Page 1678 - Week 05 - Thursday, 11 May 2017

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At this year’s annual reports hearings I asked some questions about the social impact assessment process. Through this questioning I was informed of an application by the Mawson Club for an increase to the number of its poker machine licences. My office contacted the commission to seek a copy of the social impact assessment, but my staff were told that SIAs could only be viewed in person at the Gambling and Racing Commission offices during business hours and that no copies or photos of this material could be taken away from the viewing. This seems like something out of the 1970s, or maybe the idea is just to make sure that getting involved is actually all but impossible. Clearly the process lacks transparency and needs to be amended.

As an MLA I found this process difficult to navigate, and I can only imagine how inaccessible it must be for other members of the community. It is really not surprising then that it is very rare for the commission to receive requests to view these applications. I suspect it is equally uncommon for community members to make submissions through public consultations since the whole process is completely hidden and unpublicised.

The Greens believe applications for additional poker machines should be treated similarly to development applications and given at least a similar level of scrutiny. In addition to publishing applications online, there should be a requirement to notify nearby residents of such proposals. Additionally, the social impact assessments should remain online and available after the consultation period closes so they can be compared and used for research purposes. It would be really interesting to be able to see what a club said was going to be the impact of adding more pokies with what actually did happen in a few years’ time.

Although the process was difficult, we were able to put in a submission about the Mawson Club’s application and also the Raiders in Belconnen. We did not receive any formal notification about the outcome, and this, of course, is another element of the process that could and should be improved. We would expect that anyone who makes a submission to this process should receive formal notification of the outcome, as is the case with development applications. However, in this case we proactively contacted the commission last week and found out that the Mawson Club’s application for additional poker machines has been refused. That is a real win for the Woden community.

Back in February I was very disappointed to hear that the Mawson Club’s response to its revenue problem was to resort to more of the same: more pokies and thus more community harm. As one of the members for Murrumbidgee I am acutely aware that the people of Woden are already losing double the amount of money on poker machines compared to the territory average. It is frankly irresponsible to pump more poker machines into a community that is already struggling with the effects of gambling harm. This is where social impact assessments can reflect the views and needs of our community, and improved transparency and much better notification are two of the ways we can achieve this.

Both my experience with accessing the social impact assessments and Laurie’s experience with accessing cash through EFTPOS machines provide clear examples of

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