I recently spoke in relation to the Communications Legislation Amendment (Online Content And Other Measures) Bill 2017 in the House of Representatives.
You can read the full speech below.
Ms BUTLER (Griffith) (19:50): Labor, as you know, has a strong record on addressing community concerns in relation to gambling promotions during live sport and, accordingly, we support this bill as a step in the right direction. The member for Franklin, in her contribution, told the House some of the grave concerns that parents and families have in respect of the way that gambling has become pervasive across sport. It's become almost ubiquitous in all sporting codes to see the odds being described, to see the opportunities for gambling being offered across the spectrum of sport. It is important that we look at the ways in which we can ameliorate some of the potential for damage that arises as a consequence of the ubiquitousness of gambling in sport.
The people that this bill is particularly aimed at, in our view, are children. We are worried about some of the influences that gambling and gambling advertising can have on children and we're very concerned about the influence that gambling and gambling advertising can have on families as well. I've had reason recently, in part of my family violence portfolio work, to talk with Financial Counselling Australia. They spoke to me about problem gambling, and the impact that problem gambling has on households and on families. It's particularly terrible when you think of the fact that often you have one member in the family who is a problem gambler but is a gambler in secret and so, by the time the other partner finds out about the extent of the damage, it's far too late to be able to stop it. What you then start to see is partners offering to take on debts, because they love their husbands or wives. They're horrified at what's happened to them, the consequence of the problem gambling. So, as anyone would do for a loved one, they seek to help them and that means that the gambling debts that people have worked up then become the problem of both partners. They both end up in debt as a consequence of some of that problem gambling.
We do need to confront gambling as an issue in this country. We need to make sure that we are very careful in the way that we allow gambling to be promoted, and this bill goes to that. I'm not someone who opposes all gambling. I don't want to see it outlawed. I have a flutter on the Melbourne Cup myself—not very successfully, I have to admit. The last time I had a win on the cup was when Might and Power won, and I'm sure people remember that incredible race in 1997. I don't think the member for Mackellar was necessarily following the Melbourne Cup that day, maybe he was. I can see him laughing over there. It was an incredible race, and I know that many people had quite a good time having a win on that horse in 1997—one of the best horses. I think it had won the Caulfield Cup the week before. It had done a great job, but I digress.
My point is that I'm not opposed to all gambling and I'm not opposed to all online gambling, but I am very much in favour of ensuring that we as nation take a responsible attitude to gambling and to gambling promotion. I was pleased when Labor called for stronger restrictions on gambling promotions during the coverage of live sport. I agreed that industry should be given time to adjust to any changes and to adapt its practices. It's a pragmatic approach to this, and we do need to take a pragmatic approach.
We have to remember that gambling is an industry and it's also an employer. When changes are made we need to think about the people who will be impacted as a consequence on that side of the ledger as well. Actually, just yesterday we were speaking with a woman who had been working in the gambling industry for a very long time. It's certainly an industry I have an affinity with. About 20 years ago I worked for the clerks union in Queensland, and they covered the TAB workers who were being quite disrupted at that time by technological change rather than by regulatory change—although they were being disrupted by moves to privatise the TAB at the time as well. We have to remember when we make disruptive change that there should be appropriate time for adjustment for industry participants in their capacity as businesses and also in their capacity as employers. As said, I agreed with Labor calling on that to occur some time ago—more than a year ago—and I also agreed with the proposition that there should be an adjustment period.
The Turnbull government made its policy announcement in May last year. We didn't see any legislation until the final sitting week in December and there's still a raft of question marks hanging over this bill, unfortunately. The Labor-lite announcement that the government eventually made is a step in the right direction, but it may not go far enough to address community concerns because it continues to permit gambling ads during live sport, on the SBS, on commercial and subscription broadcasting and online at times when children may still be watching sport. The only reason, in our view, that the Turnbull government even announced these measures is because they were starting to get desperate and had to go back to the drawing board to get their changes to media ownership laws through parliament.
Having said that, we think the bill is a step in the right direction and are pleased to support it. It's just a fact that both adults and kids should be able to enjoy watching live sport without constantly having the odds rammed down their throats or gambling advertising rammed down their throats. Sport is a thing of beauty in and of itself. It is a public spectacle in which we can all participate. It is something that can create a shared experience for us as a nation. That's why I strongly support the bill.