Page 2107 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 June 2015
The clubs industry in this town is a great industry. Clubs started because we did not have the traditional pub culture that the other cities have. They were built on the sweat and hard work of men and women devoted to their sport, their religion, their brass band, their pipe band, their heritage, their culture or whatever. They deserve better than we are offering them today. What they get out of this is the spectre hanging over their head of Joy Burch, at a whim, changing everything. That is not a pleasant thought, but that is what this is. This will come down to, yet again, ministerial discretion. We saw that discretion earlier this year in January when everything went to pieces very, very quickly. Our clubs, their patrons and their members deserve better than what this government is offering today.
MR RATTENBURY (Molonglo) (4.40): The ACT has too many poker machines. That is the bottom line of this discussion. That is what this debate is about today. The last numbers I saw, there were about 4,900 of them. That is about 900 more than the legislated cap of 4,000. As far as I am aware, the ACT has been in breach of that cap ever since it was legislated, and that is because there has been no mechanism to lower the number of machines. The government has instead relied on clubs to voluntarily surrender them, and this obviously did not occur in significant numbers. I will be supporting this bill because it finally provides a mechanism by which the territory can begin to wind back the number of machines in our community.
This bill sets up a two-phase approach to the reduction of gaming machines. Phase 1 involves a trading scheme whereby clubs are able to trade gaming machines between licensees. Trades will be in groups of four machines at a time and for each four machines traded, one machine will be forfeited to the government. I understand that Minister Burch has a commitment from the clubs industry to quarantine between 200 and 400 machines during phase 1. The quarantine will involve removing machines from the gaming floor for a period of no less than 12 months and potentially longer.
Phase 2 will commence no later than three years after the commencement of phase 1. Phase 2 will replace the current unsuccessful cap of 4,000 machines with a population-based ratio of 15 machines per 1,000 adults. If the number of gaming machines in the community exceeds this ratio at the start of phase 2, the government will compulsorily acquire machines from larger gaming venues until the ratio is met.
Members are aware of the current public accounts committee inquiry into the future of the clubs industry. The submission provided by the Canberra Southern Cross Club speculated that there would be little appetite for trading, and I will be interested to see which way this plays out. Either way, phase 2 provides a mechanism to reduce the number of machines should it be necessary in the face of lacklustre trading.
This goes to the very issues that Mr Smyth has just used every single second of his 20 minutes to reiterate time and again, as is his wont. This is, in fact, quite a clear and laid out plan. The minister has undertaken considerable consultation with the clubs industry. They have been significantly involved in the development of this legislation. To sit here and give us an entire dissertation on how this provides no certainty, when I have been able to spell it out quite quickly in a lot less than the full 20 minutes that Mr Smyth took to try and muddy the waters—