I seek leave to make a brief explanation before asking the Minister for Gambling a question about the impact of the global financial crisis.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK: Honourable members would be aware of the boost of some $8 million in net gaming revenue in December last year, the same month as the roll-out of the federal government's stimulus package, as well as the view of concerned sector icon Mark Henley that people are more likely to gamble in tough economic times. My questions are:
1. What strategies does the government have to assist people and provide some education in relation to saving their pennies rather than putting them in pokie machines?
2. Does the minister stand by the government spokesperson who was quoted in The Advertiser of Monday 19 January as saying that the increased gambling revenue and the coincidence of the federal stimulus package was merely a fluctuation?
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Road Safety, Minister for Gambling, Minister Assisting the Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (14:39): I thank the honourable member for her question in relation to gambling and the federal government's stimulus package—which, I am certain, was very well received and which was a very responsible step by our federal government. I did hear what Mark Henley, a very respected person in the concerned sector, had to say. I heard him on radio in the morning, and I believe he spoke a lot of commonsense when he said that it was very difficult to attribute the 1.4 per cent rise. The total net gaming revenue from clubs and hotels for the second quarter of 2008-09 was $193 million; across the quarter it was 1.4 per cent higher ($2.66 million) than the net gaming revenue for the same quarter of the previous year. The federal government's bonus payments package was designed to stimulate consumer spending in December as a way of supporting Australian industry and Australian jobs, and it is shocking for the opposition to stand up and suggest that it should not have done that. Of course, in that quarter it is also Christmas time, a time of festivity, so people are more likely to go out and have a drink and go to pubs and clubs, and if they are in those venues they may also be more likely to play the pokies. We have also seen more money injected into the community because of lower interest rates.
I am reminded of what Mark Henley had to say about the smoking ban in pubs and clubs in South Australia, that is, that there was a dip within that sector to start with, and then we saw a recouping of revenue as venues changed to suit the new smoking laws and patrons became used to the changed environment. I do not think we have to look too far to see how many hotels have taken advantage of providing new outside facilities, and I have to compliment those hotels because some of those facilities do look incredibly smart. I do not think anyone could say definitively that the 1.4 per cent increase in that quarter was the result of the federal stimulation package, but I think the federal government is to be commended for putting money back into the economy so that we see stimulation in Australian industry and Australian jobs.
The Hon. J.M.A. LENSINK (14:41): I have a supplementary question. Is Mark Henley incorrect in saying that people are more likely to gamble in tough economic times?
The Hon. CARMEL ZOLLO (Minister for Correctional Services, Minister for Road Safety, Minister for Gambling, Minister Assisting the Minister for Multicultural Affairs) (14:41): I do not have the expertise to know why people do or do not gamble. As I have said, Mark Henley is a very respected person within the concern sector. He is part of the responsible gambling working party. As the honourable member has already received a briefing, I am sure she would know all the regulations and codes of practice that we have in place to ensure that we have a responsible gambling industry. We also have Club Safe and Gaming Care, and we have procedures and policies in place to ensure that, as much as possible, people gamble in a responsible manner. I have also spoken in this place about the precommitment trial. As members would know, legislation will be introduced on the floor of this parliament to remove the $50,000 cap, which will stimulate the market and help to reduce the number of poker machines in this state. This government has undertaken endless initiatives, including education at the school level and research. One does not know where to stop and where to start. So, for members opposite to suggest that this government does not care about seeing responsible gambling in this state really is a nonsense.