Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 05 Hansard (Thursday, 11 May 2017) . . Page.. 1677 ..
continue to work to ensure that we have a robust suite of harm reduction measures in place.
I note the importance of the place of community clubs and the invaluable contribution they make to the social fabric of Canberra, but this is not ultimately the point of this motion on the impact of problem gambling today. And so I am pleased to support the original motion and oppose the amendment.
MS LE COUTEUR (Murrumbidgee) (11.51): I rise today to support the motion put forward by my colleague Mr Rattenbury and to thank him for bringing this important issue to the Assembly. The figures Mr Rattenbury has quoted in his speech are not new; they should not be surprising, but they are a powerful reminder of the harm that poker machines can cause to a vulnerable group of people in our community. The Greens believe that a business model that relies on revenue from problem gambling is a broken business model, and we want to support clubs and our community to move away from poker machines and to start taking addictive gambling seriously.
The ACT currently has 16.2 poker machines per 1,000 adults, the highest rates of all states and territories in Australia, and the harm they cause individuals, families and communities is real. It is pleasing to see that the number of licences has decreased since the introduction of the trading scheme in August 2015, with the latest stats showing 4,569 machines in operation, down from 5,022. However, 4,985 gaming machine authorisations are still active, and this number has not decreased significantly over recent years.
It is important that the government ensures that the number of poker machines will continue to decrease, including through the use of compulsory acquisitions. I understand the attorney has indicated that phase 2 of the trading scheme will commence later this year, and the Greens of course look forward to hearing more details about how this will be delivered.
I am supporting this motion because it recognises that there is so much more we need to be doing in this space. It is difficult to imagine that anyone who has listened to Laurie’s or Kate’s stories could not have been moved by them. They both show great courage to speak out so publicly on such a private matter, and those stories have been the driver for the public conversation we needed to have.
Personal stories are important because they are a powerful reminder of the social, physical and mental effects of problem gambling occurring in our community today, undoubtedly at this minute. We know that for every person with a gambling problem, between five and 10 others also experience serious consequences, including emotional distress, relationship breakdown and financial difficulties. This problem affects many people across our community, and Laurie’s and Kate’s stories show that our current regulations do not do enough to protect people from harm.
While Mr Rattenbury has outlined the key elements of the motion, I would like to take this opportunity to add a few more comments about the social impact assessment process and why it is important that it be amended. I note with thanks the attorney’s comment that this is something he will be working on in the second half of this year.