Published: 17 November 2021

An upper house member has claimed Tasmanians still have little knowledge of what pokies reforms will look like in the community even after two elections, but the government and Labor have blocked a move for further scrutiny.

The Legislative Council voted eight to six against a motion to send the government's pokies reforms to a parliamentary committee where it would be subject to witness evidence, submissions and a report.
Independent Mersey MLC Mike Gaffney moved the motion which was supported by independents Ruth Forrest, Rob Valentine, Tania Rattray and Meg Webb, as well as outgoing Labor MLC Bastian Seidel.

Members will now debate the bill clause-by-clause, along with 50 pages of amendments largely brought by Ms Webb, however it seems likely to pass in its current form.

Independent Murchison MLC Ruth Forrest said the community was still in the dark on how the reforms would look in practice, and a committee could clarify these details.

"I believe it was the leader (Montgomery Liberal MLC Leonie Hiscutt) who said, this has been well canvassed in the public through two elections with a major focus in the 2018 election," she said.

"That's true, but I totally disagree with her on the point that the people understood the full detail. What a lot of rubbish.

"Seriously? The people of Tasmania have no idea what it was going to look like. That's a load of rubbish if ever I've heard it. And still I think there are people out there who do not understand the detail now of what is being proposed."

The bill allows for individual venue licenses to be distributed without a tender process, a substantial tax cut for Federal Group's casino poker machines, allowing simulated racing games and various regulatory changes.

Labor managed to include that the government consider harm minimisation measures of facial recognition technology to identify those on the voluntary exclusion scheme, card-based pre-commitment technology and higher return rates.

Other harm minimisation measures of slowing spin speeds, reducing maximum bet limits and periodic machine shut downs were not considered.

Hobart independent MLC Rob Valentine said the bill should receive the extra scrutiny of a parliamentary committee, as it was too simple to say the Liberals had a mandate based on their election victories.

"With any election, one never knows what people are voting for, when they vote in a particular party. I'm sure there are many and varied reasons why the Liberal party were elected to govern," he said.

"It may not have had anything to do with gaming.

"As I've always said, it doesn't necessarily give a mandate, that mandate is something that is a mandate to put it on the agenda."

Legislative Council committees have given this level of scrutiny to a reproductive health termination pregnancy bill, and forestry matters, in the past.

McIntyre independent MLC Tania Rattray said these committees were usually long, arduous processes with no guarantee of the government changing its position at the end, unlike in the past.

"Did it make as much of a difference as what members thought it might? Potentially no. That was certainly, at the time, I believe, a government that was keen to see a result from that committee of inquiry," she said.

"This time around ... I don't see a government looking to change their position."

Launceston independent MLC Rosemary Armitage voted against the motion to send it to a committee, but her vote would still not have been enough given president Craig Farrell, a Labor MLC, had the casting vote.

Elwick Labor MLC Josh Willie earlier argued that pokies were not much of an issue among his constituents in Hobart's northern suburbs, which has the highest concentration of poker machines in the state.

Debate on individual clauses and amendments continues in the Legislative Council.

The Examiner, Wednesday 17 November 2021

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