Gambling Taxation Bill 2023 Second Reading

18 May 2023

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Parliament

I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens on the Gambling Taxation Bill 2023. This bill, among other things, responds to the Royal Commission into the Crown Casino Operator and Licence. Certainly the changes in relation to regulation there make sense to us. The bill also raises the rate of the point-of-consumption tax for betting in Victoria to 15 per cent.

At its current rate of 10 percent this is a tax that generates about $280 million per year, and this bill, by increasing it, will generate at least another $140 million of revenue. But what we do not think makes sense is that at the same time we have got a government saying they have got to make tough decisions. We are going to see the cutting of funding in the upcoming budget, we are going to see cuts to public sector jobs, we are going to see an austerity budget, yet at this point in time they are choosing to hand over millions of dollars to the racing industry. It is going to see around half the revenue – some members have even indicated it could be more – gifted back to the racing industry. Really, when you look at all the needs in Victoria, should we be funnelling even more money at this point in time to this industry? This is a time when Victorians are struggling to keep their heads above water, when people are being pushed into poverty, into crisis, and are needing to seek help from homelessness services, food relief and emergency wards. This government really has a clear choice. It has got a clear choice in this bill, it has got a clear choice in the upcoming budget: are you going to support Victorians who are struggling to make ends meet, or are you going to continue to side with profiteering industries? This government is choosing the latter – in fact the government and the opposition are choosing the latter – by gifting hundreds of millions of dollars to the racing industry with this bill, and it just beggars belief.

What sort of government sits around the cabinet table or sits around the party room and decides, ‘Well, we’re increasing a tax here on the gambling industry, what are we going to do with the revenue?’ You have got people experiencing homelessness. You have already got increasing homelessness, cuts to the From Homelessness to a Home program and homelessness services turning people away. You have got people experiencing hunger, you have got community service organisations that are struggling to meet the needs of people seeking food and material aid. You have got people who are waiting months for essential medical care and dental or mental health support. You have got people putting off seeking medical care because of the costs and being unable to access bulk billing. You have got our community health services crying out for more funding to help people in need. But, no, not them; I tell you what: we will give the biggest chunk to the racing industry. I mean, come on. Come on, part of the money goes to the Hospitals and Charities Fund. What I would like to do is circulate the amendments in my name, which remove the Victorian racing industry payment from the money raised through this bill.

Amendments circulated under standing orders.

Sam HIBBINS: What we also call on the government to do is increase the rate of this tax to 20 per cent. I note that in Queensland, that is the rate that this tax is set at. We have got some of the highest rates of gambling in the world, and I think 20 per cent would be a fair rate of taxation for the gambling industry in terms of a betting point-of-consumption tax. This would raise the total revenue to about $560 million per annum. When you look at what is happening across our state – a skyrocketing cost of living; a real wage cut for workers, the biggest ever on record; people waiting months for essential medical care – there is a clear choice: make industries like the gambling industry pay their fair share of tax to fund the things that people need. This could not come at a more timely point, given the massive challenges that people are facing, and certainly that is the direction the government should be going with this bill and with the upcoming state budget – not an austerity budget that is going to make things worse for people. People in need cannot wait another few years until we get back into surplus to have these sorts of issues addressed. So I would certainly urge the government to do that: to raise the rate of the point-of-consumption tax and not funnel hundreds of millions of dollars into the racing industry, and I would certainly urge consideration of those amendments in this place and in the other place.

I would like to conclude just in terms of the bill’s actions in relation to Crown Casino. We support those measures, but what I say is that the government had to be dragged kicking and screaming into that royal commission. It took far too long for that to occur. In terms of the response to Crown Casino as well, the government missed the trick and missed the opportunity to downsize and reduce the scale of Crown Casino. Crown Casino, when it came to fruition under the Kennett government, was I think the largest casino in the Southern Hemisphere. Melbourne does not need the largest casino in the Southern Hemisphere. It is far too big, and that has added to the issues and added to the reason why the clear problems with Crown Casino were not addressed. It was a casino that was simply too big to fail. Often when the Premier would speak about the casino he would talk about it being the largest single-site employer in Melbourne, as if that should somehow cover for all the wrongdoing that was occurring with Crown Casino. I would urge the government to look at downsizing Crown Casino. We do not need this massive casino in Melbourne. Then if you change tax rates and other regulations, it could ensure that the income from Crown Casino can be contained.

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