22 September 2011
Andrew asks the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs, Jenny Macklin, for an update on the progress of the Government’s historic poker machine reforms.
Mr WILKIE (Denison) (14:25): My question is to the Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs. Minister, the government’s poker machine reforms will help tens of thousands of problem gamblers. Families, minds, and even lives will be saved, and some of the $12 billion lost each year will instead be spent in local economies. No wonder the pokies industry is thrashing around, intimidating local members, lying and frightening people with unadulterated nonsense. Clubs Australia and Clubs New South Wales are even threatening to sue me. It seems the pokies industry is after another poor bastard’s house, and this time it is mine. Minister, please update this House on the progress of these historic reforms.
Ms MACKLIN (Jagajaga—Minister for Families, Housing, Community Services and Indigenous Affairs) (14:26): I thank the member for Denison for his question. I think he knows, and every single member of this House knows, that many Australians do like to have a bet. But I do think every member of this House also knows that gambling can be highly destructive and addictive and does lead to many, many families having a very miserable existence. We do know in particular that poker machines can be a serious problem. In fact, it is the case that three-quarters of people who have a gambling problem have a problem with poker machines. I am sure the member for Denison, like me, has received representations from many, many people around Australia. I would just like to share with the House the words of one woman who wrote to me. She said:
My life has been irreversibly damaged. At my worst it was not a rare event for me to sit there for 12 to 15 hours. I literally lost a fortune playing them.
Problem gamblers, of course, as we know from the Productivity Commission report, spend on average $21,000 a year. Whether that is money lost on poker machines, we know that that is money that is not being spent on food, bills or paying the family mortgage. So we do know that poker machines are really leading to very serious problems for many, many individuals and families, where the lives of both the adults of the families and their children can be ruined. That is why this government is taking action. It is because families’ lives are being ruined.
That is why, back in 2008, this government asked the Productivity Commission to do the major inquiry that it has now presented on the whole issue of problem gambling. They brought down a number of recommendations about the best ways to help problem gamblers. At the time when we asked the Productivity Commission to do this inquiry, we had the support of the opposition, the industry and the community sector—many people recognising just how difficult this problem is and how important it was to do a proper investigation.
The Productivity Commission themselves recommended that we should introduce a full system of precommitment technology as the most effective way to help problem gamblers. The idea behind this is that precommitment technology provides a tool to individuals to make sure we give them help as they sit down to play the pokies. Before they start playing, they themselves can decide how much it is that they want to spend on any one day or night. They can set their own limits and then they can stick to them with the help of precommitment technology. We are bringing in this system of full precommitment. We intend to deliver it in 2014 for the big gambling venues, and by 2018 for the smaller pubs and clubs with 15 machines or fewer. We have involved a lot of different organisations in the discussions on this. Most importantly, I am pleased to inform the House that all the states and territories now agree that precommitment technology should be available on every single poker machine in the country. I think that has been a very significant agreement. We have begun work on the Commonwealth legislation and we will proceed with that if we do not get agreement with the states and territories. (Time expired)
Mr Craig Kelly: Have you signed off on this, Daryl?
The SPEAKER: Whilst the member for Banks is the innocent party, if the member for Hughes continues I can get you both to have a discussion outside. That would be very harsh on the member for Banks because he is being very well behaved.