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Wednesday, 9 May 2018
Page: 3434

Mr TIM WILSON (Goldstein) (13:04): I have considered the Interactive Gambling Amendment (Lottery Betting) Bill 2018 in quite a lot of detail in terms of my support for it, because, of course, it includes lots of different measures, such as pathways that shut down the freedom of Australians to engage in some gambling activities. I do, and always will, take freedom very seriously; it's the core of who we are as a nation and the basis on which I sought election to parliament. But it's pretty hard to go past the reality of what happens in the practice of Lottoland's activities and whether those are proper within a well-regulated operation around competition, particularly in the gambling sector.

I do have challenges with parts of this bill, and I'm not trying to pretend otherwise, but when it comes down to it, we have a situation where people are using the opportunities provided through technology and the internet to subvert domestic competitive activity. Disruption, by itself, can be a very positive thing—in fact, it can be an extremely positive thing—but it still has to operate within a system of laws, taxes and regulations to make sure that consumers are not taken advantage of and that people are also meeting their responsibilities within a free society. That's the basis on which I support this legislation.

When you have a company in Australia operating, as Lottoland does, against existing providers who carry the burden and the cost of regulation and of making a contribution to our tax system, and who are obviously integral in terms of the operations of many Australian small businesses—particularly newsagents of course, many of which I have in my own electorate, as many others do; though perhaps, I imagine, not as many as some have had in the past—we have to take appropriate measures to provide pathways for those who want to compete in that space to do so in a legal way and to match those responsibilities and burdens that other providers carry. This bill seeks to do that. It essentially seeks to provide—I'm very wary of using these phrases ordinarily—a level playing field for those who seek to run lottery activities and gambling activities within Australia by ensuring they match their responsibilities by paying taxation and by being well regulated. The bill also makes sure that we have proper competition within the marketplace that enables consumers to choose but not be taken advantage of simply through the use of technology.

It's very important because sitting behind a lot of discussions around gambling are discussions around making sure we address and tackle part of the challenges of gambling addiction. One of the reasons we have tax obligations directly associated with different forms of lotteries is to make sure there's a surplus benefit out of that type of activity to support those who are most in need, and to make sure that people can't be taken advantage of where there aren't support services for people who feel they have a problem to get proper redress. This bill acknowledges that practical reality of the addiction that can occur with gambling and takes appropriate steps and pathways to make sure that we continue to provide the services for those people who are in need of assistance, particularly when it can have such a negative downward spiralling effect on people's lives. By taking such sensible measures in this piece of legislation, we're enabling a proper and well-regulated environment for gambling for Australian consumers to choose, something I believe very strongly in. We are making sure that we have an environment in which people can get the support and assistance they need to make sure that there is no chance of problem gambling turning into the consequences of a downward spiralling of people's lives.

Now, nobody is going to try and pretend that there's not an interest for government in this—there is. Of course, gambling revenue for state governments, in particular, is very important in terms of budget balance sheets. But in truth, it's largely got nothing to do with the justification for why this bill should be addressed and introduced. It's not just to stop the realities of gambling competition or disruption where it's appropriate and necessary, but it is appropriate to make sure we take legislative measures, particularly because of the challenges the technology presents us, to make sure that consumers are not taken advantage of and to make sure we have a proper and well-regulated system.