Page 4949 - Week 13 - Thursday, 2 November 2017

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This debate follows shortly after Canberra was deservingly awarded by Lonely Planet the accolade of being one of the best cities to visit in 2018. My government will continue to advocate for the growth of our city’s tourism industry. It employs 16½ thousand people in this city. Our city also needs more investment in five and six-star accommodation where there is currently a gap in the market. Diversification is at the heart of both the government’s economic strategy and of Canberra’s tourism offerings. A proposal that boosts our economy and our attraction as a tourist destination is worthy of consideration.

A redeveloped casino and resort-style shopping and entertainment precinct could provide enhanced public realm and outdoor spaces for the community. Improvements in food, entertainment and retail options would stimulate urban renewal and further investment in our city centre. An increased visitor presence would have flow-on benefits to other hotels, tourism and hospitality-related businesses, including the provision of new jobs.

The bill provides that access to electronic gaming will only be available once a prescribed stage of development has been reached. Accessing the full suite of gaming products will only occur once any redevelopment is complete. Subject to commercial negotiations between the government and the proponent of any redevelopment, we will consider providing access to a limited number of authorisations as development milestones are achieved. Under the bill’s provisions these milestones will be set out in regulation, for transparency.

I acknowledge there is a wide variety of views in the community on this policy decision. There is, of course, a degree of sensitivity about any debate around gaming and gaming venues. The government took this policy to the last election and was re-elected. We believe there are significant benefits for Canberra that can flow from a redevelopment of the casino but we also believe that we can implement strict controls to reduce gambling harm. For these reasons, I believe the government has struck the right balance between support for a project that should be given due consideration and harm minimisation.

That the shadow minister has completely changed his position reflects really only one thing, and that is his now membership of the Canberra Liberals. I acknowledge that the statement I quoted earlier was made when he was more independent in his thinking. He has now obviously fallen into line with his colleagues.

Mr Hanson: How long have you been supporting it?

MR BARR: I do note, Madam Speaker, that it was only in 2013 that the then Leader of the Opposition was asking you in this place, in your role at that time as Minister for Racing and Gaming, about how unfair it was that the casino did not have access to poker machines. Four years ago the then Leader of the Opposition was so concerned about this inequity that it was the subject of a series of questions in question time. The shadow minister is on the public record as saying, “We should have poker machines in Casino Canberra.”

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