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Monday, 2 April 2001
Page: 26136

Mr CAMERON THOMPSON (3:05 PM) —My question is to the Minister for Community Services. The minister will recall last year's Productivity Commission report into the gambling industry and the serious problems that that report highlighted. Is the minister aware of any new reports on the escalation of Internet gambling? Do these reports support the government's concerns that the spread of gambling harms families and harms the wider community?

Mr ANTHONY (Minister for Community Services) —I thank the member for Blair. I know he shows a very keen interest in social issues and particularly the proliferation of gambling. I inform members of the House of two very important articles published in the United States recently, which I hope might be taken on board by the Australian Labor Party. The first is an article by Gannett news service titled `Addiction risk high in Internet gambling'. In this article this organisation anticipates that gambling online in America will triple by 2004. This means that gambling will go to $6.3 billion by 2003, up from $651 million—almost a tenfold increase since 1998. The report also highlights the concerns of the American Psychiatric Association about young people who have access to credit cards and, particularly, that they are susceptible to the use of the Internet. Why? It is because that age group uses the Internet more than any other age group. The association said, and this is a very salient point, that there are many online video and broader gaming sites which are targeting children and teens, including links to gambling sites. We also know that 10 per cent to 15 per cent of these young people have reported significant gambling problems as a result of the Internet.

Another survey in the New York Times news service was called `Betters find online gambling harder to resist'. This was a report by Pew Internet and American Life Project which also demonstrated that around five per cent of Internet users gamble; that is, 4.5 million Americans in total, with one million gambling every day on the Internet in the United States. It also stated that women and the less affluent were more vulnerable and were using the Internet, which is obviously a growing concern in the United States and is a growing concern for the government here. We do not want to see a proliferation in the accessibility of gambling, and the negative social consequences that it will have, particularly on the family structure and on crime. That is why a lot of surveys that have come out locally—indeed, from my department—illustrate that 68 per cent of Australians support the coalition's ban on interactive gambling. Is it any wonder; with interactive technology, with the use of the Internet and with the use of digital television, gambling problems will be exacerbated. Under this government, all the revenue from the GST will go back to the states. They do not need to encourage or increase the amount of gambling. We are drawing a line in the sand as we do not want to see—

Mr Costello —They might under roll-back.

Mr ANTHONY —They might under roll-back, as the Treasurer said. This government wants to draw a line in the sand; we do not want to see interactive gaming happening in this country. That is why I call on the Leader of the Opposition, Kim Beazley, Bracks, Bacon and Beattie to follow suit with the Australian population, to ban interactive gambling and to start to come on board with the Liberal and National parties in addressing some of these major social issues. That is the responsibility that you should be taking here and in the Senate.