Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 2017 Week 09 Hansard (Tuesday, 22 August 2017) . . Page.. 3072 ..
bleeding of support from the clubs sector. As our own Mr Hanson described the policy at the time, it is “a big electoral bribe designed to cause friction and divide and conquer”.
The Canberra Liberals believe this is not a genuine attempt at helping clubs to diversify away from gaming revenue. There is no accountability for how this rebate is used or applied; it is just a free handout, with the majority going to Labor-friendly clubs. And we are talking about an enormous gift here. The budget papers tell us, as I mentioned, that over the forward estimates the government intends to gift $5.3 million of forgone revenue straight back to clubs that it says are addicted to gaming revenue. I am not sure that increasing the supply of an addictive drug will help the addict to kick the habit. Eighty-five per cent of this rebate goes to just three clubs, two of which have been key players in the government’s attempts to fracture the clubs traditional peak body, and this is no coincidence. I am most disappointed that the Greens cannot see this aspect of the amendment bill for what it is.
I dare say we would be supporting a formal scheme whereby clubs could apply for LBC relief on specific projects that would genuinely lead to diversification. I dare say we would be supporting an extension of the small clubs grant scheme with a much higher cap than the current $10,000. I dare say we would be supporting a fairer rejig of the current gaming tax brackets to more evenly distribute the tax breaks across the board and to genuinely help clubs to diversify. But we cannot support this.
It is fascinating that we have got the small clubs grants scheme, which I know is not technically included in this bill but certainly accompanies it. The small clubs must go through an exhaustive process of applying for the grant and providing copious amounts of information to support how they intend to spend the money. So we have a case where some clubs have to jump through multiple hoops to get $10,000 whereas some other clubs do not have to; there are no checks and balances for them to secure millions of dollars. We just cannot support this.
I know we will hear from Mr Rattenbury. He will tell us that he does not want to rock the boat. He will tell us that he is convinced that these three clubs will be spending the money on genuine diversification. But I think it is clear that the Greens, as is usually the case, are just going to be prepared to look the other way while this government does whatever it likes to do with ratepayers’ money. I implore them, even at this late stage, to reconsider. We will be vehemently opposing clause 13.
MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (11.26): The Greens will be supporting the Gaming Machine Amendment Bill because we believe it provides small and medium clubs with an opportunity to diversify their business models and decrease their reliance on poker machine revenue. The Greens have long said that a business model that relies on revenue from problem gambling is a broken business model, and we want to support our community clubs to move away from poker machines and start taking addictive gambling seriously. This bill provides an opportunity for a more diversified club sector, and I hope those clubs that are eligible will use this additional revenue to invest in assets and activities that will benefit their local communities.