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Gambling Policy

Cassy O'Connor MP

Cassy O'Connor MP  -  Thursday, 21 March 2019

Tags: Political Donations, Federal Group

Tasmanian Gambling Policy: O'Connor


Ms O'CONNOR (Clark - Leader of the Greens - Motion) - Madam Speaker, I move -

That the House take note of the following matter: gambling policy.

Every day in Tasmania at venues across this state in areas of socioeconomic disadvantage such as in my electorate of Clark in Glenorchy, people who do not have money to spare are pouring that money into one of the 2500 electronic gaming machines in our community. We know the money that goes into those machines primarily comes from people who have a problem with gambling. We thought it important today that this parliament has a debate about gambling policy in Tasmania. It was certainly an issue that was front and centre during the last state election campaign and it is an issue in which Tasmanians have a great deal of interest.

While the Premier can stand up in here this morning and say that Tasmanians overwhelmingly endorsed the Liberals' policy on gambling at the last state election, that is simply untrue. We know that is untrue because of the makeup of the numbers in this House, and the fact that the Labor Party unquestionably secured votes off the back of their principled position on the removal of poker machines from pubs and clubs, so public concern about the social and economic impacts of poker machines certainly influenced the way people voted.

When we talk about gambling policy in Tasmania, the Treasurer yesterday made it very clear that the Liberals' policy is to extend the socioeconomic harm of poker machines in our community out to 2048. The policy is to move towards an individual licensing model, which is exactly the model that the Tasmanian Hospitality Association and the Federal Group took to the parliamentary inquiry into gambling reform in Tasmania. We know, because of the evidence that was put forward by the THA and Mr Farrell, that the individual licensing model would overnight lead to a significant increase in the value of venues and also increase the take for those venue operators from currently keeping some 30 per cent of the revenue to around 50 per cent of the revenue that goes into those machines.

We know the Liberals' policy is all about the industry. The Liberals' policy has been bought by the industry and it will embed harm in our community to 2048. We also know that the Liberals' policy when they were in opposition was to have $1 bet limits in Tasmania. If Tasmania had $1 bet limits the harm caused by poker machines in our community would be considerably reduced, but that was a policy the Liberals walked away from after the 2010 state election.

It is a matter of historical record that the Labor Party, after years of taking donations from the Federal Group, after taking their marching orders from Greg Farrell and the THA, finally took a position of principle late in 2017 and said that its policy was to remove poker machines from pubs and clubs. That was an extraordinarily brave and principled position for the Labor Party to take, and it was on the basis of that position that many people who previously voted Greens, for example, voted for the Labor Party this time around.

I tell you what, Madam Speaker, there are some people wandering around out there who sure have buyer's regret. They actually believed the Labor Party and the Leader of the Opposition, Rebecca White, when she said, 'We will remove poker machines from pubs and clubs, we will provide what is effectively a just transition for the industry through some compensation measures, but we believe it will create substantial social and economic benefits if we remove poker machines from pubs and clubs'. Not that long ago the Leader of the Opposition went on statewide radio and made it really clear that the industry had won. The industry not only got the Government on board, it now has the Opposition - what it wanted.

The reason we believe parliament needs to have this debate today, and will have it again, is because according to the Treasurer there is now around a year before the legislation comes back to this place that would revoke the deed and embed the toxically dangerous individual licensing model. That is the licensing model that the former Gaming Commissioner, Peter Holt, said would cause substantially more harm than the current monopoly deed. Who wheeled out the former Gaming Commissioner? Labor's Treasury spokesperson, Mr Bacon, in the lead-up to the election.

Madam Speaker, you can understand why people get jaded and cynical about politicians. You can understand why people think we say one thing and then do another after the election. That is because the major parties in Tasmania and Australia do just that. On gambling policy, the Liberals' position has substantially shifted from the original position, which was for a price-based market mechanism. We had the joint select committee through which Federal Group and the THA put in their proposal, which was by the Liberals in Government not long after. The use of the words 'individual venue model' in their policy document - this is the Liberals - is a shift towards the language used in the THA and Federal Group joint submission and away from their market mechanism approach. We can see what has happened. The Federal Group and the THA have paid for a Liberal win and they have the policy they want along with an extra $6.8 million in funding to the Tasmanian Hospitality Association.

We now see what has happened in the Labor Party. At a federal level, the ALP secures about $700 000 to 800 000 a year from poker machines. Nationally, the Labor Party is heavily reliant on the money coming out of the pockets of some of Australia's most marginalised, impoverished people. The Labor Party should hang its head in shame and they should stand with the Liberals because you are both as contemptable as each other on this social and economic issue.