Letters / Tardy government ‘decimating’ community clubs

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“The ACT government is decimating our club sector on a purported gaming harm platform, yet is failing to spend funds raised to help Canberrans impacted by gambling,” bemoans letter writer GWYN REES, of ClubsACT.

EXCUSING its failure to support the safe reopening of Canberra’s clubs, the Chief Minister has declared he is in “no hurry” to see gaming machines switched back on, yet the ACT government is reaping huge returns from gambling operators who provide little or no community contribution.

ClubsACT has argued that no scientific evidence has been provided to prove that allowing clubs to reopen with gaming facilities operational would increase the risk of COVID-19 cases. Instead, the ACT government seems to have made a discretionary decision, which it has cloaked as a principled ruling.

Yet this decision seems to be having the opposite effect to that being touted. It is actually costing funds for harm minimisation and leaving Canberrans to fend for themselves.

In 2018, the ACT government introduced the Betting Operators Tax or more broadly understood Point of Consumption Tax on online betting services and estimated this would raise around $2 million annually. In the last financial year this tax actually brought in more than $10.1 million.

Unfortunately, none of this money goes towards helping people struggling with gambling or directly to those in our community in need. 

From their gaming revenue, clubs contribute to two problem gambling funds and the Chief Minister’s Charity Fund, in addition to community contributions and gaming taxes.

Online operators can opt to contribute to the Gambling Harm Fund, but very few do and certainly not at the same proportion of income as our clubs do.

When the Point of Consumption Tax was introduced we recommended diverting nearly half, if not all, of this windfall to problem gambling and community purposes. Instead the ACT government seems happy to reap returns from gambling so long as it is online and essentially hidden away.

Canberrans are betting, but instead of profits helping those impacted and our community organisations, they are instead being eaten up by interstate and international companies and the government itself.

Even more alarming is the fact that funds earmarked for gambling harm and mitigation are sitting idle. In answer to a Question on Notice, the government revealed that as at March 2020, there was $2.4 million still sitting in the fund.

The ACT government is decimating our club sector on a purported gaming harm platform, yet is failing to spend funds raised to help Canberrans impacted by gambling.

It has been reported that about 25 per cent of local grassroot sporting organisations fear they will be insolvent due to covid.

Our local clubs are a major supporter of grassroot sports. The majority of clubs cannot reopen without opening their gaming venues and are therefore losing money every day. If our clubs have no money they cannot help keep these teams going.

It is time for the hypocrisy to end and for our community clubs to be allowed to fully reopen with appropriate safety and hygiene measures in place.

We call on the ACT government to introduce a “ClubKeeper” program derived from its unallocated taxes, to assist clubs to continue to support community groups, in addition to assisting them to maintain their assets.

Gwyn Rees, chief executive, ClubsACT 

Ashamed of ‘dingy’ Garema Place

AS a Canberran living in the city for a long time, I feel ashamed at the dingy appearance of Garema Place in Civic. All this complacent government seems to be doing is installing new towers all over the city so it can get more and more revenue.

Years ago I used to love going to this spot that so well represented the centre of Civic. It was vibrant, had interesting shops, cafes and restaurants. Something akin to what Braddon is now.

Wouldn’t it be a welcome development to plant nice gardens and open more quality dining?

No wonder drug dealers and addicts find the area a suitable meeting place.

Frank Atkinson, Dunlop

Trying to capture sympathy

DR Kirrily Jordan’s article titled, “From Manus to a ‘hostage’ year in a hotel room” (CN, July 23) discusses the recent plight of two illegal asylum seekers, named as Aran and Nico.

She informs us that Nico has a wife and son back home but nothing about Aran, “the dreamer”. 

However, she fails to inform us where these two people came from and why, let alone as to why these people have refused to accept the Australian government’s offer of repatriation. Instead she is tacitly trying to capture our sympathies; and I do not think this is satisfactory.

If she had properly and comprehensively informed us, we may choose to be sympathetic to these two particular people.

Vic Vorobieff, via email

Macklin has been treated well!

COLUMNIST Robert Macklin’s left-wing, anti-British and anti-Australian rantings suggest Australia has failed him. 

But Australia has served and treated him well; our English language and Westminster system of government have equally served Australia well and in these troubled times are widely valued and deeply appreciated. 

Had it not been for British settlement Australia was destined to have become a French, Spanish or Dutch colony, perhaps even a Russian, German or Japanese state. 

Macklin’s selective approach to history once more arose in his swipe at our politicians for not paying more heed to the matter of the failed British experiment with shoddy, high-rise accommodation tower blocks (CN, July 16). 

Indeed, there have been some high-rise tower failures but not all. The iconic Greenway flats at North Sydney appear to have survived remarkably and served the community and tenants well and there are no doubt many other fine examples. 

French architect Le Corbusier perhaps has something to answer for as he is credited with the accommodation-tower concept adopted around the world, not the British. The Whitlam government’s Melba Flats complex in the 1970s was also a failure and they were ultimately demolished.

Colin Dennett, Canberra

Manuka’s lane of shame

SOME Canberra suburbs are beginning to look like moonscapes. Fewer people, less business and some walkways, such as Palmerston Lane, Manuka, that have hundreds of cigarette butts crushed into what were attractive ground tiles. 

As a daily passer-by, I can report they have been there for nearly 12 months. They are accompanied by pieces of old rags, bits of toilet paper, other disgusting droppings, open rubbish bins and offensive odours. 

All this within metres of shops selling food that are trying to maintain the anti-virus rules. The area demands immediate action.

Colliss Parrett, Barton

Isn’t two decades of this enough?

WE are now getting close to crunch time when Canberrans need to decide on how to vote at the coming elections.

As one with tertiary qualifications in political science and experience in working with various Commonwealth ministers and of setting up a political party myself, I would like voters to take the situation seriously.

Our long-term Labor government has become even more arrogant and sustained by ever increasing rate rises and the bidding of developers.

The Liberal Party has been missing in action and so conservative that it has left most of its constituency on the sidelines.

And there is a plethora of independents and small parties that have failed to try and find common ground, present a united front and which will become irrelevant as a result of the vote being split. 

Canberra badly needs an independent, community-focused party that will promote good policy and ride shotgun over the Labor/Greens party (yes, it is a single party to my mind) and the lazy Liberals whose representatives are really being paid for doing just about nothing at all. Unfortunately, history looks as though it will be Groundhog Day once again. Isn’t two decades of this enough?

Ric Hingee, Duffy

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  1. We call on the ACT government to introduce a “ClubKeeper” program derived from its unallocated taxes, to assist clubs to continue to support community groups, in addition to assisting them to maintain their assets.

    PLEASE. All clubs have been given ample support, through jobkeeper, through substantial waivers of gaming taxes, through a gaming machine buy back.

    Just how much support do you want for goodness sake?

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