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.
Loot boxes a precursor for future gambling
I recently introduced my Classification (Publications, Films and Computer Games) Amendment (Loot Boxes) Bill 2022, which requires the Classification Board to classify any game with loot boxes as R18+ or RC. It also requires clear labelling to be present so parents and guardians know when their children are exposed to these features.
A loot box is a video game feature where players pay to chance their luck at winning additional virtual assets to use during the game. This is gambling by any definition and is routinely being experienced by children and adolescents right around Australia. No wonder gambling companies are buying up online gaming companies.
The Bill ensures that children and young people are protected from gambling-like features within video, computer and online games. Loot boxes are present in so many of the most popular games – from Star Wars and Call of Duty to FIFA and Mario Kart. Many parents would not even be aware their children are exposed to these kinds of gambling features, some of which directly mimic poker machines or casino games.
Insider blows lid on coal industry fraud
Recently in Parliament I revealed information from a coal industry whistleblower who provided me with thousands of documents that prove Australian companies have been lying for years about the quality of our coal. In essence, some coal companies operating in Australia are knowingly using fraudulent quality reports for their exports and paying bribes to representatives of their overseas customers to keep the whole scam secret. This has allowed them to falsely claim, for years, that Australian coal is cleaner than it is in order to boost profits and prevent rejection of shipments at their destination.
This fraud is environmental vandalism and makes all the talk of net zero emissions by 2050 a fiction. It could also be criminal, trashing corporate reputations as well as our national reputation. I have called on the Government to at least establish a parliamentary inquiry into the matter, one where the witnesses of this misconduct, including the whistleblower I’m in contact with, can safely present their testimonies and evidence, and where the industry can explain itself.
An effective inquiry is essential so the industry can be held accountable for its sins, and so Australia can restore its reputation as an honest trading partner. And, most importantly, so we can learn just how dirty the world is and how much more urgent our response to climate change must be.
Australia gets its federal integrity agency
The Australian community has been calling for a strong, independent federal integrity agency for years and the establishment of the National Anti-Corruption Commission (NACC) is a momentous occasion.
The NACC will be independent of government, take referrals from anyone, look at corruption retrospectively and be empowered to investigate third parties. It’s a huge win for the independents and minor parties who have been campaigning for such an agency for many years. However the NACC as it stands is deficient in some aspects and I will continue to push for improvements. For example, the threshold for public hearings is too high and the whistleblower protection provisions are too weak.
While the NACC is a crucial element of integrity reform, it is important to acknowledge that it will not singlehandedly stop corruption. To that end, Australia must also reform our political donations framework, legislate truth in political advertising laws, enhance media freedom provisions and completely overhaul the country’s whistleblower protection laws. Only then will Australians be able to have confidence in government officials and the political process.