Economic Stimulus Package

17 Feb 2009 questionsarchive

I seek leave to make an explanation before asking the Minister for Gambling a question about the federal government's stimulus package.

The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members may recall that in the last week of sitting I asked a question about the December stimulus package and its coinciding with a blip in the gaming revenue. I referred to the fact that the concerned sector, in particular Mark Henley, had stated publicly that people were more likely to gamble in tough economic times. A number of Centrelink recipients and salaried workers who earn less than $100,000 will receive a bonus in the order of $900 or $950 in the months of March and April.

I asked this question previously and, since then, I have had other gambling counsellors advise me that they are aware of several of their clients who attempted to have their barring orders lifted in the month of December. Is the minister intending to have any additional strategies to ensure that people will not try to foolishly gain extra funds by gambling?

The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Road Safety, Minister for Gambling, Minister Assisting the Minister for Multicultural Affairs)(16:15): I thank the honourable member for her question. Just to recap: my response last time was that, essentially, there was a slight rise in that particular quarter and we discussed the fact (as have other people) that there were a number of issues, including that it was the Christmas period and a time when people are more likely to go out and be entertained, have a drink in a hotel or a club and also, perhaps, play gaming machines. There was also a view that there were extra finances in homes because of the drop in interest rates.

I am certain that all of us, other than the federal opposition, welcome the stimulus packages of this very responsible federal government: the first one and, subsequently, the stimulus package that has now passed the Senate. However, as I said, it is regrettable that those opposite are members of a party that tried to stop that federal stimulus package, because it is very much needed in Australia, given the global economic conditions that we face. As part of the gambling responsibility of this government, we have the Office for Problem Gambling with the Minister for Families and Communities. I have previously placed on record the contribution the government and hotels and clubs make to that fund. I am certain it is something that would be on the mind of those who assist in running those services. Whether one can personally prevent a person from attempting to spend more money is a question of: what do we, as a government, do?

The honourable member mentioned barring orders, and we do have, at the moment, I think six different mechanisms for people to bar themselves or be barred by a licensee, the casino or the Independent Gambling Authority. We also have family protection orders. The honourable member may not be aware that in August 2008 I requested that a barring inquiry be held in this state. A report will be presented to me by October 2009.

I understand that there will be a hearing this month (on 24 February) to ensure that all the various mechanisms that we have for barring people are working and working well, and whether we can improve the systems that we have in this state. I am sure the honourable member opposite will welcome that initiative on behalf of this government to ensure that, at a very independent level, people can honestly have a say so that, in the end, we have a better system. I do not have any statistics with me to tell us, as a state, how much extra funding people who are eligible for that stimulus package will receive. At this time, I am not in a position to even make a comment about it. However, I can say that, overall, we all welcome the extra money that the community will have at its disposal to assist in buying the necessities of life, to assist with the education of children, to assist in so many ways—whether it is paying off bills or whatever.

I am sure everybody joins me in hoping that nobody would use that money irresponsibly. However, as I have just mentioned, mechanisms are in place to try to prevent that. Certainly, the office in charge of ensuring responsible gambling would also ensure that some extra mechanisms are in place.