GAMBLING REGULATION AMENDMENT (LICENSING) BILL 2011 – Tuesday, 11 Oct 2011

Posted on 28. Nov, 2011 in Speeches

Mr LIM (Clayton) — I rise to speak on the Gambling Regulation Amendment (Licensing) Bill 2011. While the opposition is not opposing the bill, I want to put on the record where this bill is deficient and where there is a liberal dose of hypocrisy. We have all heard the member for Melton and others on this side of the house speaking on the many points they have raised, but let me start by saying that this bill purports to do several things. It bans lobbyists from lobbying for the awarding of gambling and wagering licences. It provides for new monitoring arrangements. It also provides for the suspension of bookmakers or their employees upon their conviction for certain offences.

The bill establishes a new monitoring regime. It claims to provide for an independent monitor, but I ask: how independent will it really be, given that the monitor will be Intralot? I have looked at the Intralot website, where it describes itself as follows:

Intralot has become an international protagonist in the lottery sector, with more than 5400 employees and a presence in more than 53 countries on all five continents. Intralot currently holds a dominant position in Europe, Asia, Latin America, Central America and the Caribbean, with a significant presence in North America, and is continuing its dynamic expansion in Oceania and Africa.

Is this really what we want as an independent monitor?

The ACTING SPEAKER (Mrs Victoria) — Order! I am sorry to interrupt the member for Clayton, but I think now is a good time to break for dinner.

Sitting suspended 6.30 p.m. until 8.01 p.m.

Mr LIM — I was making a reference to the fact that I had a look at the Intralot website, and I quoted Intralot’s own words when it portrayed or proclaimed itself as a ‘protagonist’. I asked the
question: is this what we really want as an independent monitor, a protagonist? Yes, it is a protagonist; it is one of the main figures in gaming with huge interests around the world in gambling. Surely it should dawn on all of us that an independent monitor should be independent, not one of the main players.

But I am not surprised about the liberal dose of hypocrisy we have seen over this appointment. The now minister continually raised probity questions about Intralot while in opposition, and now he has appointed it as his independent monitor. He criticised it for its shortfall in sales, and now he is lauding it for having ‘proven, modern technology’. In opposition the minister criticised Intralot for
the charging of up‑front licence fees. Indeed during a grievance debate in the house on 28 May 2008, the now minister said

I call on the minister to immediately sit down with Intralot and negotiate the removal of these outrageous up‑front licensing fees for lottery agents.

Now that he is minister, has he had the discussion with Intralot? That is the question we should all be asking.

Clause 40 of the bill states: 40     Determination of application

After section 8.3.13(2) of the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 insert —

“(2A) Without limiting the grounds on which the Commission may refuse an application for a minor gaming permit, the Commission must refuse an application if, in the Commission’s opinion, the activity the organisation wishes to conduct under the permit is offensive or contrary to the public interest”.

The minister in the second‑reading speech gave the example of in‑vitro fertilisation treatment. I have no difficulty with this proposition. Indeed, I hope the commission takes a proactive approach. I would say that any health procedure should be solely considered on need within a health setting. For example plastic surgery,
including breast implants, has been offered as a prize overseas. I am sure Kyle Sandilands would be capable of offering likewise in Australia.

I find it concerning that the government is withdrawing the commission from monitoring some forms of lottery draws. Intuitively I find this disturbing. Given Diebold’s problems in the US with fraud allegations and illegally altering the software of voting machines, if anything there should be increased independent monitoring of electronic systems of a sensitive public nature. The minister in the second‑reading speech also made a big song and dance about banning lobbyists from lobbying for the awarding of gambling and wagering, and we have heard many speakers referring to this before. However, when you look at clause 47 of the bill, you see it says in subclause (2):

The Minister may refuse to consider or to grant an application for the monitoring licence, if the Minister is satisfied that the lobbyist, for or on behalf of an interested person in relation to a licence awarding process, has carried out a lobbying activity.

There are similar provisions relating to wagering and betting licences. These provisions do not say the minister must refuse, only that he may. If the banning of lobbyists is such an important principle, why provide discretion as to the consequences? What if the Minister for Planning became the Minister for Gaming and gave preferential treatment to Liberal Party office‑bearers?

However, the most disappointing aspect of this bill is that it does absolutely nothing for problem gamblers. This is an issue I have been deeply and genuinely concerned with since my election to this place. It very much affects the communities I represent, both in terms of their socioeconomics and their ethnicities.

I do not want to go into the history of when I commissioned an intern to look at the effects of gambling on my community. I called a press conference which was planned to be just after question time at that time. The then Premier had a very deep involvement with the casino. The member for Melton referred to this; it was an outrage. The then Premier attacked me during that question time savagely, I must say, prior to the press conference that was planned to occur after question time.

While we are not opposing the bill, I have to say it is quite disappointing. It could have been a lot more than what it is. Accountability is mentioned in the bill. That remains to be seen, because at the same time there is a failure to address the greater social issue.

 

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