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Monday, 7 November 2016
Page: 3087


Mr WILKIE (Denison) (18:49): I move:

That this House:

(1) notes that:

(a) more than $800 million was lost by Australians on legal sports betting in 2014-15, an increase of more than 30 per cent from 2013-14;

(b) while some restrictions on gambling advertising exist, there is an exemption that allows gambling advertising during televised sporting events at children's viewing times; and

(c) research shows that children are especially susceptible to such advertising;

(2) recognises the pressing need to act to reduce the level of gambling advertising, particularly during children's viewing times;

(3) calls on the Government to amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to ban gambling advertising during sporting broadcasts; and

(4) further notes community concern about the recent increased level of gambling advertising on the SBS, and calls on the Minister for Communications to issue a directive under section 11 of the Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991 to limit the amount of such advertising.

In essence, this motion calls on the government to act on sports betting advertising and, in particular, for the implementation of a ban on gambling advertising during sports broadcasts in children's viewing times on commercial television as well as on the SBS. It also recognises the increasingly large sums of money being lost on sports betting and acknowledges that the current revelatory framework is inadequate.

This is a very important issue, and one that a great many people have contacted me about over the six years I have been a member of parliament and an advocate for gambling reform. It is also an easy issue to fix, because the change to legislation required is simple and would no doubt attract significant community support. It is also a good start if the government genuinely wants to start getting serious about gambling reform—and get serious it must. Not least because the latest set of Australian gambling statistics show that in the 2014-15 financial year some $814 million was lost by Australians on legal sports betting. This might seem like a drop in the ocean when you consider that nearly $23 billion was lost on gambling in general—half of which was on poker machines—but this $814 million is in fact a serious issue in its own right when you also consider that it is the fastest growing area of gambling losses, and up by a staggering 30 per cent in just 12 months. Indeed, if sports betting keeps growing at this rate, and there is no evidence to suggest that it will not, then gamblers will be losing more than $1 billion in this year alone.

I am not suggesting we should ban sports betting or sports betting ads, but what we must do is put in place measures that limit the harm it causes. Heavens, surely it is common sense that if a product is harmful, then the government should step in and regulate it? One key problem with sports betting is, of course, the saturation of advertising—and I am sure anyone who has ever watched a sports broadcast on commercial TV knows exactly what I am talking about. You just cannot escape it and, if the feedback to my office is anything to go by, the community is well and truly over it. They just want to be able to watch the footy or the cricket in peace.

Yes, there are some restrictions in place about when these ads can be broadcast, and the Free TV Australia commercial television code of practice says that gambling advertising cannot be shown during G-rated programs broadcast between 6 am and 8.30 am or between 4 pm and 7 pm. But immediately below that clause is a great big loophole, which says that this restriction does not apply during sports broadcasts. In other words: there is nothing whatsoever stopping or limiting betting ads during sports broadcasts themselves, and the sports section of news broadcasts for that matter, when children are watching.

As a father of two young daughters, I well understand the community concern about the impact of all of this on children. Clearly the restrictions during G-rated periods are designed to protect children from inappropriate advertising, which is why the exemptions for sports are so nonsensical. That is the time not only when children are watching but also when they are watching their sporting heroes in particular. Crikey, we know that children are especially susceptible to advertising and to hero worship, and that gambling advertising has a real and measurable impact on the children who are subject to it. For example, a Deakin University study just this year showed that three-quarters of children surveyed could recall at least one sports betting brand, and one-quarter of children could identify four or more brands. The study also showed that children as young as eight could recall things like 'bonus bets' and 'cashback refunds' after watching sports broadcasts. No wonder there is a real concern, backed up by evidence, that the proliferation of gambling advertising during sport is normalising gambling for children.

The solution is simple: what the government should do is amend the Broadcasting Services Act 1992 to explicitly ban gambling advertising during all children's viewing times, including sports broadcasts. This is not my idea; this is what gambling reform advocates have been calling on for years. It is what the Joint Select Committee on Gambling Reform recommended in the 43rd Parliament. It simply should not be left up to the commercial TV industry to self-regulate. Moreover, not only do we know that self-regulation does not work; there is also a fundamental conflict of interest. Remember, the gambling industry is the fourth biggest spender on TV advertising in Australia, so you can see why the TV stations do not want to give up that revenue.

While we are at it, this motion, if passed by the House, would also call on the Minister for Communications to issue a directive under section 11 of the Special Broadcasting Service Act 1991 to put in place a similar ban on gambling advertising on the SBS. This is necessary because there has obviously been a big increase in the amount of gambling advertising on the SBS, including during times when children are watching, and SBS is not covered by the Commercial Television Industry Code of Practice.

One of my first acts after the election in July was to stand with Senator Xenophon and the Reverend Tim Costello from the Alliance for Gambling Reform to put gambling reform back on the agenda in this parliament. Doing so was regrettably necessary because so far there has been so little interest in serious gambling reform from both the Labor and Liberal parties. Yes, we did achieve some reform in the 43rd Parliament, despite Prime Minister Julia Gillard reneging on her deal with me for meaningful poker machine reform, but even the modest reform we did achieve was overturned by the coalition government after the 2013 election—with, I would add, the support of the Labor Party in the Senate.

There is so much that needs to be done at both a state and a federal level. Take poker machine reform, for example, where there is still a pressing need for the federal government to put in place effective harm minimisation measures. This is why I will keep calling for $1 maximum bets and mandatory precommitment, exactly as the Productivity Commission recommended in 2010. At least in my home state of Tasmania we have the opportunity to finally get poker machines out of the pubs and clubs, because the current monopoly licence period is coming to an end in 2023.

Of course, all of this comes down to money. The major parties simply refuse to give up the enormous donations they get from the gambling industry, the states and territories do not want to give up the taxation revenue they get from the gambling addicts, and the commercial TV stations do not want to give up the revenue from the gambling advertising.

Whenever we talk about gambling addiction, it is easy to use facts and figures and to look at how much money is lost every year, but let's not forget that a huge amount of this money is lost by gambling addicts, and a gambling addict is a mother or a father, a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, a husband or a wife, a friend or a work colleague. They are real people with real challenges.

Thankfully, though, there are men and women of good heart in the Labor and Liberal Parties who would like to see gambling reform. Indeed, the Prime Minister himself is on the record, before he became Prime Minister, as being concerned about the harm caused by problem gambling. Moreover, there is no doubt that the community overwhelmingly wants to see gambling reform and, in particular, restrictions on gambling advertising. Regrettably, though, when Senator Xenophon put this same motion to a vote in the Senate recently, it was voted down by both the Liberal and Labor parties. But despite this I still hold out hope that members in this place, if only because we are directly accountable to our local communities and are popularly elected, can bring themselves to see the harm caused by gambling in their communities and actually do something about it. How refreshing would that be: politicians putting the public interest ahead of political self-interest. (Time expired)

The DEPUTY SPEAKER ( Mr Hastie ): Is there a seconder for this motion?

Ms Sharkie: I second the motion and reserve my right to speak.