Gambling and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022

BATH (Eastern Victoria) (10:53): I rise to make a brief contribution on the Gambling and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 this morning, and in doing so I thank the Shadow Minister for Gaming and Liquor Regulation, Steph Ryan—my colleague—for doing much of the legwork and providing some information to us on this side of the house, as is the requirement and the purview of shadow ministers. In speaking with Steph this morning, I wanted to understand a little bit more about the consultation process that she went through, and she said who she had been speaking with. One of the things that she did say was that across the board the key stakeholders, the stakeholders that government should have consulted with, were not consulted. To my mind that is a discourtesy. When you put out a bill for tender that is going to go through the house, there is a level of consultation that keeps people in the tent, that enables various stakeholders to have a good degree of oversight and understanding of what is happening in that bill but also to make commentary on it. That is a disappointment and a frustration for those stakeholders.

Also, I do take up the point from others who have made a contribution today about gambling and the unfortunate circumstances where gambling is not a flutter. It is not something that many, many people do. It is either a mild touch—maybe a flutter on the horses—or maybe every now and then a little bit of money into the pokies. For some people unfortunately moderation cannot be adhered to and it does become an addiction, and unfortunately or otherwise since the dawn of time—I think probably since there have been rats running up a drainpipe in the Roman era or various other quite more gruesome types of gambling that human beings have participated in as a sport. But there needs to be significant oversight, and this gambling legislation bill really seeks to tidy up a number of parts of legislation; it fixes definitions and tidies up obsolete provisions and outmoded legislation.

It also then seeks to amend the Casino Control Act 1991 to permit casino licence holders to pay winnings via EFT, and as Mr Ondarchie said, that is bringing it certainly very much into the 21st century and is a reasonable and appropriate response. It seeks to amend the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 to remove redundant provisions and references such as chapter 7 of the Gambling Regulation Act with regard to discrepancies between the commonwealth legislation and a 2012 gaming restructure. It provides more flexibility for the government to alter requirements of wagering and betting by revoking the current fixed term of 12 years. And indeed it also looks at the current monitoring lessee, which is Intralot, who provide those technical services for gaming machines and equipment in the clubs and various pokie venues.

One of the conversations I had during COVID, during the long lockdown, was with many of those types of our local clubs, our RSLs and community clubs, about the frustration that they had whilst being in lockdown—because they were not essential services—for a considerable time, months on end, and the fact that Intralot certainly I think did give them a concession in terms of paying their licensing requirements but that was still a very considerable burden when there were payments going outward but certainly no income for those clubs. Many of them actually really went to the wall or very close to it.

Also during that period of time many of those clubs provided essential food runs, and I can speak to my own local RSL in Leongatha and the manager there, Anne Davies, who has been a wonderful community support person as well. They did runs into the homes of people who would have normally come in as a social interaction—for their regular Tuesday lunch or the like. They ran food drops to people’s homes as a service, and it was particularly those returned service personnel and family members—so the widows or widowers of Returned Services League personnel. That was a really tremendous thing that they did to keep that connection that those groups and clubs often provide. But she said that certainly that was a very significant issue, that isolation and dislocation, and they were attempting through their own pathway to support communities.

The other thing that she mentioned—and as I said, for bowling clubs, the RSL, social clubs—is that really it has been a new normal, post COVID. She commented to me that trade is increasing again, but there seems to be a level of cautiousness among the clientele—and I am sure we have seen that in other aspects as well. Certainly people also look to go to our local RSL for meeting rooms, training and general-purpose interactions. I know that, again, the Leongatha RSL is often well booked out with, you know, the UDV—United Dairyfarmers of Victoria—meetings and various other points. So that is good, but there is still this hesitancy that they are facing. Staffing I think is still across the board an issue in terms of our clubs—and getting people back and into the workforce and certainly providing that stability. So I wanted to put on record my thanks to all of the RSLs and community clubs who during the COVID lockdowns really still supported and reached out in their own way into our communities to provide that connection during those COVID and social dislocation periods.

Just following on from some of the other speakers in relation to the important work of community funding, community fundraising and raffles, this bill actually increases the permit threshold from $5000 to $20 000 for charitable and community organisations, so they will have to have a permit but the threshold is $20 000. Like Ms Shing, I have not had great success in terms of raffles and the like, but we always dip into our pockets. I do remember at one stage a very long time ago I won some Campbell’s soup and a Campbell’s mug. The soup is long gone but certainly the mug still survives. I have taken it into the work staffroom with all of those other wonderful mugs that you get from various groups, so that has been my success rate.

I will not go on because I know Mr Ondarchie has made a significant contribution on this and gone into it clause by clause. As I said, this is generally a rats-and-mice tidy-up of legislation and is repealing those outmoded definitions. I would ask the government to reflect on perhaps the nature of how they go about consultation. I think the government often comes in here and says, ‘We consult widely’. Well, the feedback from stakeholders is that it has not. I support Mr Ondarchie’s recommendations for this bill today.