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Wednesday, 27 November 2019
Page: 5980


Mr FLETCHER (BradfieldMinister for Communications, Cyber Safety and the Arts) (09:50): I move:

That this bill be now read a second time.

This bill will establish legislation for a National Self-Exclusion Register (register) for online wagering. With this bill, the government introduces a critical consumer protection measure for Australians gambling online which will help reduce the harm of online wagering to consumers.

The register responds to growing community concerns about the rapid growth and high rate of harm caused by online gambling and importantly, will allow people to quickly and easily exclude themselves from all interactive gambling sites and apps, through a single registration process.

The register will be available for around a million consumers of online wagering, but will target approximately 240,000 Australians who are already experiencing harm.

This is crucial, as we know that usage of online wagering is rapidly growing, and the rate of problem gambling is three times higher online than for all other forms of gambling.

Gambling-related harm can adversely affect a person's life in many ways including damage to their financial wellbeing, self-esteem, relationships, work performance, housing situation, and physical and mental health.

As part of the response into the 2015 Review of Illegal Offshore Wagering (the review), in November 2018 the Morrison government announced the joint national framework. The agreed implementation arrangements and policy principles that underpin each of the measures were set out in a national policy statement.

These principles were developed following an extensive two-year consultation process with stakeholders, including state and territory governments, community organisations, academia, the interactive wagering industry, and individuals affected by gambling harm.

To date, I'm pleased to say this government has successfully implemented six of the 10 measures of the national framework in all jurisdictions.

Key stakeholders, including governments, the interactive wagering industry, academia, the community sector and most importantly people who gamble online, were consulted when developing the bills, in order to ensure the register scheme is workable and consumer outcomes are met. They have expressed strong support for the register.

The register will allow any ordinary resident of Australia to exclude themselves from all interactive wagering services licensed in Australia. All interactive wagering providers licensed are in scope for the register, including on-course bookmakers' telephone-only services.

The Australian Communications and Media Authority (ACMA) will procure an independent third-party technology provider to supply, operate and maintain the register on behalf of the authority.

To be added to the register, an individual will complete a simple registration process. The individual will be able to choose how long he or she wishes to self-exclude for, ranging from three months to permanent exclusion.

This will give individuals the flexibility to set an exclusion period that is appropriate to their circumstances, and will also encourage uptake of the register. Individuals will be able to extend this period at any time, and mechanisms will be in-place to enable a simple process for re-registration.

Individuals will be bound by a minimum three-month exclusion for their first registration, and will be prompted 14 days before their exclusion period ends.

An individual will be given the option to nominate support persons, with their consent, such as friends or family members. A support person would be notified when the registered individual signs up for self-exclusion, and again 14 days before a self-exclusion period ends.

Allowing up to five support persons will ensure the registered individual will have the flexibility to nominate an adequate number of sponsors, should he or she choose to do so. These support persons can be updated as required.

Interactive wagering providers will be required to take steps to promote the register to their customers, and ensure that individuals on the register are not provided with any interactive wagering services. Additionally, interactive wagering providers must ensure that new interactive wagering accounts are not opened for registered individuals, and existing accounts are closed and funds returned to the individual after existing bets are settled.

Civil and criminal penalties will apply if an interactive wagering provider does not appropriately promote the register in accordance with the register rules, and the government will closely monitor the behaviour of interactive wagering providers and will strengthen provisions if needed.

The register rules will outline more detail on this issue, as it will allow the Australian Communications and Media Authority to prescribe requirements based on evolving evidence on the effectiveness of responsible gambling messaging and the ever-changing online wagering environment.

In summary, this bill will establish a national self-exclusion register, which will allow people to quickly and easily exclude themselves from all interactive wagering services licensed in Australia through a single registration process.

This will ensure that a vital consumer protection tool is readily available for vulnerable individuals who are at risk of or already experiencing harm from online wagering.

The register is a first in Australia, and the government considers it to be an important step in achieving best practice for social responsibility in online wagering.

The government will continue to work with stakeholders as we implement the register, and will monitor the scheme to ensure it is meeting its consumer protection outcomes.

Debate adjourned.