Legislative Council Thursday 17 November 2016
Gaming Control Amendment (Community Interest) Bill - debate on Clause 1 of the Bill - In Committee
Ms FORREST - This has been an unedifying process and not for the first time the Legislative Council is being treated with a bit of contempt in that we were given minimal information at the outset and then it became apparent that we should have had that information before we made our second reading contributions because some of us would have made quite different comment in them.
The Treasurer has also said that he wants a stable environment for the joint committee to do its work. It has hardly created that. There has been so much misinformation given. We were told there was one application for 20 machines. I was attacked in social media for suggesting I was supporting 60 new machines in Glenorchy. The first I knew about it was this attack that was going on. I also heard through the media that the Treasurer was hoping to hang me out to dry because of that.
This approach, in this place, does not help in trying to get to the bottom of what we are dealing with and fully understand it. I would like to see an end to that sort of approach being taken by whoever it is who is driving this. We have every right in this place to seek information. We have every right to be sure what we pass through this place does what it intends to do and does not have unintended consequences or intended consequences we have not been told about.
It is very tempting to support the member because much of what we were told is not on the public record. This is the problem we have time after time with our briefings. I appreciate the briefings, they are very helpful and useful, but when you have competing interests, contentious arguments and all this public comment where people are being attacked, or suggesting they are doing a certain thing, then that is not okay. We cannot easily test one person's evidence against another's. We could not ask the proponents of the venues in question here, 'How many machines are you actually applying for? How many could you apply for? What is the deal around that?', on the record. If we had a committee we could. That is my point: if you go to a committee you can do this. You could get the Network Gaming people in to talk about how the process really works because most of us, including myself, did not fully understand that. I should have because I have been here a long time.
I have sat on Public Accounts committees when we have looked at this stuff - the member for Windermere and the President have been on Public Accounts committees when we have looked at the deed with Federal Hotels, and we have looked at other aspects of this whole sorry arrangement. I call it that because it is a sorry arrangement. We have this terrible process where the person who actually gains the most, except for the Government with their taxes, out of these poker machines is the final arbiter in whether or not you can have a machine.
Looking at any competition and behaviour, I have a real issue with legislation that applies retrospectively. Yes, there was a policy position in March; no-one denies that. There were many policy positions made pre-election, and following elections in budget announcements that require legislative change. We find there is an expectation that they will be automatically ticked off by this place. I am sorry, as I mentioned before, we have a pesky upper House that sometimes does not agree with your policy, regardless of what colour government it is. While you have an independent - or predominantly independent - upper House, that is always going to be the case.
None of this information is on the record. We cannot test it. Anyone in 'public land' out there who may be sad and tragic enough to watch this, what they can see or read of it on Hansard, would not know why some of us may change our minds because there is no evidence there to support that. When we fully understand what the circumstances are in how gaming licences are granted, what the process is for finally getting a machine if you want to use one - I wish we did not have any in this state. I do not see that any machine would really pass a community interest test. People will claim they will, based on the fact that if you do not have something in there to raise a bit more revenue for the business, it will close in a small rural community - that may be the only time. But surely we could look at other ways to improve the businesses' revenues. Anyway, that is a separate point.
My problem here is that we have been boxed into a corner in many respects, dealing with legislation that has a negative retrospective impact on at least one, if not two, proponents.
Normally, from my personal perspective, when I support retrospectively applied legislation, it has a positive impact on people, such as the first home builder's grant, where people would have been disadvantaged if they had missed out. This is a different circumstance, and we would need to assess them all on their merit. When I first suggested that we should remove the retrospective nature of the legislation, suddenly it was all about me approving poker machines in Glenorchy and wanting more there - which could not be further from the truth.
I am sure, if the member for Rumney moves his amendment or the member for Huon moves his, this House will be accused of allowing more poker machines in Glenorchy, even though I firmly believe they will not get them because Network Gaming has the ultimate say. They have already said no to Moonah, for reasons we do not understand. We could have got them into a committee and found out, but we do not have that opportunity. It is terribly tempting to support the referral to a committee to get this sort of thing on the record and get all the facts and know exactly what we are doing here because there will be consequences, one way or the other.
If we get into the debate - and I am saying this now in case we do not - if there is support for the member for Derwent and we support the bill as it is, I believe we will potentially deny the proponents who have a gaming licence application on foot the right to try to take legal action against Network Gaming, should they refuse to deliver the machines, and say no even if they get a licence and pass the community interest test.
If the bill goes through now, their opportunity is lost. If we support the amendment, they will have that opportunity because their gaming licence will be considered. You would assume that will be approved, because they have a suitable building and they have already met the fit and proper person test with other facilities around the state. That is how it seems to me. So, a rock and a hard place. That is where we are.
Ms Rattray - Again.
Ms FORREST - Again, yes. I take umbrage with some people suggesting without the full knowledge of what is going on because there is nothing on the public record as to whose fault this is. I am sick of being at fault in this place.
I will listen to other people's contributions on this, but it has been an unfortunate process. We are dealing with this on our last sitting day for the year so the pressure is on. Get it done and get it sorted. If this is delayed there could be another 10, 20, 30 applications for poker machines, not just in Glenorchy, but anywhere around the state. I do not want to see any more anywhere around the state. What to do? I will listen to the other members, but it is a difficult place to be.
I can see both sides of the story. Even when I sat down with representatives from Anglicare and the Mayor of Glenorchy earlier in the week, they could hear where I was coming from even though they had their own strong view about the poker machines in Glenorchy. For the Mayor of Glenorchy, in Glenorchy, but for Anglicare and TasCOSS representatives around the state, they realise it is not an easy position to be in. The last thing they needed to do was to criticise me or anyone else in this place who may put forward an amendment to try to fix the retrospectivity. That is a legitimate role we have in this place and we should do it properly.