Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2012 Week 8 Hansard (23 August) . . Page.. 3346..
The Greens will not be supporting the bill or the amendments that the government proposes to move. In saying that, there is one element that we do support, and that is of course the limitation on ATM withdrawals. The Greens do agree that there should be a cap on the amount that can be withdrawn and that it should apply to all venues. I will return to that issue as we debate the government's amendments.
In relation to the cap on the total number of machines, we strongly support a cap on machines. Unfortunately the bill, and particularly the bill as it is proposed to be amended, will do nothing to reduce the number of machines in the ACT. All it really does is allow the machines that we already have to be used to their maximum capacity. In principle, we would agree to a transfer scheme if it was part of reducing the overall number of machines, but that is certainly not what is proposed here.
I have to say that, in the context of statements that have been made that we are trying to encourage clubs to reduce their reliance on poker machines and diversify their revenue, this bill does nothing at all. In fact, in light of the amendments, it does the opposite and appears to entrench the reliance on poker machine revenue.
In relation to the transfer of machines, the Greens are happy to consider a transfer scheme in the context of a broader scheme that would actually reduce the number of poker machines and therefore, we believe, would have an impact on the level of problem gambling. This would also include mechanisms such as the imposition of an annual charge on each licence that is sufficient to compel licensees to return the machines if they are not using them, a trade-back scheme so that some licences are given back in order for the transfer to take place, geographic caps to ensure that we do not get concentrations of machines in particular areas of Canberra, venue and group caps to ensure that venues do not become too large or poker machine operators too concentrated and that there is a space for smaller clubs, a requirement on all traded machines that $1 bet limits be imposed on those machines. Including these types of measures would deliver a transfer scheme that also allowed for the gradual reduction in the number of machines and addressed the associated harms.
I know that the club industry very much want to be able to move their machines around as freely and as flexibly as possible to maximise the return they generate from them. This is understandable and what we would expect. However, the Greens do not agree that it is good public policy to allow this to occur. Certainly we recognise that the commission will be required to undertake social impact assessments, and I have no doubt that they will do a good job undertaking these assessments. But I am concerned that it will just leave us knowing the negative social and financial impacts that machine transfers will cause without our actually doing anything about it.
The Greens believe that this bill represents a wasted opportunity to make some very productive moves forward on the way we tackle problem gambling in our community while at the same time giving the industry some increased flexibility which they have been advocating for.
As I said, the Greens do support the idea of reducing the number of machines and of imposing a limit on the amount that can be withdrawn from ATMs in venues.