BILL: Gambling Administration

Today Mark spoke about his concerns in relation to this Government Bill as well as the way the Government was trying to push it through Parliament. 


Gambling Administration Bill

I had not put myself down on the list earlier today because I had assumed that common sense would prevail, and given that the crossbench briefing was only held yesterday and that so many questions remain unanswered I had assumed that decency would prevail and the bill would be adjourned, but, clearly, deals have been done and we are now going through the motions with this bill and the two that follow it.

At the outset, I acknowledge the work of my colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks on this issue. She is the lead spokesperson for the Greens on gambling issues and she has done a good job in putting our position, and the position of those whom we seek to protect from gambling harm, on the record. So my contribution is in addition to what my colleague has said and not in substitution.

I was reflecting also on some of the remarks of the Hon. Connie Bonaros and some of the stories that she was telling of the harm that has been perpetrated on people who have gambling problems and gambling addictions. That harm obviously reaches the pinnacle of harm when people effectively die as a result of their addiction.

I was reflecting that, when I first came here in the 2006 election, a person who came somewhat out of left field, who people did not expect would do that well, was the Hon. Nick Xenophon. On a 'no pokies' ticket he secured about a quarter, from memory, of the statewide vote. I think this is an issue on which the crossbench has a lot of support in the community, and there is a lot of debate that still needs to be had, rather than just rushing this bill through in the hours that we have left in this session of Parliament.

When we were discussing poker machines back in 2006, if someone had stood up and said, 'I've got an idea. Why don't we let them feed $50 notes straight into the machine?', then people would have said, 'You're mad. We know enough about problem gambling that that would never happen.' Yet that is exactly what we are debating this afternoon, feeding $50 notes straight into the machine.

My colleague the Hon. Tammy Franks told me about the briefing that she had yesterday. One of the documents that was provided in relation to that briefing was a list of people who attended the Government's round table. That list was further annotated with the names of those organisations that had made formal submissions, and yet we do not see the Government being forthcoming with providing those submissions. It may be that some of them might have been obtained by other means, but certainly I have not seen what Lifeline had to say about this bill, and I have not seen what some of the gambling organisations said. I am assuming that a lot of what they said fell on very fertile ground, but we do not know what it is they have pushed for because we have not seen the submissions.

The Government also kindly provided a document that related to facial recognition. When I had a look at that brief document, the technology was not just about having a look at who is coming in the front door and matching it to see whether they are on the problem gambler list; it was also about spying on your staff to make sure they are doing their job properly, to make sure that they are doing their rounds as they are obliged to do. I do not recall that ever being highlighted as part of the reason for facial recognition technology.

When we do get into the detailed debate on these bills, I will certainly be interested in what the Government has to say about facial recognition technology, because I think I am probably the person who has said most about it over the years. I was the only person who even noted in Parliament that the previous South Australian Government had handed over the biggest and most comprehensive database of South Australians in existence. It handed it over to the feds for the purposes of facial recognition. I am referring, of course, to the South Australian driver licence database. It is a database of increasingly high-resolution photos plus the names, addresses, dates of birth, bank details, contact details of just about every adult South Australian, and that has gone off to the feds.

I am not one for saying, 'The horse has bolted. There is no point arguing about facial recognition. Let's just assume that every government and non-government organisation or corporation has access to your mugshot and can match it electronically with a database.' I am not prepared to concede that yet. The Government keeps talking about safeguards, and yet every day we get an email, even from our good friends at Parliamentary Network Support Group, telling us about the latest phishing scandal, the latest hacking attempt. Apparently just yesterday people were trying to hack into the parliamentary network.

We know from news reports that the networks of law enforcement authorities are no safer. We know that the national parliament itself has been hacked into. I do not for one minute trust that this increased reliance on facial recognition is something that is safe or that it is something that the community accepts. Therefore, I want to explore that in a lot more detail when we get into the committee stage of these bills.

I am disappointed that the last sitting week or two is going to end like this. The Government is pushing these bills through when, clearly, for members of the crossbench, this is core business. As I said, our friends at SA-Best were formerly the No Pokies party in a previous iteration, with the Hon. John Darley as well. So we have three members, together with the two Greens, for whom preventing harm from gambling is core business. For the government to say, 'Well, we've got the numbers; we're just going to push this through,' I think is an appalling way to end what has otherwise been a fairly civil session of this parliament.

It is not just in this place. In the other place they are still debating a bill. They are in the fourth hour of debate on a bill that no-one had seen until it was put on their desks at 11 o'clock. We still have not seen it here, and yet we are concerned that the Government will try to ram legislation through roughshod. I have heard nothing from the Government in relation to these gambling bills as to why there is a pressing need for them to pass in this week. I know the Government has said they want them to pass this week.

Given the briefing was held only yesterday, given the absolutely fundamental nature of this topic to five members of this chamber, I cannot believe that the Government has any pressing reason to get this through other than that they have done a deal with the Labor Party, they can get it through on the numbers and they are going to just push it through. I think that is an appalling way to manage the legislative workload.

My plea to the Government would be to come back in February. We have the sitting calendar for next year. We still do not know a prorogation date, although I think it is the magical Tuesday 4 February, which would normally be a sitting date and appears to be absent from the calendar. I am expecting that that one might be it, but I have been wrong before; it might be some other time in that week. There will be no reason why the Government cannot bring this back in February. That would be a much better way to proceed.

The other aspect that we do not know about is what deals have been done with the gambling industry. I can still remember one of the very first lobbyists who knocked on my door in Parliament House; he was from the Casino. I do not think he was too happy. I said, 'How come you've got a pass to Parliament House?' 'I used to work here,' he said. He still had his pass—in Parliament House, knocking on members' doors, lobbying. We got his pass taken away; that was good thing. I know that lobbyists from the gambling industry are in the ears of members of the major parties, if not constantly then very regularly.

I also remember, as a very young fresh-eyed Member of Parliament, the very first committee luncheon that I was invited to. I thought, 'I will go along to that and be collegial.' It was at the Casino. I thought, 'I'm not really interested in that.' It was in the restaurant attached to the Casino. We sat down and the deal was that we were all going to pay for ourselves, but within a short period of time a man who I did not know turned up. Everyone else seemed to know him quite well. The first question was, 'What are you drinking?' And all of a sudden, he snaps his fingers and another bottle of the same wine emerged. Given the person who was choosing the wine was incredibly knowledgeable about wine, it was not the cheapest on the list, I can tell you.

When I went to leave, I got my wallet out and I paid for my lunch, and I could see other members begrudgingly getting their wallets out. As I was leaving, the person who I did not know said, 'Don't worry about it; it's on the house. It's fine.' Members of Parliament getting a free feed at the expense of the Casino, and then they wonder why we ask questions in this place when gambling bills are brought forward.

Similarly with the Casino expansion, driving down King William Road the other day I realised that you have now lost sight of a lot of the vista because of that new extension. I keep calling it the railway station. I think I am probably the last person to call it that. For everyone else, it is the Casino, an appalling privatisation of an important public space, as far as I am concerned. We know that there are ongoing arguments about the five-storey car park that will be built behind Parliament House. The key issue there is: how many car parks can we wrangle from the Casino for the staff and Members of Parliament?

The gambling industry get so many concessions from Government and their lobbyists haunt these corridors with apparently gay abandon. So I am very nervous about the deals that are being done. We will forensically examine these bills in detail. We will ask the questions and we will try to get to the bottom of it, but in the meantime I put those brief comments in relation to the second reading. We will see where these debates go from here.