Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2005 Week 03 Hansard (Wednesday, 9 March 2005) . . Page.. 769 ..
I return to the question of why it is so. We were first alerted to the issue by an item in the December edition of the ClubsACT newsletter, called “Smoking bans—the domino effect”. The article made the point that the legislation was a concern for clubs, although they would work with it, and that “unenclosed space” was a bit of a grey area, but they had agreement on a guideline—in effect, the 75:25 rule—which they could live with. That item was accompanied by a graph showing a drop in Victorian gaming revenue and revenue growth following the introduction of a ban on smoking in Victorian gaming rooms. So the club industry in the ACT sees a link between less smoking and lower gaming revenue.
I remind the Assembly that in 2003, 22 problem gambling services in New South Wales united in a call precisely for smoke-free gaming venues for two reasons. It would ensure that smokers who have a problem with poker machines—pokies are the biggest site for problem gambling, especially among older people—at least get a break from their machines when they want a smoke. A break is a key harm-minimisation strategy for people with gambling problems; so that would be good. It would also ensure that consistent pokie players, who statistically smoke lots of cigarettes, actually smoke less. That would be good, too.
It has been established that if you retain contact with your machine by having it in view when you smoke, or perhaps by having the machines outside in an unenclosed place, then you will gamble more. I can see no moral reason to encourage this link between poker machines and cigarettes. Whilst I understand that clubs, like all businesses, want to maximise their income, I think that the obvious welfare and health benefits of losing smoking in gaming and drinking venues outweighs the marginal private profitability that comes from keeping people gambling and smoking.
Given that the health minister is unable to provide us with any health-based arguments for the 75:25 rule and that it is likely to have an exponentially greater adverse impact on the health of staff and patrons, we can be forgiven for assuming that the rule is now just a sop to the clubs. Of course, it may be that individuals might choose to smoke, drink and gamble less; they really might. There is a fug we get into with drinking and smoking and with drinking, smoking and gambling. It may that the business is built up around the dangerous end of that form of social behaviour.
For a whole number of health and wellbeing indicators, it would be good to move away from that kind of alcohol and tobacco indulgence. It does not make us wowsers if we choose a healthier outcome. The Minister for Health must be being derelict in his duties if he is proposing a regulation that cannot be defended on health grounds.
As for the proposed amendment to my motion, it is very much just a description of the situation as it applies. It does not address our concerns. I am very disappointed that in this case the government is refusing to listen to the health concerns of constituents and that it is not willing to address those. I am very interested in hearing what the health minister has to say. I am looking forward to hearing the health evidence on which this regulation is based. I will speak to that later in wrapping up.
MR CORBELL (Molonglo—Minister for Health and Minister for Planning) (12.09): Mr Speaker, the government will not be supporting the motion in the form it is in today