Speech – Gambling Regulation Amendment (Wagering and Betting) Bill 2018

Ms FITZHERBERT (Southern Metropolitan) (17:01) — I am pleased to be able to speak briefly on the Gambling Regulation Amendment (Wagering and Betting) Bill 2018. I do not plan to regale the chamber with accounts of my previous visits to race days; it is probably best they stay safe in my memory rather than being repeated in this place. Much as I have been interested in hearing the accounts given by others, I think it is best that mine stay quite private.

I want to start by speaking about a celebration of racing that was held in this place earlier this week, on Tuesday night, when I think many of us in this room joined the industry upstairs in Federation Room to celebrate the Spring Racing Carnival. The good silverware came out, quite literally. There were for us to see, touch and be photographed with the Melbourne Cup, the Cox Plate —
Mr Finn — I saw you with the Melbourne Cup.
Ms FITZHERBERT — I did have the Melbourne Cup, with a security man right next to me and a glove so that I was not tempted to steal it or damage it, not that I would have done so.

It is reasonable that we have that celebration, because I think the racing industry brings a huge amount to the state. It is a great time to be in Melbourne in particular. Then of course there are all the country meetings as well, which a number of members have discussed in intimate and loving detail. It is a great thing for the state, a great thing for our economy and a great thing for many rural communities in particular.

So how is the government celebrating only a couple of days later? By introducing a new tax, because that is what this government does best —

Mr Finn — Taxes and lies.

Ms FITZHERBERT — Taxes and lies, as Mr Finn says. I want to repeat an exchange between the now Premier and Peter Mitchell the very night before the election. I might have heard Mr Finn referring to this, but I think it should be repeated. Peter Mitchell said to the then opposition leader, ‘Do you promise Victorians here tonight that you will not increase taxes or introduce any new taxes?’. He looked down the barrel of the camera and said, ‘I make that promise, Peter, to every single Victorian’. We know now that this was either a dreadful lie or a terrible misunderstanding, because since then —

Ms Crozier interjected.

Ms FITZHERBERT — All right. Ms Crozier corrects me; it is a lie. We have had since then some 12 new taxes, and taxes in Victoria have been raised by about $4 billion per year, which is massive. It rockets us to the top of the list as the highest taxing state in the country. All that has been achieved in just one term. So in terms of new taxes, we see that brown coal royalties have been tripled, we have seen the Uber and taxi taxes, we have seen an increase in stamp duty on new cars, we have seen a new stamp duty on off-the-plan purchases, we have seen new annual property valuations, we have seen a new stamp duty on transfers of properties between spouses, we have seen a new land tax for absentee owners, we have seen a new stamp duty for foreign purchasers and we have seen an increased fire services levy on property.

Mr Dalidakis interjected.

Ms FITZHERBERT — What I might remind Mr Dalidakis of, taking up his interruptions over there, is the question that the then opposition leader was asked, which was: ‘Do you promise Victorians here tonight that you will not increase taxes or introduce any new taxes?’. On that basis I think the Premier needs to cop that one; these are indeed increased taxes or new taxes.

Just the other day the Treasurer, Tim Pallas, realised, I think quite wisely, that he should not even attempt the same high-wire act. When asked he indicated that he could not promise that there would not be any new taxes, fees or charges, because the government needs, in his words, ‘flexibility to adjust’, which is a big fat euphemism if I have ever heard one, because flexibility to adjust means new taxes, new fees and new charges. Based on the government’s performance, I think we will be seeing more of the same.

To get onto the tax currently under discussion, the purpose of the bill is to amend the Gambling Regulation Act 2003 and the Taxation Administration Act 1997 to replace existing tax arrangements for wagering and betting with a point-of-consumption tax. The new tax will capture all wagers and bets as defined within the Gambling Regulation Act 2003. Provisions have been made for additional definitions in future regulations.

I note that the government estimates that the state will receive around $30 million in additional net revenue in the first full year of operation, rising to $40 million by the end of the forward estimates. This does not include the proportion of the point-of-consumption tax that will be paid to the Victorian racing industry.

I did miss the start of the racing function the other night — I believe I was here rather than upstairs at the function — but I am not sure that this was mentioned in any great detail in the proceedings upstairs. Maybe we were politely not mentioning this.

Mr Finn — Don’t mention the war.

Ms FITZHERBERT — Yes, exactly. I was thinking of exactly that phrase, Mr Finn, but not saying it.

The government, I understand, has made statements that the racing industry and each code in the industry will be no worse off as a result of these changes, yet there is nothing in the bill that guarantees this will occur. A significant amount of discretion is given to the Treasurer to set what proportion of the wagering and betting tax is provided to the racing industry, and this can be changed by gazettal. So in a nutshell I think that is the Andrews government doing what it does best. It is ending this Parliament with a bit of a focus on tax, which has been a motif of this government.

Mr Dalidakis interjected.

Ms FITZHERBERT — I read a list of new taxes and charges. I have made this clear to you, Mr Dalidakis, already. Maybe what Ms Mikakos would say if she were here is that you should listen more carefully. So please, less talking and more listening, because I have outlined them.

I understand this bill will probably be going into committee, so I look forward to some of these issues being dug into in more detail during the committee stage.

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