Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (25 June) . . Page.. 2447 ..
MR QUINLAN (continuing):
A lot of the debate in this place seems to be based on the presumption that poker machines are bad. I think that that is really coming from one side of the argument, instead of taking a more objective position. I am sorry, I do not think that the government could support this legislation.
MS DUNDAS(11.23): Mr Speaker, the ACT Democrats will be supporting today the bill presented by Ms Tucker. This bill makes a minor change to the Gaming Machine Act to include some of the social issues that are pertinent to considering the location of poker machines in licensed clubs. This small change means that when the Gambling and Racing Commission considers whether to grant a poker machine licence to a registered club, it will take into account the same considerations as those for a hotel or tavern.
In particular, this bill will allow the commission to take into account the nature or character of the premises and the general use of the premises or enjoyment of people using the premises. These considerations already apply to premises with a general licence or an on-licence.
In the particular case of the Belconnen pool, I understand from Ms Tucker's office that, while part of the pool complex has been granted a poker machine licence, it has actually been allocated zero poker machines. This odd situation has been brought about by the fact that the commission is unable to refuse a licence if the minimum criteria are met, so its only means of preventing unsuitable venues attaining machines is to allocate them a zero.
An amendment like this one may assist the commission in deciding where machines should be located by widening the grounds for consideration. However, it does remain unclear whether it would be of any help in the particular case of the Belconnen pool. For the time being, no poker machines have been allocated there, though the venue's owners may seek to have that decision appealed against.
From speaking briefly on this bill to the Gambling and Racing Commission, there seemed to be some concern about the definition of "premises"that will be applied in this situation and whether that will mean only the licensed area or an entire building. It is possible that a word like "precinct"would be preferable to the term "premises". However, in discussions with Ms Tucker's office, they have argued that there are examples of the word "premises"being used to describe the whole building. I will take that at face value in the absence of further information.
I would like to point out that that is one of the many anomalies in the Gaming Machine Act, which continues to be in desperate need of reform. The bill we are debating today is but one of three bills before the Assembly that make amendments to the Gaming Machine Act. This results from the ongoing incapacity of the government to produce any decent reform package. In general, as I have said repeatedly, I would like to see the government produce a comprehensive reform package to address all of these issues simultaneously, not simply look at one bit at a time in a quite haphazard and piecemeal fashion.