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Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 7 Hansard (26 June) . . Page.. 2559 ..


(12.19): Mr Speaker, I would like to speak on these two clauses. The ACT Democrats are very concerned about the increasing reliance of the ACT budget on revenues obtained from problem gamblers. Before the delivery of the budget we publicly called on the Treasurer not to become addicted to gambling taxes. However, in this instance we do acknowledge that this change is driven by federal government policy.

On Tuesday of this week, along with Democrat Senator Lyn Allison, I called on the federal government to reform Commonwealth-state funding arrangements so the ACT can reduce its dependence on gambling revenue and take the lead on tackling problem gambling. Senator Allison introduced the following motion in the Senate:

That the Senate

notes that the effect of the Commonwealth Grants Commission system is to encourage States or Territories to increase revenues from gambling and gaming ...

calls upon the Commonwealth to help break the nexus between State and Territory revenue needs and gaming; and

asks the Government to ensure that the Commonwealth Grants Commission ensure that none of its determinations have the effect of encouraging increased State or Territory reliance on gambling and gaming.

This Democrat motion passed the Senate with ALP support.

Firstly, the Democrats want the Commonwealth to provide supplementary funding to those states and territories whose current gaming revenue is below the Grants Commission target, including the ACT, which is currently 40 per cent below target. Secondly, we want the Commonwealth to develop a funding formula that provides incentives to significantly cut problem gambling but leaves states and territories no worse off.

The federal government currently expects the ACT to raise substantial revenue from gambling to fund basic services. As a result, the ACT government must milk problem gamblers to help balance the budget, and so it is effectively prevented from taking steps to curb problem gambling. The ACT receives less federal money per person than other states because the Commonwealth Grants Commission thinks we should be collecting 40 per cent more gaming revenue than we currently do.

Under current arrangements, if the ACT succeeded in reducing problem gambling we would be left without enough money to pay for education and health services. The federal government is effectively mandating higher tax revenue targets from gambling, making a mockery of the Prime Minister's commitment in 1999 to lead the states in reducing problem gambling. This promise was made after the Productivity Commission found that problem gamblers lost $3 billion a year Australia-wide.

Nationally, problem gamblers represent about 2 per cent of the population but account for a third of gambling losses. Seventy-five per cent of losses by problem gamblers in the ACT are on poker machines. As has been said today in debate, gambling addictions

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