Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2018 Week 09 Hansard (Thursday, 23 August 2018) . . Page.. 3529 ..
strong enforcement in cases where significant gambling harm has resulted. I know that the government, through Minister Ramsay, is working on a package of reforms to help improve the gaming code of conduct, and I look forward to seeing the outcomes of that work.
The Greens are also pleased to have secured a series of commitments to reducing harm from gaming in the parliamentary agreement, including reducing the number of poker machines down to 4,000, increasing the problem gambling assistance fund levy, and the consideration of harm-minimisation measures such as mandatory pre-commitment and bet limits.
This is a reflection of the government’s commitment to taking this issue seriously, and I certainly welcome the statement made by the minister this morning in which he has outlined in greater detail the plans to practically move to that point of reducing the number of licences for poker machines in the ACT to 4,000 and the other measures associated with that package.
Unfortunately, we have seen from recent events that our current system is not yet adequately set up to protect people from gambling harm. We do not currently have the mechanisms to ensure that strong action is taken against those who are not compliant with the code of conduct. If there are not appropriate penalties in those cases where we see such significant harm, then the commission cannot meet its objectives of taking meaningful action and ensuring compliance with the legislation.
I know this is an issue many Canberrans feel strongly about, and I look forward to seeing changes before the Assembly in the near future. We only have to look at the Laurie Brown case and how fiercely that penalty was fought against to understand that putting real penalties in place has serious consequences and that people actually stand up and take notice.
We have already spoken about the importance of the community contributions scheme in this place over recent weeks and days so I will only briefly touch on this issue. As the Auditor-General’s report made clear, the administration of the scheme needs to be improved with clearer definitions for what are community contributions, and better auditing of those payments by the commission. The Greens want to see the scheme made more transparent to ensure that it is maximising benefit for the Canberra community.
I support the minister’s announcement that the clubs will retain control of the current eight per cent of revenue under the scheme because it is important that clubs are still able to support local sports teams and community groups. We also support the expansion of the scheme to allocate an additional amount to a centralised fund so we can expand the reach of the scheme to other community groups that are not currently accessing it.
I know there has been a lot of feedback through the recent consultation process, and this has been taken on board. I believe we have an opportunity to find a balanced outcome that recognises the benefits of the current model, improves current processes, and broadens the scheme’s benefits to even more community groups.