17 May 2023, 15:40
Victorian Legislative Council, Melbourne

Evan MULHOLLAND (Northern Metropolitan):

I move: That this house:

(1) recognises the vital role of Victoria’s Returned and Services League (RSL) sub-branches in supporting local communities and veterans;
(2) supports RSL sub-branches that use less than their full poker machine entitlements in their venues;
(3) acknowledges that community sub-branches that are unable to use these entitlements due to local government restrictions should not be penalised by the government;
(4) notes that the Minister for Casino, Gaming and Liquor Regulation and the Department of Justice and Community Safety have advised Glenroy RSL sub-branch to pay over $470,000 for unwanted poker machine entitlements which they cannot use;
(5) further recognises that similar situations confront other community sub-branches including:
(a) Darebin RSL sub-branch; (b) Pascoe Vale RSL sub-branch; (c) Altona RSL sub-branch; (d) Caulfield RSL sub-branch; (e) Cheltenham RSL sub-branch; (f) St Kilda Football Club;
(6) further acknowledges that chasing RSLs to pay for unwanted poker machine entitlements shows the government is not serious when it comes to tackling gambling addiction and is addicted to pokies revenue;
(7) calls on the government to take action by: (a) allowing community sub-branches like the Glenroy RSL and others to forfeit their pokies entitlements without financial penalty; (b) ending the cash grab against RSL sub-branches, letting them get back to their important role in their community of supporting local organisations and veterans; and (c) finding ways to rein in their reckless spending agenda instead of at the expense of community RSL sub-branches.

David ETTERSHANK (Western Metropolitan):

I rise to speak to notice of motion 62 brought by Mr Mulholland, and I commend him for raising this issue.

This motion seeks to recognise the important role of Victoria’s RSL sub-branches in supporting local communities and veterans. Specifically, this motion calls on the government to support RSL sub-branches that do not use their full poker machine entitlements by allowing them to forfeit these entitlements without financial penalty.

The Australian RSL has a long and rich history. It was founded during World War I and has continued to serve veterans and their families ever since. Fast-forward to the present day and there are now 1135 sub-branches nationwide, and the RSL represents over 150,000 veterans across Australia. Guided by an ethos of compassion and service, the RSL and their sub-branches have played an integral role in their local communities both in Victoria and nationwide. They have supported generations of service men and women by building and supporting local communities, increasing public education and advocating for the best interests of veterans and their families. It is without question that the Australian RSL and Victoria’s RSL sub-branches have always been and continue to be an important asset for our veterans, their families and our local communities. With this in mind, any opportunity we have to better support those community groups warrants serious and careful consideration.

Mr Mulholland’s motion makes specific reference to the Glenroy RSL sub-branch and a number of other RSL sub-branches that have been required to make payment for poker machine entitlements that they have been unable to use. In considering potentially contending priorities, there is a need to balance minimising harm through existing poker machine entitlement laws against reducing the financial burden on RSL sub-branches, particularly when they decide or are forced to reduce the number of operational poker machines. Getting this balance right can help ensure groups like Glenroy RSL subbranch are not burdened by any decision to reduce the number of poker machines in their venues and can continue to perform their important work in our local communities and for our veterans and their families.

At the same time, the community value of RSL sub-branches must be measured against the well-understood negative consequences of poker machines and associated problem gambling. These community groups’ entitlements to poker machines should not be supported at the expense of the mental, financial and physical well-being of local communities and veterans. At the same time, we would like to see extensive statewide reform of our poker machine laws to address the harmful and unfair impacts of gambling. RSL sub-branches include large portions of our communities that experience significant disadvantage and will feel the negative impacts of problem gambling much more acutely than the general population, and of course, veterans are a part of those communities as well.

This inherent tension was considered by the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation last year when they investigated the relationship between gambling and the Australian veteran community. Their findings further cemented the knowledge that Australian veterans are a high-risk group in relation to experiencing gambling harm, well above that of the broader Australian community. This same investigation found that not only can these risk factors lead large numbers of veterans to problem gambling but once they are led to problem gambling those same veterans subsequently experience higher rates of serious mental and physical health problems. We also know that veterans are disproportionately over-represented in homeless populations and experience higher rates of mental health issues, drug and alcohol dependence and gambling addiction. Time and time again they are routinely over-represented in problem gambling data and problem gambling harms. These factors mean that veterans and their families can be particularly vulnerable to the negative effects of problem gambling.

To protect veterans and the vital role of RSL sub-branches, it is important to consider how the number of poker machines can be reduced and how profits can be directed into harm minimisation. Problem gambling harms local communities. It harms veterans and it harms their families. RSL subbranches should be encouraged and supported to reduce their usage of poker machines wherever possible, recognising that veterans are particularly vulnerable to the harms of problem gambling. We understand that the government is currently working to address concerns with Crown Casino, the state’s most notorious gambling parasite, and we look forward to reviewing that legislation when it makes its way to this place.

That said, we look forward to a more holistic approach from the government to deliver significant gambling reform and address the vampiric influence of the gambling industry in predominantly working class and lower socio-economic areas.

Legalise Cannabis welcomes the government’s announcement of a surrender scheme to address the issues faced by Glenroy RSL sub-branch and other sub-branches as raised and as subsequently publicly endorsed by Mr Mulholland.

We also welcome the wide-ranging own-motion inquiry into gambling and liquor reform being undertaken by the Public Accounts and Estimates Committee that will be commencing shortly. On this basis, and in the context of a broader gambling reform agenda, we will not be supporting the resolution.


Similar Posts