By Andy Young

The Federal Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment, Steve Ciobo, has described the $1 betting limits proposal by fellow parliamentarians Nick Xenophon and Andrew Wilkie as “dangerous”.

Speaking at the Australian Liquor Stores Association (ALSA) conference on the Gold Coast last week, Ciobo addressed a wide range of issues facing the liquor and hospitality industry including the need for the off-premise liquor stores segment to push back and stand up to the well-funded and well organised lobby groups dominating the media with anti-alcohol messages.

He also addressed the issue of $1 betting limits for poker machines which has previously been debated and defeated.

“One of the areas where I was very passionately active was around the debate on Nick Xenophon’s and Andrew Wilkie’s proposed mandatory $1 bet limit for poker machines. Now from my perspective, I understand where they are coming from.

“I don’t support their point of view, but I do understand their view that said: ‘you know what – we think that a $1 bet limit is the way to go’. From my perspective though, their proposal was dangerous. Dangerous because it was blinded by a belief that in some way they were going to enforce an approach that would protect the community.

“Dangerous because it would also lead to a belief that it was in someway a panacea that there was no opportunity for leakage into other platforms or for people to take their gambling money and spend it in other ways.

“And it is also dangerous in the belief – that people will think that with the $1 bet limit we have addressed the problem and we don’t need to worry about those with the propensity to become problem gamblers.

“And we see the same thing happening now with respect to alcohol. There’s no doubt and we all know there’s a percentage of the population that will abuse alcohol – it’s unfortunate and it’s a mental health challenge, and it needs to be addressed. But let’s not lose sight of the fact there is a much larger proportion of the population who use alcohol responsibly – who want to enjoy a drink with their family and friends; who should have the ability to go to a store and buy a bottle of alcohol if they would like to at 10.30pm on a weeknight if that is their choosing.

“And I frankly recoil at some of the approaches that I see taking place across the country, who insist on telling people what they can and cannot do with respect to, for example, the purchase of alcohol. We have seen it most poignantly in New South Wales and yes, it was a Liberal Government and I don’t shy away from that and I think it was a poor choice, but we see it now in Queensland as well with the State Labor government now putting in place their lockout laws as well.

“And for a city like the Gold Coast that approach is frankly doing very little except for reducing employment and having a significant knock-on impact on Australia’s night time economy and in particular here on the Gold Coast. People come to this city to have a good time. It’s not the only reason they come but it’s a big reason they come. It’s the end of season footy trips, it’s the groups of guys that might come up for a buck’s weekend, or a group of women for a hen’s weekend.

“This is part of the industry that this city has been built upon. And I find it strange frankly, from those who seek to regulate it to such an extent that you actually undermine the very building blocks that built and in many respects supported the success of this city to name but one, for so long. Now my primary concern is this, when we see these sorts of laws come into effect what people fail to talk about is what the impact of that is in terms of the knock on effect.

“Now in some respects if you saw reduced operating times in pubs and clubs with no impact on bottleshops then that might in fact be good for your industry. I’ve had many people say to me well people will choose to drink at home and buy something from a bottleshop rather than go into town to have a night out. But you are also forced to close at 10.00pm at night then really the total impact is to send everybody backwards. And that is my primary concern as well and one of the arguments that I used to make in respect to for example the $1 mandatory gambling limit, what comes next?

“I’m not the thinnest guy around, should we start to have a calorie card for people that dictates, how many calories they can consumer in a day, we know the impact on the national health budget is significant, we know that if we can control people’s calorie intake, then presumably there will be billions of savings as well down the track. But have we really as a society reached the point where we are going to tell people how many drinks they are going to consume, how many dollars they can spend on gambling and how much food they can consume? To me that sounds like the antithesis of what living in a free society is actually about. But for many, let’s not lose sight of the fact they would actually be subscribers to that belief and there are a number of them that are in parliament today.”

The Shout Team

The leading online news service for Australia's beer, wine, spirits and hospitality industries.

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