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Legislative Assembly

17 October 2023
Second reading
Michaela Settle  (ALP)


Michaela SETTLE (Eureka) (18:38): I am delighted to stand and speak on the Gambling Legislation Amendment Bill 2023. On 16 July the previous Premier and the wonderful Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation announced landmark gambling reforms. Many people in this house will know that gambling reform is an issue that is incredibly close to my heart. I have spoken many times on the harms of gambling, and I will continue to do that. When these reforms were announced I had never been prouder this government, and I want to take a moment to acknowledge the commitment and work that the minister has put into these reforms. I am forever grateful for her absolute commitment to reducing gambling harm.

Martha Haylett: Hear, hear!

Michaela SETTLE: Indeed, hear, hear! Before I go on, I would just like to address some of the comments from the other side. This is something I am passionate about, and it absolutely grinds my gears when I hear the hypocrisy coming from the other side. They are preaching at us on the one hand that we should be mindful of gambling harm while on the other they are being cheerleaders for the pokies industry. The member for Lowan said that we are concentrating here on pokies and what about online gambling. I do not know if she is aware, but online gambling sits within the federal arena. It is not something we can work with, which is why we are not dealing with it in this bill. The member for Eildon is either disingenuous or utterly ill informed, because she went on to tell us –

Darren Cheeseman interjected.

Michaela SETTLE: Yes, probably both. She went on to tell us that the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation financial counselling service is gone. That is not true. Financial counselling services continue to be provided to people who have gambling issues. I know Acting Speaker Addison is as proud as I am of Child and Family Services and all the work that they do in providing that financial support. It would be nice if those on the other side stood with Victorian people instead of the industry, a business.

Now, the member for Gippsland South suggested that this government had no mandate. Well, let us just be very clear about this: the opinion of Victorians is clear. The Age reported on a Resolve poll that was done in September which showed that the majority of Victorians support mandatory precommitment limits and carded play on all Victorian poker machines – so that is people of all wages. There seems to be a suggestion from the other side that we need to worry about mandatory precommitment depending on someone’s wage. It sounds a lot like the sneakers comments that we know from the other side. But the survey by Resolve, conducted exclusively for the Age, revealed that 57 per cent of respondents backed the pokies crackdown. So while the member for Gippsland South says that we do not have a mandate, I would say that the election was that mandate and Victorians stand with us in wanting to do something in this space.

Many people have spoken already about the harm that gambling causes; 330,000 Victorians experience harm as a result of gambling each year, costing Victoria around $7 billion annually. The Alliance for Gambling Reform did a study recently which showed that poker machine losses in clubs across five states last financial year surged by $14 billion. Victoria thankfully had one of the lower increases, though it did show an increase. What I really want to say here is that these figures are horrifying – we all know how horrifying they are – but to some of us they are much, much more than figures. To me it is the devastation of my family. To me it is having to look my sons in the eyes and tell them that I am leaving Daddy. It is much more than figures. I would ask that while those on the other side sweat and worry about the income of large corporations, perhaps if they spent a bit more time thinking about Victorians, thinking about Victorian families, then they might even have a hope of doing a little better.

With this bill, we are looking at what is going to be the first tranche. Those on the side of the member for Lowan seemed to think that this was a fearful thing that was to come upon us, all of these new reforms. For me those sweeping reforms were just extraordinary. As I said earlier, I have never been so proud. Of course there are the mandatory closure periods, which will come into this bill, but there is also a reduction of load-up limits from $1000 to $100 which will come into play, and there is also the adjusting of spin rates. They are things for further down the track. We are doing lots of consultation at the moment about that, but what we are bringing into legislation today is around mandatory closing. It is interesting that those on the other side think that this is going to cost us thousands of jobs and millions of dollars. What we have at the moment is a system where there is a mandatory closing of hours but not specified hours. I do agree that this legislation increases that closing by 2 hours, but ostensibly it is the same. It just fixes those times. So I suppose what they are talking about on the other side is a loss of income for 2 hours.

Now, a long, long time ago, in my wilder youth, I remember visiting a place called the Taxi Club in Sydney. The Taxi Club was open 24 hours a day. I remember the first time I went there being absolutely horrified that people were there gambling at that hour – I was being much more civilised in drinking. But I guess what has to be said in this space is that nobody is recreationally gambling at 4 am. For those on the other side the member for Lowan is like, ‘Oh, you know, some people want to do this, this is fun and this is their right’. Well, sure, then they can do it at some reasonable hour. I would ask her to question if she knows anyone who is having fun and is in a recreational environment at 4 or 5 am in front of a pokie. I very much doubt that there is much recreation involved there. They also seem to be fixated that it is going to change the jurisdiction and it is going to be so much worse for the clubs and pubs in Victoria. Well, I would point out that New South Wales already has the mandatory closing period with the same hours so this in fact brings us into line with New South Wales and South Australia. On this sort of panic that everyone is going to cross the borders, they have got quite a few borders to cross before they get anywhere. Certainly in my electorate if someone is driving to cross the borders to continue gambling – the reason why we are instituting this is that it is about trying to take a break – to get from Ballarat to the border is a good 4 or 5 hours, and that will give you the same break.

The reason why it is important to have that break is we talk about people being in the zone, and as I said to you – I am very open about this – I know what the zone looks like. I have told this story before, but I remember saying to my ex, ‘When you were raiding the ATM, did you not think of me and the kids?’ And look, he is a good bloke. He is a good dad. He said, ‘No, I wasn’t. You’re not there, you’re in a zone.’ He did not think about us – and he did love us; that is not what was going on there. Addiction is a mental health issue and a really bad space. What these mandatory closing hours do is give you a chance. It gives you a chance to go home to your wife and kids, to go home and think again about whether you want to be there, and that is what is so important about this legislation. It gives people a break to try and collect themselves, to get out of that zone. For those on the other side to be so concerned about a potential loss of income for 2 hours at 4 in the morning over families – families need the gambler to come home. They have got to wrap their arms around them and make sure they do not do it again.

It is Gambling Harm Awareness Week. The theme is ‘Talk. Share. Support.’ If there is anyone out there who has gambling issues, just talk to someone. Talk to your best mate. Talk to someone in the street. Get it out there. There is no stigma. This government supports you and we will continue to support you. Yes, there are counselling services, and this bill will go further in supporting you. So in this week in particular, if you are concerned about your gambling, reach out to someone. That is how we make the big difference. Again I just have to say thank you to the minister. This is about changing families’ lives.