Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2002 Week 5 Hansard (7 May) . . Page.. 1200 ..
MR HUMPHRIES (continuing):
a number of quite interesting options for the future use of poker machines. I look forward to having a full debate about those ideas when the time comes.
In the meantime, until that report is on the table, until there has been debate in this place, and until the community has had a chance to have its say on the matter, it would be inappropriate to relax the cap that is already in place. Therefore a further extension of the cap at 5,200 machines by 12 months is entirely appropriate, and it has the support of the Liberal opposition.
MS TUCKER (11.26): We, of course, support the extension of the cap on the number of poker machines in the ACT. When I introduced this cap, it was to stop the number of machines increasing beyond the number that existing licence owners were apparently dependent upon, while we did the work required to understand the impacts, the best ways to regulate, and how to prevent harm occurring.
The Gambling and Racing Commission is in the midst of that work, and currently it is looking at questions such as what kinds of organisations should be allowed to have gaming machines. It is looking at international, national and local research on the impacts of such machines, and on what problem gamblers themselves say would help them. So there is a process in place, and it makes sense to retain the cap until these questions are resolved. It is the "do no harm" philosophy.
In 1999, the Productivity Commission found that the ACT had the highest number of gaming machines per head of population in Australia. Research into problem gambling in the ACT last year found that a high proportion of people with gambling problems earn a low income: 46 per cent of problem gamblers earn less than $25,000 a year. Obviously, losing money on gambling has a greater impact on low income earners, because they have less to lose in the first place, so it is still a serious issue for our community. Recently, Lifeline expanded its capacity to counsel people with gambling problems, and I understand that that capacity is already filled.
Future options for the cap itself are also part of the Gambling and Racing Commission's current policy discussions. These discussions are at a very early stage, and I have few details as yet. The Productivity Commission's report of 1999 looked into the effectiveness of different forms of caps as longer term harm-minimisation measures, so there is a body of work out there the continued development of which the Greens fully support.
Discussions also include the appropriate regulation of the expenditure of gaming machine revenue, and categories for community contributions. It may well be that we want to lower the cap after this work has been done, and of course that always has to be an option that people will consider. With these brief comments, I record the Greens' support for this extension of the cap, and for the process in which the commission is currently engaged to grapple with the problem.
MS DUNDAS(11.29): I rise to add the support of the Australian Democrats to this extension of the cap for the number of gaming machines in the ACT. The Australian Democrats' approach to gambling is one of harm minimisation. We try to weigh up personal freedoms and public good, and normally the middle ground does indeed point to harm minimisation. I have advocated this approach in other areas, such as sexual health,