Page 3074 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017

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poker machine revenue is not acceptable to the community and is not sustainable going forward. Today’s bill is a good first step as part of a broader and longer term conversation we need to have about diversification and the future of clubs here in Canberra.

At the last election the Greens put forward a transition plan to wean clubs off their reliance on pokies revenue, including tax concessions for those clubs that invest in stronger harm minimisation measures. We also recognise the investments that clubs make in local sporting facilities, such as ovals and bowling greens, and that the cost of maintaining these assets is significant. That is why we proposed a subsidy for water use for community purposes through an extension to the community water abstraction charge. We also support a review of liquor licensing laws that would look at a reduction in licence fees for low-risk venues. These are just some examples of how government could support clubs to be viable without a reliance on gaming revenue.

While today’s bill does not address all of these issues, we are supporting it because we believe it offers an opportunity for clubs to diversify away from poker machines. At the same time, clubs also need to be proactively looking at new opportunities, and I know from my conversations with a number of clubs that this planning has started for some groups. There is benefit in starting a broader conversation with industry groups, unions, the Canberra Business Chamber and other interested stakeholders on what the future of the clubs industry looks like. By starting this conversation now, our clubs and our community will be better off in the long term.

I recognise that this transition will be challenging for some clubs, particularly small and medium venues who do not have the capital on hand to invest in new projects. That is why today’s bill is focused on small and medium clubs, and it makes the important distinction between individual clubs and those who are part of a club group. While the conversation about diversification needs to include clubs of all sizes, today’s measures are focused on the immediate cash flow issues identified by small and medium clubs, and so they are rightly targeted to those venues.

We also need to recognise that there are a significant number of small clubs who will not benefit from this initiative because they do not make enough revenue from their poker machines to pay gaming machine tax. These clubs will be eligible for a one-off $10,000 grant as part of this package, but there is much more that we need to do to assist small clubs to find a long-term sustainable solution, particularly those who wish to divest from poker machines entirely.

I also want to raise the point that there are a few small clubs across Canberra who have already divested from poker machines and will not be eligible for this package. While we go through this process, it is important that the government continues to support those clubs that have taken the courageous decision to move away from poker machine revenue, despite the financial difficulties that decision has brought. While this package may not be the right vehicle for addressing this issue, I urge the minister to keep those clubs without poker machines in mind as he works to support a sustainable clubs sector into the future.

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