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Hospitality and Events - Gambling Reforms

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP

Dr Rosalie Woodruff MP  -  Tuesday, 7 September 2021

Tags: Gambling Industry, Pokies, State Budget

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, have you been in discussions via any medium with the Tasmanian Hospitality Association over the pokies tax rate legislation?

Ms COURTNEY - I have not been in negotiations personally. With regards to the future gaming legislation that is part of minister Ferguson's portfolio.

Dr WOODRUFF - The question was via any medium, via correspondence or through meetings or any other form of communication.

Ms COURTNEY - I can't speak for conversations that everybody has and, without all the correspondence that I have here from a range of different stakeholders in the hospitality sector, at varying times they may have written to me with a range of views. I get a lot of correspondence from a lot of stakeholders with their views on Government policy. With regards to my personal engagement, my understanding is that was led by minister Ferguson.

Dr WOODRUFF - Have you made any arrangements in relation to setting the tax rate?

Ms COURTNEY - Again, that's a matter for minister Ferguson. He is the minister responsible for that legislation so you'd have to direct questions to him.

Dr WOODRUFF - So the answer to that was no?

Ms COURTNEY - The answer to the question is with regards to queries about the tax rates, how they were arrived at, the future gaming legislation: that's a matter for Mr Ferguson.

Dr WOODRUFF - I understand that, but I'm asking you as the minister responsible for hospitality and events whether you have been involved in making any arrangements in relation to setting the tax rate.

Ms COURTNEY - As you would be aware, Dr Woodruff, the policy position was taken by Government. Obviously, with policy positions that are taken by Government there are mechanisms for engagement with different ministerial colleagues and often through Cabinet processes. Outlining the details of the Government policy, how it was arrived at, the details of the legislation is a question for Mr Ferguson.

Dr WOODRUFF - As hospitality and events minister - a portfolio that has a direct relationship with poker machines policy - and as a member of Cabinet, what was the date on which you first became aware of the advice of the planned tax rate for poker machines in casinos?

Ms COURTNEY - I don't have that detail with me here today. As I have said, the negotiations and how the final rates were determined are questions for minister Ferguson. They progressed through his portfolio as minister. I have a range of conversations with colleagues, and we have range of conversations in Cabinet. I am not going to sit here and talk about the dates on which I have talked about things with colleagues or in Cabinet. Ultimately, that’s a question for minister Ferguson.

CHAIR - Dr Woodruff, I might add that minister Ferguson is appearing before the Estimates committees, and perhaps it might be more productive to direct these questions to him.

Dr WOODRUFF - Thank you, Chair. I think it's fair that I get to decide what the appropriate questions are for the minister. As I have just stated very clearly, this is in relation to a direct part of the minister's portfolio responsibility.

Ms COURTNEY - A direct part of my portfolio responsibility is working with the hospitality sector. The direct part of Mr Ferguson's responsibility is his role as Minister for Finance, managing the gaming industry and looking after the policies that we have, as well as the regulations that flow from that. So the questions, pertain to his portfolio, not mine. I agree the hospitality industry is very much part of the outcome; however, the policy decision lies with minister Ferguson.

Dr WOODRUFF - I am not asking a question about the decision. The question was when you found out, when you were advised, what the tax rate was. Yesterday, minister Ferguson confirmed he found out before the election. Did you find out before the election, or after the election?

Ms COURTNEY - As I said in my previous answer, I have a range of conversations with colleagues on varying dates on lots of different aspects of portfolios.

Dr WOODRUFF - You have no idea?

Ms COURTNEY - I don't.

Dr WOODRUFF - The tax rate was a matter of much public discussion before the election.

Ms COURTNEY - Dr Woodruff, I am not sure whether you do, but I tend not to take detailed notes of every conversation I have every single day. Ultimately, the provision of this policy is under minister Ferguson. There have been some public comments referring to Cabinet, but I am not going to go into any conversations about what occurs in Cabinet, or what dates they happened.

Dr WOODRUFF - Minister, during the election campaign there was an extraordinary amount of public conversation about the casino tax rate. It is implausible to believe that you can't remember during that election period whether or not you knew what the tax rate was. Did you know before the election what the casino tax rate was going to be?

Ms COURTNEY - As I understand Mr Ferguson has outlined that decisions on these were made post-election. The decision on tax rates is under the hand of the Minister for Finance, Mr Ferguson. With regards to finalisation matters in his portfolio area I'd suggest that you speak to him.

Regarding your assertion that there was a large amount of discussion, I can recall one person asking me about future gaming markets. My recollection was that I suggested they speak to Mr Ferguson.

Most other Tasmanians talked to me about how important it was that the economy continue to grow strongly and that they stayed safe from COVID-19. The topics being raised with me were about making sure that through COVID-19 we continued to ensure that there were jobs, we continued to ensure that there were opportunities for young people and to ensure that we were continuing to resource a health system that has had enormous pressure put on it in the past 18 months.

Dr WOODRUFF - It was a busy election campaign. You must not have watched the news or opened a newspaper for five weeks, but that's as it may be. I accept that you say you can't remember when you were advised what the tax rate was. Can you take that on notice?

Ms COURTNEY - No, I am not going to take that on notice. What I said is I cannot recall conversations that I have had over what is a very long period of time. Determination of the rates for the policy position have been outlined by Mr Ferguson. With regards to timelines of decision making, it is his policy area. You will have to ask Mr Ferguson.

Dr WOODRUFF - You are responsible for enacting it so it is really about when you knew about it. It's not about what your action -

Ms COURTNEY - I am not responsible for enacting it. It is under Mr Ferguson's portfolio.

Dr WOODRUFF - But you must have heard about it because you are responsible for hospitality.

Ms COURTNEY - It is under Mr Ferguson's portfolio. He is the minister responsible.

Dr WOODRUFF - So you are washing your hands of casinos and pokies?