Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2003 Week 14 Hansard (10 December) . . Page.. 5175 ..
MS DUNDAS (continuing):
most to ensure compliance with the requirements of the act. If the government did its job then this would not be an issue.
However, the government has delayed any action, watered down recommendations by the commission and tried to fob off the evidence of problem gambling in the ACT. In fact, the Treasurer has become a gambling promoter. He stood up in his chamber and said what a wonderful and entertaining pastime gambling was. However, there are many other industries in the ACT that are regulated in similar ways, such as the sex industry, X-rated videos, smoking and fireworks. I would like to see the Treasurer stand and spruik for these industries as well. I want to know why they were not all mentioned in the economic white paper.
When coming into office, the Labor government threw out the previous recommendations of the Gambling and Racing Commission and ordered the commission to do it again. The government then sat on the commission's report for several months and released it just before Christmas. Then, after releasing the report, the government took even longer to provide a response and we are still waiting for legislative change from the government. When will it come? We have extended the gaming machine cap three times now, waiting for the government to get its act together, and we still have not had word about when we are going to see legislation. Perhaps this is something that we will have to wait for until another election.
Given the delays, the public promotion of gambling, the government's ardent protection of the club monopoly over poker machines, the proposal to lift current restrictions on political donations and the continuing government addiction to poker machine taxes, I can understand the view of many in the community that the Labor government is compromised on the issue of poker machine regulation. There is a widespread view that government revenues are so dependent on poker machines that the government will not take any action needed to curtail problem gambling. This is to the detriment of thousands of Canberrans.
I have pointed out the statistics of problem gambling numerous times in this Assembly, but I want to repeat them just one more time. The ACT has the highest number of poker machines, per capita, in Australia. The survey of the nature and extent of problem gambling in the ACT found that there were over 5,000 problem gamblers in the territory, and each of these was likely to negatively affect 10 other people. More than a third of gambling revenue is contributed by problem gamblers, equalling around $75 million each year of problem gambling expenditure in the ACT.
I am therefore appalled that this government, or the Treasurer, would promote an industry that relies on addicts to contribute nearly 40 per cent of its income. I am quite ashamed that the government has watered down the recommendations of the Gambling and Racing Commission, which were pretty moderate to begin with. There is understandable anger that the government will not act to reduce problem gambling. The fact that hundreds of thousands of dollars are going to political parties leads people to believe that this revenue is compromising the political process.
At this point, I want to address some of the points the Treasurer made in his oration. He has seen fit to bring up payments to the federal wing of the Australian Democrats by some companies involved in the gambling industry. I am quite happy to acknowledge