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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2006 Week 1 Hansard (14 February) . . Page.. 76..


MR STEFANIAK (continuing):

issue in the future and include some kind of comparative analysis of social and cultural wellbeing in New South Wales, where poker machines are widespread; in the ACT, where they are the province of the clubs; and in Western Australia, where poker machines are limited to the casino alone.

More significant in terms of change is the shift in the harm-minimisation requirements from being the direct responsibility of the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission itself to making the provisions of the gambling and racing code of practice apply. The responsibilities would fall on the casino itself. It makes sense to take an industry-wide approach to harm-minimisation issues. If there is not sufficient rigour or care being taken in looking out for harm, then it is reasonable to address the problem systemically rather than on a case-by-case basis. The question really lies in how effectively or strongly the practice is enforced.

One of the challenges that a small jurisdiction such as ours faces is keeping appropriate distance. Everyone really does know everyone or knows someone who knows someone and, in the end, the six degrees of separation are probably diminished to two, so it might be too easy to try to address problems of governance or regulation over lunch or coffee. Just as the separation of powers has been raised by the courts as an issue for ACT public servants to understand more precisely, it is probably inevitable that the separation between the regulators and the regulated will be very difficult to maintain in this environment. However, that was not an issue addressed in the ACT Gambling and Racing Commission's review of the Casino Control Act, but it might at a later date be addressed in a review of the commission itself.

MR QUINLAN (Molonglo-Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Business, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (5.11), in reply: I thank members for their support. I will reply to a couple of things that Dr Foskey said. With the greatest respect, I think that it was one of those tut-tut speeches you get from the Greens every now and then, a bit of Green orthodoxy. The fact is that to change clubs, ban pokies and have live music would mean that most of them would go broke. Yes, clubs are concerned about their dwindling patronage, but they are not really trying to encourage music lovers who might have one or two red wines and that would be it for the afternoon. They are not really going to pay their freight. Really, those are not practical observations, let me say.

That is not to diminish the need to address harm minimisation in gambling. Certainly, I think that in the period that we have been in government we have done that. We have had a regime. We have worked with the club industry. We have had endorsement of the regime from outside, from the Brotherhood of St Laurence and others, who say that it is a very enlightened approach that we have taken.

Quite clearly, if we did reduce drastically the number of poker machines or banned them, we would be changing the nature of the community. That might be a good thing, but you have to know that that is what you would be doing. I do not think you are going to get a whole lot of people that like jazz or folk music actually supporting the industry that we have here now. As I said, that may or may not necessarily be a good situation by your standards, but let us be realistic when we actually talk about clubs and their role.


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