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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 3 Hansard (24 March) . . Page.. 731 ..

MR RUGENDYKE (11.31): Mr Speaker, it is clear to me that at the heart of this issue are poker machines. When the casino was granted its exclusive 20-year licence, it was under the provision that it would not have poker machines. The casino went into this arrangement with open eyes. Since then the casino has made no secret of its desire to have poker machines on its premises. Whether the casino should or should not have poker machines is not what we should be debating here today. The issue here is the process the casino is pursuing to get poker machines on its premises.

The Chief Minister has the power to degazette an area of the casino to enable the casino to rent space to a club. This is clearly a loophole. The public perception is that poker machines are being pushed through the back door. It is true that an area of the casino has already been degazetted to allow an ACTTAB outlet to operate. But the casino's exclusive licence was not granted on the provision that it would not have a TAB. The licence was granted under the provision that it would not have poker machines.

I certainly do not believe that it is good government to create the perception that poker machines are now being shuffled in through the back door. If the Government or anyone else feels it is time the casino should have poker machines, let us have the debate. Let us do it properly, rather than having this messy situation of exploiting a loophole to circumvent a clear provision of the casino's licence.

Mr Kaine rightly points out that this is an anomaly that should be fixed. Since coming into the Assembly I have had concerns about this loophole. I asked a series of questions in this chamber last year about the proposal to set up a club in the casino. I believe that this Bill is a step towards allaying my concerns. One aspect of Mr Kaine's Bill that I am not happy with is the retrospectivity implicated in the inclusion of the commencement date of 10 March. I foreshadow that I will be proposing an amendment to delete the date from the Bill. Based on that amendment, I will be supporting the Bill.

MR KAINE (11.35), in reply: In concluding the debate on this matter, I will address some of the things raised by members this morning. The first question that I think needs to be addressed is this question of conflict of interest and people abstaining or not abstaining from the debate. This debate is not about poker machines. It is not about licensing for clubs. It is merely a question of whether or not a provision of the Act that allows the Chief Minister to act unilaterally and without any debate at all should stand. It has long been the principle adopted in this place that that kind of unfettered ministerial decision-making is not acceptable, and we have moved many times to place ministerial decisions under the scrutiny of this place by making them disallowable instruments. That is what this Bill is about.

If we want to have a debate about whether or not a club licence should be issued for part of the premises of the casino or whether gaming machines ought to be in there, that is a debate further downstream, at another time, in another place, because the circumstances are not at the point yet where that decision needs to be addressed. The Chief Minister has told us that she does not yet have before her for approval or consideration a proposal to excise a piece of floor space from the casino. I can only assume that no application

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