Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

National gambling reform legislation, Craig Thomson

E & OE – Proof only

JENNY MACKLIN: I’m very pleased to welcome Mr Wilkie’s support for the Australian Government’s legislation to help the problem gamblers. This will be the first time that we’ve had national reform to assist problem gamblers and we certainly look forward to support from across the Parliament.

Mr Wilkie had asked for two additional areas of amendment to the legislation that the Government proposed. One was to make sure that the trial that we hope to conduct in the ACT is done independently and I was very pleased to support that amendment. I certainly do want to see a robust trial of mandatory pre-commitment here in the ACT.

Mr Wilkie also wanted a clear statement in the legislation that showed that mandatory pre-commitment would be possible as a result of the changes to technology that will be required as a result of this legislation. So the Government’s view has always been that our legislation will require all machines around the country, all poker machines around the country, to have pre-commitment technology. So that if the trial of mandatory pre-commitment in the ACT does show that it is successful, that we will just need to flick the switch so that that technology is in place.

I am pleased to be able to support these additional amendments that Mr Wilkie has asked for and we’ll now proceed to discuss the legislation and these proposed additional amendments with other members of the cross-bench, with the Opposition and with the Greens. So we’ll conduct those briefings in the next little while and I hope that we’ll get support from across the Parliament for this first national reform of gambling to help those with problem gambling around the country.

JOURNALIST: Minister, Senator Xenophon has described the reforms as watered down and said he won’t support them, and he says that the Greens have indicated they won’t support them either. How confident are you of getting these reforms through the Upper House?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we, of course have to work with the Parliament that we have. We understood that earlier this year when we recognised that we couldn’t get broader legislation through the Parliament. So I understand the nature of the Parliament that we have. We now have legislation that we hope we can get through the Parliament. Mr Wilkie has indicated his support for this legislation. He understands that this is a positive step, that it will be the first time that a national Government puts in place legislation to help problem gamblers. So I hope we will get support from across the Parliament to make sure that we can in fact put in place legislation that provides that help.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: Well as we have previously indicated, this issue is not as simple as it seems. The advice we have is that the costs of introducing dollar bets would require around a billion dollars to be spent just on changing the games alone. You would also be aware that the Productivity Commission inquiry that the Government asked to be done on problem gambling did recommend that we introduce pre-commitment technology, that we do a proper trial of the effectiveness of mandatory pre-commitment. The Government is taking a careful evidence based approach to the introduction of mandatory pre-commitment with this legislation that we are proposing and with the trial in the ACT.

JOURNALIST: Minister, do you think the Coalition is taking problem gambling seriously?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well there’s been no evidence that the Opposition is taking problem gambling seriously. They don’t have a policy, they keep promising that they will have one, they’ve certainly not to date indicated any support for national legislation to help problem gamblers. Nevertheless we will provide a briefing to the Opposition. I hope they will reconsider and provide their support for this legislation.

JOURNALIST: Mr Wilkie didn’t exactly have kind words about the legislation, he says it doesn’t go far enough, it’s not exactly glowing support?

JENNY MACKLIN: I understand Mr Wilkie’s concerns, I also know that we couldn’t get the legislation that he wanted through the House of Representatives. We did not have the numbers. So we now have legislation where we hope we will have support in the House of Representatives and we’ll seek that support over the next little while.

JOURNALIST: Are you confident Tony Windsor and Rob Oakeshott are on board?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I’ll provide briefings for the cross-bench on the additional amendments, but certainly they have been very positive about the legislation as proposed in January.

JOURNALIST: The one billion dollar cost that you flagged to change the poker machines with one dollar bets, is that a cost that the clubs pick up or is that the taxpayers money paying that. Has that been written into the legislation?

JENNY MACKLIN: No we’re not proposing legislation for dollar bets, so that is not a matter that the Government is pursuing.

JOURNALIST: Can I just ask you on another matter very quickly. Just on Craig Thompson’s address to Parliament yesterday, do you believe he is innocent and what did you think about his address to Parliament?

JENNY MACKLIN: This is not a matter for me or for any other Member of Parliament to judge. These are very serious issues on a number of fronts. Very serious allegations, but it’s also extremely important that each and every one of us as Members of Parliament do not act as judge and jury. Everyone in Australia needs to just be very careful about this issue. These are matters that the police are investigating. It may end up in a court. Every single Australian has the right to be presumed innocent until found guilty by a court of law, not by the House of Representatives.

JOURNALIST: But as a colleague, or as a former colleague of Mr Thompson, he was in the Labor Party for several years, um, and still is I guess until he returns, but do you believe that he was set up, do you believe his assertions that he was set up?

JENNY MACKLIN: These are serious allegations but it is not for me to judge. It is not for me to judge, it is for a court to make a judgement, and I will leave it at that.

JOURNALIST: (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: Well we are pursuing this in an evidenced based way. We are through this legislation pursuing our objective which is to make sure that mandatory, that pre-commitment technology is available on every poker machine around the country. We want to see that poker machines have that capability on them so that at a future time we could flick the switch, but we want to wait until we see the evidence from the trial. We’ll make a judgement then.

JOURNALIST: Minister, the Cuban Ambassador, Pedro Monzon said that at any opportunity he could provide Cuban doctors to Aboriginal communities (inaudible). The Mayor of Hopevale, Greg McLean has said that they want Cuban doctors in the community and he’s seeking an audience with the Ambassador. Do you support, would the Federal Government welcome Cuban doctors on Aboriginal communities if that’s what they wanted?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, I haven’t seen those comments so I’ll have a look at it first and give you a separate comment.