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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (24 August) . . Page.. 2269 ..

MR QUINLAN (10.54): Mr Speaker, when we first received this Bill, we were reasonably satisfied with its structure. We were somewhat concerned about the minimal size of the board and therefore its capacity to incorporate representation both from the racing industry and from the gaming or club industry. Otherwise, we were generally comfortable with the Bill. Since that time we have received Ms Tucker's general discussion paper on amendments she wishes to make. Generally, we do not see any major problem with those amendments either. They recognise and take into account the recent revelations in relation to gambling and the impacts of gambling on society. However, we would make some minor changes to one or two of those amendments, but we will discuss those when the amendments have hit the table. Generally, we are in support of setting up a commission and in support of most of the terms and conditions of the legislation.

MR WOOD (10.56): Mr Speaker, I want to make some very general comments at this in-principle stage, and in particular to point out the sound basis of the report of the ACT Select Committee on Gambling. There was some criticism from various sources when the committee's report came down, but the fact is that the general thrust of that report is entirely consistent with the thrust of the report of the Productivity Commission. The commission report, of course, had enormous resources behind it - a vast array of people, very extensive research, all sorts of examinations - enabling a very close scrutiny of what was going on in gambling in Australia. Although we brought our report down with our extraordinarily poor resources - I think they were very good resources in terms of people, but we were very limited in what we could do - the general thrust was the same.

There is a problem with gambling in Australia, and I think that problem has generally been unrecognised. It has now been brought to the attention of the ACT by virtue of our committee's report and to the attention of the nation by the Productivity Commission report. I know, as I said when our report came down, that I had not appreciated the problem. I had paid little attention to poker machines over the years. They had been part of the fabric of our society, and I was not aware how insidious they could be and how incrementally they had expanded both in number and in the ability to take in money very quickly and therefore create problems.

The days when we knew that some people had a problem with betting on racehorses and other things are history. That is not the significant problem in this day and age. The significant problem that has emerged is the problem of people who use the very good resources provided by our clubs. A small proportion of those people have trouble coping with poker machines. They play the machines for a whole variety of reasons. It may be just out of boredom or loneliness. There are problems inherent in poker machines, and it is important that we focus on those problems. We will be doing part of that in this debate today. Ms Tucker, with her amendments, will be taking on the various other proposals that are coming through.

Ms Carnell: What amendments? We do not have any amendments.

MR WOOD: I believe there are some.

Ms Carnell: Do you have them? No.

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