Page 2108 - Week 07 - Thursday, 4 June 2015
Mr Smyth interjecting—
MR RATTENBURY: Mr Smyth was heard in peace, but that is not a courtesy extended to someone like me who, in fact, had their first interjection within about the first 20 seconds of my speech. It says a lot about the personal conduct of those opposite. The point is that I can do it in a lot less than the full 20 minutes that Mr Smyth took to seek to muddy the waters.
I note that the requirement for social impact assessments remains operative regarding the transfer of gaming machines between suburbs, which is an obvious and necessary component of harm minimisation measures.
The bill also introduces a more progressive taxation regime across the clubs industry. I understand the changes are ostensibly revenue neutral to government. However, the tax burden is shifted towards the larger, more profitable clubs. The notion of progressive taxation is something that the Greens would certainly support, particularly in the context of the challenges faced by small clubs in particular. They have brought those to the attention of government and members of this place on more than one occasion.
I also note there are a number of amendments. I will touch briefly on the amendments to be moved by Minister Burch as a result of the scrutiny committee, and I will come to Mr Smyth’s amendments when we get to those in the detail stage of the discussion. The scrutiny committee returned a suite of comments on the bill. Minister Burch has circulated amendments addressing two of the scrutiny committee’s concerns: specifically adding a reasonable steps defence to strict liability offences in proposed subsection 39(1A) in the bill, and tabling a revised explanatory statement to clarify errors in the original draft.
Of perhaps greater interest is the scrutiny committee’s concern regarding the Gambling and Racing Commission’s ability to find that a person is an eligible person under the act notwithstanding that the person does not satisfy eligibility requirements applicable to others. The scrutiny committee finds that provisions in the bill will empower the Gambling and Racing Commission to dispense with the generally applicable rules concerning eligibility in favour of particular individuals and corporations.
I note that Minister Burch’s response to the scrutiny committee points out that the existing act empowers the gambling commission in a similar way. I am not aware of any instances of the commission using this power that have resulted in detriment to the community, so I am happy to let this clause through today. However, I believe the Assembly should remain vigilant in minimising these types of dispensing clauses.
That is some of the detail. Overall, as I touched on in my opening remarks, I believe that this is a positive set of reforms to the Gaming Machine Act in the sense that it will provide an actual mechanism to achieve a reduction in the number of poker machines in the ACT. I think that is a positive thing. I do not think it will come as a surprise to anybody—and I acknowledge the fact—that many of the clubs are now looking to diversify their sources of revenue in recognition of the fact that, as the