Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .

Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1999 Week 8 Hansard (26 August) . . Page.. 2548 ..

MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):

the ACT. Ms Tucker's amendment makes it clearer that the primary role of the commission, very far from developing the industry, is to focus principally on the risks and costs associated with gambling, particularly problem gambling.

We have specific reference in clause 6A, in talking about how the commission will perform its functions, to a need for it to look at the negative aspects of gambling, if you like. It has to look at consumer protection, which is fair enough, and minimise the possibility of criminal or unethical activity and reduce the risks and costs to the community and to the individuals concerned of problem gambling. As I say, I do not oppose the provision, but it is a further shift of the commission's functions towards focusing on the negative side of gambling. It will have responsibility specifically for looking at reducing the risks associated with problem gambling.

One might ask what would happen if a proposal came before the commission which had both benefits and costs. Let us say that there was some new form of gambling that the commission was supposed to be examining or considering the extension of and it had both those benefits and those costs. Specifically, the commission is required to look at the risks and costs and it is not required to look at the benefits. A person who was aggrieved by the decision could argue in a court that if they gave greater weight to the benefits than to the costs they would actually be in breach of the terms of clause 6A and we can see the commission having to knock back things if there was any downside to them, any aspect of risk or cost.

That is something I put on the table as a matter of concern on the Government's part. We will probably have to suck this one and see. If it results in proposals being challenged on the part of the commission or the commission feeling that it has to reject some proposals on the basis that it has to focus more on risks and costs than on benefits, I think we would have to come back to the Assembly and reconsider what we are doing here. But, having put those concerns on the table, I am content to let the amendment go through.

MS TUCKER (5.14): I would like to respond to that. One thing I want to make quite clear to Mr Humphries is that this commission would not have a policy role. It would be advising the Government and, obviously, political decisions will be made. The reason that this provision is being put in - I will repeat it because it is relevant to this amendment - is that there has been very broad concern in the community that there has not been a focus on consumer protection and any real interest in the cost to society. The reasons that people get into it are pretty clear and the economic implications of those interests, as I have said before, still have not been analysed or understood in terms of the broader economy of a community. In fact, the term used in the United States is "the cannibalisation of the local economy".

Again, the Productivity Commission said in a key finding that the principal operating criteria of the key regulatory control body in each State should be consumer protection and the public interest. The public interest does take into account - and we have got it in there - an analysis of the benefit. I do not think there is a problem because you have within that the ability to look at the benefit if it is about the public interest. That is there in that phrase. Also, as I said, it is always ultimately going to be up to politicians to decide what happens with all this stuff in a society.

Next page . . . . Previous page . . . . Speeches . . . . Contents . . . . Debates(HTML) . . . .