Page 4950 - Week 13 - Thursday, 2 November 2017

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Mr Parton: But you live and learn, don’t you?

MR BARR: You do. You live and learn and you can change your mind. There we go. This government took a policy position to the last election and we were re-elected. We are simply enacting that now, in this place, and we have sought, in the development of this legislation, to strike the right balance between both the economic development of this city and the opportunities for the tourism and hospitality sector. The arrival of direct international flights to our city has clearly been a game-changer. Canberra is growing up as a city. It is time to address an anomaly. We are doing so in an entirely socially responsible way, with the strictest harm minimisation requirements to apply to any casino in the country.

Mr Hanson: What changed your mind, Andrew?

MR BARR: I have just outlined the reasons. The government sought to strike that balance between economic development and harm minimisation. I believe this bill achieves those ends. It supports a reinvestment in the Canberra Casino. It does so in a responsible way. I commend the Attorney-General for his work in this area.

MR RATTENBURY (Kurrajong) (4.33): I do love hearing Mr Parton talk about poker machines. He makes them sound like one of the great inventions of humanity. It is all roses! I get this mental image of Dorothy skipping down the Yellow Brick Road, as he talks about poker machines as this glorious invention. I am the first to admit that I am not a great fan of poker machines, but I at least have the self-awareness to admit that our clubs make a positive contribution to our community, whilst I also talk about my reservations about gaming machines. They are not that one-sided thing.

After Mr Parton’s speech, I cannot work out the position of the Liberal Party because on one hand they are outraged at the apparent undermining of the community clubs model but on the other they are also worried that the legislation we are putting in place will not let the casino be viable. So which is it? Which do they actually want? I cannot tell, from the position that has been put, and I suspect that is because they are trying to walk both sides of the road and not offend anybody in this process.

The Greens have given careful consideration to this legislation and what its impacts would be for the ACT. The issues we have considered are the effects on our gambling model, on development, on the life and entertainment options in the city precinct and, most importantly, on minimising gambling harm.

While I cannot say that the idea of spending a night out at a casino is attractive to me personally, I accept that it is appealing to some people, and it is a legitimate entertainment choice for those who like it. I also recognise that this legislation is being brought forward in the context of a larger proposal which would include a range of other facilities such as a hotel, restaurants and shops as part of the development. This part of the proposal would be of economic benefit to the ACT and could bring more people and activity to the Civic area, with a flow-on benefit for other surrounding businesses.

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