Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (14:17): I rise to make some brief comments on the Consumer and Other Acts Miscellaneous Amendments Bill 2020, and an omnibus bill it is. To start with, just to look at the amendments to the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 in regard to the wagering and betting of keno and the monitoring of licences, I think it actually does do some good things.
I must say most times when we have been talking about gambling in this chamber, or I have been speaking about gambling in this chamber, it has been about pushing the government to do more. But I think this goes some way to protecting under 18s from having access to gambling facilities. It goes some way to curbing money laundering.
It certainly does remove some of that bureaucratic red tape, which has actually led to, I think, some greater transparency around the licensing scheme. Obviously I would love to see it go further, but I was pleased to see that this is also giving the minister power to issue harm minimisation directions, and I would hope that the minister takes advantage of that position that this bill gives the minister.
As we know, the Australian Institute of Family Studies found that, while most 16- to 17-year-olds do not gamble, a significant number—one in five boys and one in eight girls—have reported spending money on at least one gambling activity in the last 12 months. So it is important that we do look at ways to address this amongst young people.
We know the scourge that problem gambling is on our community. We know the effect that problem gambling has, and I would again implore the government to do more to assist those problem gamblers. I am pleased to see the ability to introduce some harm minimisation, but I would love to see a reduction in cashless gaming, enabling maximum bets-per-spin of $1 and reducing the trading hours of poker machine venues.
We saw last year that millions and millions and millions of dollars were saved by households because they did not go to poker machine places, because they were shut. We would love to see a reset here, where we show concern for the effects that gambling has on many people and on their lives. There are small things to do, but I am pleased to see that this bill does introduce some greater transparency. But over the long term let us see if we can decouple the Victorian government from poker machine revenue.
The other area of this bill that I would like to make some quick comments on is the reforms to the Residential Tenancies Act 1997. I completely concur with my colleague Mr Hayes that this was a missed opportunity with rooming houses. Certainly, as the chair of the homelessness inquiry, we have heard terrible, tragic stories of people living in incredibly unsuitable accommodation—that being rooming houses. These are some of our most vulnerable people being forced into some of the most unsuitable and often most dangerous forms of housing. To make it even worse, we are paying for it. Through the various schemes that we provide in our homelessness services, we are actually paying for our most vulnerable community members to go into rooming houses that are not properly regulated. I know we have made attempts and I know we have tried to improve that but, as Mr Hayes said, I think this was a missed opportunity.
The same goes for part 4A parks. This is this incredibly difficult space where many of the people who are living in part 4A parks are retirees, yet these places are not considered retirement villages and they do not have the same protections. Those parks quite often are overcharging for utilities and are not providing adequate services. I do not think we have found the right balance of regulation in those areas. I think that is another vulnerable cohort of people that in future I certainly hope this government addresses.
I think it is important that this act provides the means for victims of family violence to exit leases without financial penalty. Deputy President, we are both members of the inquiry into homelessness, and we have heard time and time again that family violence is one of the main causes of homelessness in Victoria; 44 per cent of people who are using specialist homelessness services report family and domestic violence as the reason.
The Australian Housing and Urban Research Institute has suggested that those domestic violence support programs cannot compensate for the absence of affordable and suitable housing. There is very little that we can do moving from crisis into stable and secure accommodation, and I think enabling people to exit those leases more quickly is one way to do it.
I would suggest one of the other areas that we heard about during the inquiry is that for many people family violence actually does damage to the house that they are renting, and when those people have to escape that house, escape that family home, not only are they left with the bill for the repairs but they are left with a very black mark against them when they go to the next real estate agent for a home. I am not trying to pre-empt the report from the inquiry, but I think certainly we have heard time and time again that we need to do more to assist survivors and victims of family violence to find stable long-term accommodation.
So with those few notes, I would say I think this bill is a good step forward. I would certainly like to see us—through tenancy legislation, through a variety of levers that governments have—focus on early intervention to identify and support those at risk of homelessness and look at coordinated multi-agency and well-funded responses for homelessness. I am really speaking from the Reason Party’s bible in this area.
We would love to see the appointment of a Victorian commissioner for homelessness. I think also just finally—and I know this is not completely connected to this bill—we know that social isolation amongst young people is another area that we can do more on. There is a connection between kids spending a lot of time and possibly moving into gambling online and social isolation—you can put those two things together. With those few comments, I commend the bill to the house.