Transcript by The Hon Jenny Macklin MP

Productivity Commission draft report on gambling, Doorstop

*** E & OE – Proof only ***

JENNY MACKLIN: Thanks very much everyone.

Last year the Council of Australian Governments decided that they would ask the Productivity Commission to do a comprehensive report on gambling in Australia and we’re very pleased to welcome this draft report which has been released today by the Productivity Commission.

It certainly outlines the extent of the gambling industry in Australia and also underlines what needs to be done to address problem gambling.

One of the most prominent advocates to encourage us to address problem gambling is of course, Tim Costello, and he’s been pressing for this Productivity Commission inquiry for some time, so we are very pleased that we now have a draft report in front of us and I encourage people to look at its recommendations and to engage with the Productivity Commission over the next few months to contribute to its final report which the Government expects to receive early next year.

One of the important draft recommendations in this draft report is on pre-commitment.

We do understand as a Government how important it is to deal with problem gambling and this is one area where the Australian Government is already working with the States and Territories to help those who do have a gambling problem.

We already have, in cooperation with some of the States and Territories, pre-commitment trials going on and we expect to see the results of those trials next year.

REPORTER: (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, for that reason of course, we asked the Productivity Commission to do this inquiry.

We do understand, and the Productivity Commission in its report today has quite a range of estimates as to how many people are affected by problem gambling.

They estimate that there are around 125,000 people with a serious problem gambling issue.

Of course, they also say that there are another two hundred odd thousand people who do have a problem.

So we as a Government want to help those people.

We want to make sure that we are able to provide support for them. What the Productivity Commission draft report does is really recommend a number of ways forward that we can consider, that we can consider with the States and Territories, and that we can consider with the industry.

What the draft report also indicates is how we can do this in a way that enables the industry to continue and to continue in a way that is there for those recreational gamblers who don’t have an issue.

REPORTER: (inaudible)

JENNY MACKLIN: Well one of the, as I indicated, one of the most important areas that the Productivity Commission has emphasised is this area of pre-commitment, and we’re already working on trials with some of the States and we understand this is an important way forward.

We want to do the trials, see what the results are.

One of the important messages from this draft inquiry report is that we should base our policy to assist problem gamblers on evidence.

And so these pre-commitment trials will be very important.

They also, in this draft report recommend for example, that we look at the results of limiting access to ATMs following the experience that will take place in Victoria. So let’s look at the evidence and see what works to help problem gamblers.

We know that problem gambling does have a very big impact on families and on individuals. We know that we need to make changes but let’s base the changes we make on good evidence.

REPORTER: Minister, do you believe State Governments rely too heavily on revenue on poker machines?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well I think what this report demonstrates is that we can continue to have an industry, a gambling industry in Australia, but one that doesn’t have opportunities for people to get themselves into so much difficulty that we have at the moment.

And so, what’s good about this report is that it has a number of practical proposals about how to go forward including pre-commitment, including access to ATMs. It includes a range of draft recommendations in this area. Now we have the opportunity to look at those draft recommendations.

As I say some of them we’re already working on with the States and Territories. But let’s make our decisions in the interests of helping problem gamblers on the basis of good evidence.

REPORTER: Have they fixed explosion in internet gambling sites?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well the Productivity Commission report does make recommendations about online gambling.

This is an area where we will be interested to see people’s response to the recommendations that are here in front of us today. And of course we’ll look closely at the final report coming from the Productivity Commission next year.

REPORTER: Would you support (inaudible) a ban though?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well, we’ve got a proper process in place. We’ve asked the Productivity Commission to do this inquiry. Let’s go through it in a systematic way.

REPORTER: How much more evidence do we need though, the problem of gambling is a really big issue, particularly around poker machines. The Productivity Commission said that it’s been a decade since their last report and not much has happened?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s why we’ve asked them to do this important inquiry. It is an inquiry that’s been called for by those advocates trying to help those who have a problem with gambling like Tim Costello; the Productivity Commission is in the process of conducting this inquiry.

Let’s get the evidence that they’re collecting, let’s get their advice about the best way forward and then we’ll certainly take their recommendations very seriously.

REPORTER: Any limits on poker machines? The Productivity Commission has suggested they come in before pre-commitment. Is that something you’d like to see relatively quickly?

JENNY MACKLIN: Well that’s one of the issues that they’re recommending that we have a close look at. Let’s now put this draft recommendation out into the public arena. It’s now public.

Let’s get some very positive debate around it, both from the people who represent those who have a problem with gambling, also from the industry. We’ll get a final report from the Productivity Commission early next year.