as a family, to enjoy with your community and to celebrate your team—and, if you're watching an international sport, to celebrate the country. And yet that all gets ruined the moment the game gets taken over by gambling ads saying, 'Don't worry about the spirit of the sport, or the spirit or the talent of the sportsperson; just put your hand in your pocket or on your phone, click away, spend your money and bet.' That's not what sport is about. That's not what backing the Australian soccer team or the Australian cricket team should be about—and it's not as if the cricketers have had a very good last 24 or 48 hours.

What kind of message are we sending to our kids? 'If you wait up past 8.30 pm you can still put your bets on.' It's either wrong and it needs to be stopped, or you're simply allowing those who have a commercial interest in this to draw the line. Can the minister please explain why events that go past 8.30 pm are able to have gambling ads and why, despite appeals, you have allowed the ACMA regulations that are currently in place to have an exemption for those channels that have smaller audiences, in particular in relation to Foxtel? Why have you drawn the line there? Frankly, if you care about cutting down on this insidious industry, if you care about the integrity of sport, then you would have rules that govern that, but currently where you have drawn the line on the board—it doesn't fit. It seems like it is far more in the interests of commercial operators, of the gambling industry and of the big broadcasters than it is anything to do with children or anything to do with cracking down on gambling as a genuine health issue in the community. So I'd like to know from the minister: where is the evidence that audience numbers for channels either do or don't make a difference, and why is 8.30 pm the cut-off time?