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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 4 Hansard (22 April) . . Page.. 1125 ..

MS CARNELL (continuing):

Given the circumstances, the Government believes it is necessary to introduce this Bill. Under the Bill there are two categories of community contribution. The first, category A, covers contributions made to assist in improving the living standards of low-income or disadvantaged people or improving community welfare in the Territory. The second, category B, covers contributions that contribute to the development and support of the social fabric of the community. This may include assistance to sport or other recreational activities.

Mr Speaker, currently a gaming machine licensee is required to keep a record of all contributions donated to a charitable organisation or for a charitable purpose during a financial year. However, from 1 July 1999, these records will now also include details of category A and category B community contributions. Licensed clubs will be required to report to the Commissioner for ACT Revenue on revenue received and contributions made in each category. The Minister will be able to set guidelines determining whether a contribution qualifies under category A or category B. The level of community contribution for both categories is set in the legislation, initially at a total of 5 per cent of net gaming machine revenue, with this being increased to 7.5 per cent over a three-year period. At 5 per cent, the minimum contribution represents $3.9m for the industry, compared to the current level of $9.4m reported by the clubs. This means that the industry as a whole still has sufficient funds to contribute to other activities outside the guidelines, such as business associations.

A licensee may contribute more than the minimum determined percentage of net gaming machine revenue on category A, thus reducing the amount required to be contributed on category B. This provides flexibility to club contributions, yet maintains the priority on donations to charity and welfare groups. Club licensees must satisfy the commissioner that the required level of contributions has been made on each category's activities over the financial year. Any shortfall will result in the imposition on the club licensee of a tax at the rate of 100 per cent of the shortfall. Revenue received from this tax will be paid by the commissioner to the community services grants program fund, administered by the Department of Education and Community Services, for allocation to community projects. Non-payment of the shortfall tax may result in the suspension or cancellation of a gaming machine licence.

Mr Speaker, the Government recognises that there are several small clubs, such as ethnic clubs, which provide a valuable service to members but may not be in a position to contribute to the general public. To lessen any adverse impact that the new requirements may have on the viability of these small clubs, the commissioner will have the discretion to provide full or partial exemption to clubs whose gross gaming machine revenue is less than $200,000 where the circumstances justify exemption.

In conclusion, I believe this legislation will enhance the level of commitment by clubs to the general community. This legislation has been put together quite categorically to ensure that the monopoly clubs enjoy on poker machines produces a significantly greater benefit for charity and welfare organisations - in other words, to ensure that an increased amount of money goes to those less well off in the community. I find it very difficult to understand why those opposite are already interjecting. They usually support - or say they support - people who are less well off. It is an absolute mystery to me.

Debate (on motion by Mr Quinlan ) adjourned.

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