Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1998 Week 8 Hansard (27 October) . . Page.. 2286 ..
MR MOORE (Minister for Health and Community Care) (3.45): Mr Quinlan's speech is the first chink that I have seen in the armour of the Labor Party in terms of their protection of clubs, and I must say I welcome that. I think this is one of the few occasions on which we have seen what Mr Stanhope promised that we would see, a new and open-minded Labor Party.
This report really puts a lie to the claim that the reason for this tax holiday, this tax break, for clubs is the contribution they make to the community and the contribution they make to charity. The truth is, Mr Speaker, that businesses such as hotels and others who seek to have gaming machines actually make a far greater contribution to the community, because there is no business that runs successfully that does not pay well over 25 per cent in tax. In other words, 25 per cent of their income goes into the community. Yet, Mr Speaker, the clubs have been on a tax holiday for many, many years as far as this sort of revenue goes. So, Mr Quinlan, I welcome your offer of an approach. It is something that we ought to consider generally and say, "It simply is not good enough".
We are all significantly surprised by what we see in this report. I have been reasonably critical of clubs, but my perception was that their contribution to charity, their contribution to community and their contribution to sport was far greater than what we see here. We have an opportunity now, and I hope we can do it on a non-partisan basis, to say, "Yes, we do want a reasonable contribution to the community". A reasonable contribution to the community should be one that is on parity with the taxation level. Each and every one of us within the community pays our fair share in taxation.
Mr Berry: No, we don't; not each and every one of us.
MR MOORE: I take Mr Berry's interjection because he is right. There are some people, particularly the very wealthy, who do not pay their fair share. But, in the ACT, the vast majority of people pay their contribution. I take your point, Mr Berry. I think it is appropriate for us to work with the licensed clubs and to ask them what their contribution will be. What will they do, as a fair contribution to the community? If we do not get a sensible outcome they should be put on the same basis as any other business within the ACT.
This report also highlights for us, Mr Speaker, an issue for the select committee that is looking into gambling. I particularly draw this report to their attention because it is clear from this report that the tax breaks the clubs have had have not come back to the community. I have been saying that we need to provide a more equitable situation for hotels as far as gaming machines go. Remember, there are a number of categories of gaming machines and there was an entirely inappropriate restriction.
It is interesting, Mr Speaker, that the tax break that the clubs get is primarily from the Commonwealth. They do not pay, effectively, company tax or income tax. It seems to me that, having created this privileged monopoly, as we have in the first place, we should expect a reasonable return to the community. There is a whole series of ways of doing this. With regard to Mr Quinlan's offer, I think we can get together and say, "Okay, clubs, what is the best way to ensure that you are delivering to communities?".