Page 3079 - Week 09 - Tuesday, 22 August 2017
land. When we first saw this bill in its final form we saw it as reason to celebrate. What we have before us today is a long way from what it might have been and a long way from what it was shaping up to be.
We have heard a loud and spirited debate on gambling harm minimisation here in Canberra in the last six months. The loudest voices in this debate have come from the extremes on either side, and to some extent I think those loud voices do very much drown out the centre. It must be said that the number of individuals affected by this legislation is very small. We do not have many problem gamblers. It must be said that some of those problem gamblers do face major problems as a consequence of their addiction, and we should do whatever we can to assist them.
We have the lowest problem gambling rate in all of the country, and that is no coincidence. Our community club gaming model is the best in the country, which means that when we have, for argument’s sake, anti-gambling advocates borrowing data from Victorian studies often that information does not line up with this jurisdiction. We do not have private gambling operators who are hell-bent on achieving the highest possible profit. Well, we have only got one of them. We do not have the super-clubs that have grown into virtual casinos in parts of Sydney.
ClubsACT have played a major role over many years in helping their member clubs to refine their harm minimisation processes and procedures. They, along with the vast majority of our community clubs, should be applauded for the work that they have done in this space.
Much of the discussion around harm minimisation is centred on an individual’s access to their own cash within the gaming venue. There are many from within my party, party members and elected members alike, who are simply diametrically opposed to the concept of restricting an individual’s access to their own money. They think that it is a heavy-handed, nanny state impost. There is a part of me that agrees with them. But I can see, in light of the current public debate, that there was the need for some action, and I think the action as outlined in this bill is measured and thoughtful.
Early last month the minister gave a very clear indication that it was likely that EFTPOS withdrawals would be banned holus-bolus in our community clubs. My office has highlighted what a flawed policy that would have been for so many reasons. I think it is very clear that it would have ended in tears as we funnelled club patrons out into the night to access their own money at what would have been unsafe locations, without the chance of positive intervention from club staff. The policy as originally flagged by the minister would have also unfairly targeted those clubs which did not have an external ATM within close proximity.
The one aspect of the Gaming Machine (Cash Facilities) Amendment Bill 2017 that we, the Canberra Liberals, question is the fact that a line is drawn in the sand at 20 machines. The inference is that problem gamblers somehow cannot do their dough excessively at a venue with 19 poker machines. We wonder why the government drew a line at 20, declaring that gambling harm cannot occur at a venue with fewer than that number. To some extent, that very clause makes a mockery of the bill.