Legislative Assembly 24 March 2022
Mr MORRIS (Mornington) (11:00): The Gambling and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022: I must say we have had some pieces of legislation that were less inspiring than others, but this one would have to be right up there on the list in terms of the sort of housekeeping that we can afford to wave through without a great deal of debate.
There are a couple of nuggets in it that I think are worthwhile, but largely it is about housekeeping measures, about removing redundant pieces of legislation or legislation that is dealt with elsewhere—others have mentioned the commonwealth. This is not exactly groundbreaking stuff, but as I say, there are probably one or two important points in it.
Essentially it is amending the Casino Control Act 1991 to permit casino operators to pay winners by EFT. It is probably about 25 years too late, but at least it is happening. It amends the Gambling Regulation Act 2003—there we go, obsolete provisions on interactive gaming and gaming machine jackpots removed.
As others have mentioned, there is an increase in the time for dealing with unclaimed prizes from six to 12 months—I think that is reasonable. And something I certainly strongly support: prohibiting online community and charitable gaming. There are some changes to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998—changes that probably should have been made last year when the initial changes to remote ordering were made, but now we are finally getting around to it.
I would suggest that the fact that the minister’s second-reading speech takes until the third paragraph on the second page to actually get into what the bill is about after a series f claims about what the government has done indicates that there is really not a lot of substance in this bill. Others have reflected on the quality of the legislation coming through, the quality of the legislative pipeline. I think I probably agree with those comments. One point in the minister’s second-reading speech that caught my eye was the claim that Victoria is the Australian jurisdiction with the lowest density of gaming machines, except of course for Western Australia, which does not permit them outside the casino—and I hope to have the opportunity to come back to that in a few minutes.
There are some changes, as I mentioned, to the provisions with regard to charitable institutions, and I think they are indeed sensible changes. The first is the banning of online gambling with regard to bingo and lucky envelope sales. I think that is a very sensible measure. I cannot remember who it was—it may have been the Deputy Speaker—who talked about the opportunity for online gambling to do harm. Effectively online gambling occurs in an unrestrained environment, so there are not the safeguards that you have at the casino or even at any pokie facility—those safeguards are not there—and people can get themselves into serious trouble very, very quickly. So I welcome that.
I also welcome the change in terms of the minor gaming permit system, upping the quantum there from $5000 to $20 000. It is hard enough for community organisations to raise funds either for their own purposes or to do good works in the community, as many do. The constraint that has been there of requiring a permit and the significant paperwork that goes with that and having a ceiling of $5000 has made it almost not worthwhile running a raffle or a similar event. Increasing it to $20 000 is a useful change.
The bill also makes some changes with regard to the Liquor Control Reform Act 1998. And as I mentioned earlier there were some changes—last year, if I recall correctly—which were intended to counteract what was perceived as the impact of COVID and the increased demand for home deliveries and the risk particularly of the supplies falling into the hands of those who should not have them. This bill now extends that to other forms of remote ordering, as the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation said in the second-reading speech:
… telephone, mail order, facsimile and other forms of electronic communication.
It also recognises that those other forms of remote ordering were not captured in the initial amendments, and I have got to say I do find that rather surprising.
I know many, many, many years ago I worked for some time, probably a matter of months, in a family-owned liquor business that did home deliveries, and I have got to say I was always entertained but never surprised by the extent to which people not that many years younger than I was but certainly too young to be ordering alcohol would go to try to have us—I do not think we actually ever failed in our duty—deliver alcohol to under-age kids. That was back in the 1970s, so this is not exactly a new issue. Hopefully the changes that are proposed in this bill will do something about that particular problem.
The member for St Albans talked a few minutes ago about the issue with the losses from poker machines in Brimbank city, and that is something that has been on my radar for a while. But it is not just Brimbank, of course. It is a range of municipalities across the state. Brimbank, on the most recent figures, the 2021 figures, had a gross spend of over $92 million and $552 per adult. The City of Greater Dandenong had $532 per adult and—with a lower population—$73 million in round terms.
I am certainly not a wowser. I have no problem with electronic gaming machines, but I do have a problem where you have municipalities such as these where they are unfortunately still very high ranking in terms of socio-economic disadvantage. Brimbank is currently ranked third in the state. Greater Dandenong is ranked second in the state.
You go a little bit further down the list. Latrobe city has a lower expenditure per capita, down to $435, but is ranked fourth. And Mildura, ranked fifth in socio-economic disadvantage, has a figure of $399 per adult.
Now, with regard to both Mildura and Latrobe, one would expect that there is an element of tourism in there, people on holidays wanting to go out and enjoy themselves, so the numbers per adult may be inflated, but the fact is that we have numbers that high with areas of such significant disadvantage—and we still do, there is nothing new about this.
So in terms of the rankings it is Brimbank first, Greater Dandenong second, then you go to Warrnambool, Greater Shepparton and Maribyrnong. The difference with those is they are way down the list in terms of socio-economic disadvantage.
Obviously we are not going to solve these issues today, but we have licence renewals coming up in the not-too-distant future, and I think we have a problem here that we fail to address. We may have, as the minister said, the lowest density in the country, and that is a good thing to have, but we have pockets where we have significant problems and pockets where those who can probably least afford to entertain themselves in this way do.
As I mentioned at the start, there is lots of housekeeping in this bill. There is lots of stuff that needs to be done that the Parliament needs to do, but there are one or two good nuggets in it, and certainly I have no problem, as the member for Euroa indicated, with any of the changes.