Page 2109 - Week 07 - Tuesday, 21 June 2005

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I think Mr Stefaniak used the figure of $6 million. You will notice that the clubs that are claiming a decline in revenue are starting now to talk about the gross number that was lost and not the percentage turnover that has been lost. Because, without a return to the previous levels, there has been something of a normalisation in more recent months in terms of poker machine take. The argument is starting to lose a little of its impact.

In relation to the figure that we have set in our budget for the out years, giving clubs time to digest the changes that we have made, including the change that I think society is imposing, and that is the banning of smoking in closed places, public places, if they pay that additional figure, they will be still paying the lowest rate of tax on poker machines in Australia, equal to that paid in Victoria even after one takes into account the compulsory community contributions that we impose upon them. Since the time that we have set that figure, I notice that Victoria has now levied the owners of poker machines, Tattersalls and Tabcorp, significantly, which is likely to flow through to the premises that operate poker machines. This means that the ACT will return to being the lowest, clearly, by itself, the lowest regime in Australia, including the requirement for the community contributions.

I have said in the debate, and I am happy to say it in this house, that the Labor Party’s policy of containing, in the main, poker machines to clubs is based on the role that clubs play in the community and the contribution they make to the community. So it follows in logic that, if clubs reduce their contribution to the community and effectively become entities that just want to survive because they were there yesterday—the negative entropy I think it was called when I studied cybernetics a thousand years ago—if they do reduce their contribution to the community, then it follows that the rationale behind their monopoly, the only monopoly, I think, in Australia, other than the Western Australian situation where it is only the casino, they weaken the argument for retention of that monopoly.

We should understand the way clubs are operating now. You can go to my little club at Weston, the Weston Labor Club, on a Thursday night and buy a schooner of VB for $2.80, which will cost you $3.40 or $3.60 in a pub, and you can buy a sirloin steak for $8.90. It is not as if there is not some room to move in relation to how clubs operate and it is not difficult to divine from those figures that they have a competitive advantage by the fact that they own poker machines and they are in fact delivering a considerable slice of what they are taking from a portion of their members in poker machines to the rest of their members and not necessarily to the wider community.

In the overall context I believe that clubs in the ACT do a fantastic job. Due to the way the town has evolved over many years, our community collectively is probably more reliant on the club structure than communities elsewhere other than, say, country towns in New South Wales. I think that would be about it. I think we need to keep in perspective where clubs do sit and the advantages that accrue to them. They have had over the last eight or 10 years a tremendous advantage and a tremendous growth in the level of revenue that they have taken because of the changing technology of machines. The technology that takes money from people through poker machines has advanced tremendously over the last few years. You can have 15 line bets and so many units per bet. You can skip through 50 bucks in no time flat with the current technology, and we

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