Welcome to the latest edition of Clark Matters, my monthly email newsletter to help keep you abreast of federal politics and what I’ve been up to.
It was good to see the Safeguard Mechanism (Crediting) Amendment Bill finally pass through the Parliament. The collaboration between the Government and the crossbench in both the House and the Senate is demonstrated through the strength of the Bill.
The Bill introduces a cap on emissions and will implement stricter rules regarding the use of offsets. It will also limit new coal and gas projects with there being a requirement to assess the impact new projects will have on the climate.
Despite this key step, more still needs to be done to achieve Australia’s commitments to net zero emissions by 2050. I will continue to push for the complete phase out of fossil fuels in Australia.
ATO whistleblower setback highlights urgent need for reform
The decision by the South Australian District Court to dismiss Richard Boyle’s whistleblowing defence shows again how deficient the federal Public Interest Disclosure Act is. Mr Boyle is being prosecuted for blowing the whistle on unethical debt recovery practices within the Australian Taxation Office, but he would never have been in this position in the first place if there were strong whistleblower protections in place.
The Federal Government understands there are deficiencies and is reviewing the Act. But until that review is completed and the Act is amended, the Government should do the right thing and drop the legal action against Mr Boyle.
Whistleblowers are vital to a healthy democracy and should be protected, not punished. This case reveals the urgent need for reform, including the creation of a whistleblower protection authority that covers both the public and private sectors.
Loot boxes reform falls short
The Federal Government’s proposed reforms to the National Classification Scheme fail to stop young people from being exposed to gambling like features that are present in video games. The fact that it intends to only introduce a classification of M for computer games containing paid loot boxes is absurd. To pay to participate in a game of chance with the possibility of a reward is gambling by any definition and should be banned for people under the age of 18.
By rating games containing loot boxes as M, children aged between 15 and 18 will continue to be exposed to harmful gambling simulators, with it being likely that people younger than 15 will be able to access them given how easy it is for anyone to purchase a M-rated product. Research shows that the largest cohort of people gambling online are 18 to 24-year-old males. And with the way loot boxes entice players to keep coming back for desirable items, it’s obvious that young people who are spending a lot of money on these games are being groomed for future gambling.
The Government needs to support my Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Loot Boxes) Bill 2022, if it wants to be serious on this issue and protect young people from gambling like features in video games. My Bill requires the Classification Board to classify any game with loot boxes as R18+ or RC. Moreover it requires clear labelling to be present so parents and guardians know when their children are exposed to these features.