MS PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (15:55:57) — I rise to speak briefly on the point of consumption tax and the Gambling Regulation Amendment (Wagering and Betting) Bill 2018. I am pleased that we are seeing it in the house today. Certainly at one stage it was looking quite shaky as to whether we would get to this bill in this term of government. I certainly commend the Alliance for Gambling Reform for their pleas and advocacy to ensure that this bill did hit our chamber prior to the end of this term. This legislation really is overdue. If it had not got up, it would have jeopardised the national rollout of this consumption tax and the $30 million a year in tax on foreign bookmakers that will now commence on 1 January 2019, as promised. As we know, those foreign bookmakers like Sportsbet, BetEasy and Ladbrokes are owned by multinational gambling giants and are collectively worth over $30 billion. I think I saw that Ladbrokes made £145 million in profit in the last year. As Tim Costello has stated publicly, and I agree:
The longer these gambling giants are left untaxed, the more they will continue to deluge our kids with more than $200 million a year in mainstream advertising.
As previous speakers have said in this house and in the other house, this tax really is a no-brainer. These foreign companies should give back to the Victorian community given the excessive harms that we see from gambling — I certainly commend Dr Ratnam for highlighting some of those harms — and the costs. During the estimates inquiries we were talking to the Treasurer about how much money the government was making from gambling — it was around the $2 billion mark, not including the hundreds of millions of dollars received from the licensing of poker machines — and then he said that affords us the opportunity to spend the money on helping with problem gambling. It seems rather perverse to raise gambling taxes to spend them on addressing the harms of gambling. However, I do welcome this bill. I do think the rate could have been higher than 8 per cent. We have seen that in WA and South Australia it is at 15 per cent, and the UK will raise theirs to 25 per cent next year.
However, as I have stated many times in this house, it is a shame that this government has not acted on poker machine reforms. If I am successful in being re-elected to this house next year, I will continue to advocate and campaign for reforms like a clear prohibition on cashless gaming, a daily maximum of $200 for EFTPOS withdrawals in gaming facilities, a reduction in the maximum poker machine bet per spin from $5 to $1, a reduction in poker machine venue trading hours and a reduction in the density of poker machines per electorate.
As our Electoral Act 2002 and the new rules that come out on donations will provide some transparency, I think we do want to see really more transparency on, I guess, the influence that our gambling industry has on this Parliament and on our government. I mean, we are the only state or territory probably in the world that has a public holiday for a horse race or for —
Mr Ondarchie interjected.
Ms PATTEN — We have one for a parade, Mr Ondarchie. That is quite true.
I think that as a community and as a government, we need to look at how we can decouple ourselves and our economy from poker machine revenue. The harm that it does is something we really should not be profiting from.
A recent Essential Media Communications poll which surveyed over 1000 respondents found that 63 per cent supported the introduction of a $1 maximum spin bet and only 15 per cent opposed that question and that suggestion. More importantly, an even stronger 69 per cent of regular machine gamblers backed this message, so it is the players themselves that support a maximum $1 spin. I again implore the government to move on these poker machine reforms, which are popular in the community, and as we saw from the protest yesterday, are wanted particularly in my community of Northern Metropolitan Region, which has some of the greatest numbers of poker machines per person but also has experienced some of the highest levels of harm due to problem gambling.
It is not only the community that is wanting gambling reform. The Productivity Commission itself recommended that we should reduce $5 spins to $1 spins. So the evidence is there and the community support is there for reform.
As I say, if we are starting to raise money from other forms of gambling, such as online gambling, maybe this will be a way to start arguing for a reduction in poker machine gambling in our state, or at least to make some attempt to reduce the harm for this.
But this bill before us today is worthwhile. I certainly think we could have increased the percentage. I think we could have matched South Australia and Western Australia. Again, I think a point-of-consumption tax on online gambling is worthy. I am very pleased to see that it came through in this term and that it did not get lost in the filibustering that we have experienced over the last four years. I commend the bill to the house.