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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2010 Week 14 Hansard (Wednesday, 8 December 2010) . . Page.. 5980 ..

The commission is the expert body being tasked to undertake this activity, consistent with its functions under section 6 of the Gambling and Racing Control Act, and the whole purpose is to remove the conflicts faced by the industry. In the government’s view, it would not be appropriate for any board providing advice on problem gambling to be primarily represented by members of the gambling industry.

MS HUNTER (Ginninderra—Parliamentary Convenor, ACT Greens) (4.18): I will also speak to Mr Smyth’s amendments in one go. First of all, I will address some issues. Really, what Mr Smyth was arguing for earlier was a do nothing approach. That is just not acceptable when we have the amount of research we do on the impacts of problem gambling. Waving around the ANU study as though it changed the situation out there is just ridiculous nonsense, Mr Smyth. That ANU study showed that there is an issue out there. It showed those who were “in risk”, if you like, and then it showed an “at risk” number of people. It is a significant number. Those people who are at risk are going to have a very high chance of developing some particular issue with gambling and also seeking assistance of gambling services. So to say suddenly that this number has gone from 6,000 down to a much smaller number is simply not the case at all.

The Greens will not be supporting Mr Smyth’s amendment to reduce the amount to 0.5 per cent. To further reduce the amount of money given to problem gambling, I believe, is just not acceptable. The last time we debated this, the Canberra Liberals said there was more money needed for research and information. We now have that information, as I said, in the ANU prevalence study. The study confirms the significance of the problems and highlights the importance of providing critical intervention services. Given that the most common catalyst for accessing help is serious contemplation of suicide, it is quite appalling that the Canberra Liberals would want to reduce even further the amount of money being provided for these services.

As to the gaming advisory board, the Greens do not agree with this amendment to appoint a board to advise the commissioner. Five of the six people who are proposed for this gaming advisory board are people from the gambling industry. I just do not understand what it is in the skills that they would bring along. In fact, I support Mr Barr’s argument that, in fact, it could create considerable conflicts of interest.

The commissioner’s existing functions include addressing gambling problems. It is the Greens’ view that the ordinary procurement process, leaving the ultimate decision to the commissioner, is sufficient. I remind members that the bill includes the requirement that the commissioner, through the annual report process—that is, the annual reports that come to the Assembly—will need to account for exactly how that fund is administered and who it goes to. So it adds a higher degree of transparency and accountability into the process—something that I think is needed.

As to the inclusion of community contributions—that this amount be included in the community contributions—I strenuously disagree with this proposal. Money that comes from gaming machines and goes back to help problem gamblers and their families and loved ones is not a community contribution. It is a reparation for the harm that is being done. To seek to characterise it in any other way is disingenuous.

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