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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2541 ..

MS TUCKER (continuing):

(c) to perform functions and exercise powers given to the Commission by this or any other Act.".

This amendment seeks to delete the development function of the commission. The Productivity Commission has argued that the principal operating criteria for regulatory bodies controlling gambling are consumer protection and the public interest. Given how far gambling has extended into the fabric of Australian life, there is no place for the Gaming and Racing Commission to have a role in developing gaming in the ACT. Specific industries, such as racing, already have built-in promotion and development functions. Basically, this amendment is the result of a recommendation of the select committee, and a very strong recommendation at that. It was thought to be appropriate by the majority of witnesses in evidence to the committee.

MR HUMPHRIES (Treasurer, Attorney-General and Minister for Justice and Community Safety) (4.48): Mr Deputy Speaker, in speaking in opposition to Ms Tucker's amendment, I suppose I am speaking in favour of my foreshadowed amendment. The issue here, as Ms Tucker has pointed out, is about the notion of developing the industry. The Government believes that there is a point in developing at least aspects of this industry in the ACT.

The industry is quite important. It represents the basis of employment for several thousand people in the ACT. I believe that it is appropriate to reflect in the terms of reference of the Gambling and Racing Commission that the Assembly sees a role for the development and promotion of the industry in a responsible way by the commission.

When I say "development", obviously I am thinking in an ideal sense of the development of the positive aspects of this industry, if I may use one term to describe what are, in fact, several different and diverse gaming and racing activities. There is much benefit in the industry. There are a large number of activities which I think it is appropriate for the commission to be developing in the sense of developing and providing advice on gambling and racing policy, assisting gambling and racing industries to comply with the regulatory framework and developing responsible approaches to the provision of gambling and racing-related services.

I think it is important to consider the context of this debate in the interpretation of the Act. Ms Tucker has put the view that we should not be developing the industry because it is an industry with, I think she would say, a number of pernicious side effects on the broader community. Gambling is a problem for some in the community. I think she would argue that the spending of very large amounts of money on gambling in the ACT is, per se, a bad thing, that the spending of such large amounts provides for the diversion of money from other things which might be considered more worth while. In that respect, she may have a point from one perspective. But we need to remember that behind that recreational activity there is a very significant number of jobs and there are other economic benefits to the ACT from the existence of those gambling and racing industries in the ACT.

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