Gaming Machine Tax
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO (Penrith) [3.35 p.m.]: I move:
That this House:
(1) congratulates the Premier on negotiating new poker machine tax rates for New South Wales clubs;
(2) notes that the agreement represents the fifth tax cut the Premier has delivered in just eight months;
(3) supports this fair and responsible agreement, which does not compromise the Government's ability to expand essential services like health, education, policing and transport; and
(4) condemns the Opposition for its continued scare campaign and attack on the clubs industry for reaching agreement with the Government.
When Morris Iemma became Premier eight months ago, he promised to listen to the New South Wales club movement's concerns about the poker machine taxation rates. He also promised that any decision on reducing poker machine taxation rates must be made in the context of delivering a responsible budget for the people of New South Wales. He made it clear that the Government's priorities are schools, hospitals, roads, policing, and community services. I am delighted that the Government has reached agreement with Clubs New South Wales on a new taxation deal that is fair, affordable and reasonable. It balances the valuable social and economic contribution the club industry makes to New South Wales with its obligation to the community to pay a fair rate of tax.
Yesterday I spoke to representatives of most of the clubs in the Penrith electorate—the Emu Plains Sporting Club, the Nepean Rowing Club, the Penrith Bowling Club, the Penrith Leagues Club, the Kingswood Sports Club—and they are delighted with the arrangements. A meeting held at Club Paceway yesterday was attended by a representative from Penrith RSL, Carl Riley; a representative from Penrith Gael's Irish Club, Sue Denton; and a representative of Club Paceway, Lorraine Pozza. Carl Riley, the Secretary-Manager of Penrith RSL, said, "We know we have to pay tax but this deal between Clubs New South Wales and the Government is good, we can move forward." The Penrith Gael's Irish Club representative, Sue Denton, said it was a great day for clubs and the Government. The representative of Club Paceway, Lorraine Pozza, said, "All parts of the MOU are good." [Quorum formed.]
As I was saying, I met with some of the Penrith clubs. They were delighted with the arrangements. Lorraine Pozza from Club Paceway said, "All parts of the MOU are good, especially because we contribute to the community beyond our CDSE." This evident link between the clubs and the community is manifested in important ways. Two Sundays ago the Penrith Gael's Irish club held a children's disco in the Jim Anderson Room. As my Government colleagues and the sole Opposition member who is present in the Chamber would know, the late Jim Anderson was the parliamentary representative for Londonderry for many years. The room was named in his honour to reflect his tireless dedication to his community. The club held a community event above and beyond its Community Development Support Expenditure Scheme contribution: it helped the Relay For Life organising committee host a children's disco to support the Cancer Council of New South Wales.
The Penrith RSL supports 17 intra-clubs, ranging from netball, soccer, photography and euchre to travel. The Penrith RSL netball club has been facilitating netball for a number of years and is very successful, and I commend the organisers of the club. I also commend the soccer club. The Penrith RSL supports not only those intra-clubs but also the RSL sub-branch. Clive Connor is its Chair and Laurie Tucker is the Secretary. I also note that the Penrith Woman of the Year, Pat Tucker, is the secretary of the Penrith RSL women’s sub-branch. She should be commended for her unsung, quiet work behind the scenes for her group. The RSL also supported the Naval Association conference that was held there. I helped with the certificates for the post-World War II service personnel at the Macquarie room. Those certificates were well received.
The clubs are pleased with the arrangements because they provide certainty to their members and workers, to the charitable, sporting and social groups they support, and to the businesses that rely on the clubs for much of their trade. Importantly, the Premier’s agreement with Clubs New South Wales increases the tax-free threshold to $1 million, a fivefold increase from the existing $200,000 threshold. This will completely exempt hundreds of small community clubs, such as the Penrith Golf Club and Dunheved Golf Club, from State gaming machine taxes.
There is also substantial relief for clubs of all sizes in future years. We have done this at half the cost of the irresponsible, unachievable proposal from the member for Vaucluse. That is another of his unaffordable promises that would put the wrecking ball through the State’s economy. The Premier’s negotiations with Clubs New South Wales were extensive and detailed, but the final result shows what can be achieved when you work hard and maintain goodwill to find a reasonable outcome. This outcome is balanced, fair and, above all, affordable. Clubs receiving less than $1 million in gaming revenue will pay no poker machine tax. Other clubs will receive a substantial ongoing reduction in the amount of tax they pay. Overall these measures mean that 60 per cent of clubs will pay no tax and 40 per cent will pay less tax.
The New South Wales Government wants to ensure the ongoing viability of our vibrant club industry while providing practical solutions to improve our infrastructure and deliver better services and more nurses, teachers and police. This task is made all the more difficult when we are cheated out of $2 billion of GST revenue each year. The member for Vaucluse’s approach to these challenges is to irresponsibly over-commit to every special interest group that knocks on his door and promise billions of dollars to buy votes around the State. These are pie-in-the-sky promises that Peter Debnam will not and cannot keep. The Premier told us yesterday that he would personally examine the impact of the tax increases. As Clubs New South Wales chief executive David Costello said yesterday, this agreement shows once again that Morris Iemma is a man of his word and he has delivered on his promise.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS (Upper Hunter) [3.43 p.m.]: Well may the Labor Party put up the member for Penrith to defend the indefensible. She is the most vulnerable member of this Parliament in terms of the clubs movement. One thing will happen very shortly: in September 2006—
Mr Gerard Martin: Where is your support over there, George?
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: Mr Deputy Speaker, if this is going to go on for 10 minutes it will be quite unparliamentary. The next thing that will happen to clubs in New South Wales is they will get another tax hike out of the ALP in September, just a few months from now. There is a further tax hike to go: one more year, one more step prior to the next election. A great and glorious deal by the ALP, but come September the Government will lose the clubs again. The Government thinks it has bought peace with the clubs movement until the next election. Then it will dud them straight after the election. Labor did it last time and it will do it again next time. Last time the Government promised them consultation.
Mr Peter Black: You finally said something right. We are going to get elected.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: Mr Deputy Speaker, the honourable member for Murray-Darling should be brought under control if he cannot exert it on himself. The honourable member for Bathurst ought to grow up. He is supposed to be the Parliamentary Labor Whip and he is nothing more than a child. I do not know that anyone could be proud of him.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Members of the Opposition will control themselves.
Mr GEORGE SOURIS: Labor intends, if it wins the next election, to dud the clubs straight away. The question today is: would you trust Labor? Even in its press release the Government indicates there will be legislation, as if to create an aura that this will be supported, unchallengeable, and fixed in blood. Of course there will be legislation. It is called the budget. That is where the damage was done in 2003 and I presume this deal will be put in place in the next budget. The legislation people should worry about, should Labor win the next election, is that which will be introduced in May 2007. That is when the dudding will occur.
When the Coalition announced its memorandum of understanding with the clubs it also included in principle a replication for the hotel movement. I have not heard a thing about the plight of hotels, which are equally struck by the pernicious taxation regime being imposed by the Labor Party. Labor’s record prior to 1999 was an attempt to calm the clubs down after an acrimonious battle in 1998-99 when the Labor Party again tried to increases taxes on clubs. It had to back down but it promised consultation. Ask former member Pat Rogan what he thought about the consultation. Michael Egan told Pat Rogan the night before the budget that that was their consultation and they could wait until the next day to find out what the rates would be. The Egan-Carr-Iemma era is one of abuse, vitriol and bad faith towards clubs. One has only to look at section 41X of the amending legislation to see exactly the sort of venom that the ALP is prepared to invoke in the seat of Penrith against the Penrith Panthers Rugby League Club. Ask anyone associated with the rugby league club what ALP stands for and they will tell you.
I am not surprised that I have received correspondence from a director of the Hexham Bowling Club, Mr Alan Mitchell. Mr Mitchell has been faithfully voting Labor at State and Federal levels for 37 years and so has his wife. His son will be a first-time voter at the next State election. Mr Mitchell will never vote Labor again. He has told me this in writing and has happily allowed me to use his name in this debate to show members opposite how Labor has destroyed its former heartland over the past three years.
It was the Coalition’s memorandum of understanding and the impact it was having on 2.5 million members of registered clubs that brought the Government to its knees over club taxes. It was the Coalition that delivered this relief for the hotels and clubs, not the ALP. The ALP’s position remains inferior to that of the Coalition. The Coalition’s position is to fix the rates at 2005; the ALP’s position is to fix the rates at 2006, a whole year more. The big question is: would you trust them to hold to that position after the election if they are re-elected? Members opposite broke the faith with the clubs movement in New South Wales. They lost their votes long ago.
Clubs hate members of the Australian Labor Party. Many other lifetime Labor supporters believe that they abandoned their principles of support for ordinary hard-working Australians when they scuttled off in pursuit of the intellectual snobs in our society—the chardonnay set and the glitterati of big business—and pandered to big unions. That is what the Labor Party is all about; it is not what ordinary people, the millions of registered club members in New South Wales, are about. Members of the Labor Party forgot long ago the hopes and aspirations of millions of club members and their families.
The Labor Party has already damaged clubs, and club members will not forget it. When the tax goes up again in September its impact on clubs will continue, resulting in job losses, closures of clubs and a loss of community contributions for charities and sport. Food prices will go up and there will be a deferral of capital works for club member amenities. Members of the Labor Party did not make that decision; we all know that Mark Arbib, the big hand at Labor headquarters holding up their jelly backs, told them what damage had been done to their so-called, taken-for-granted Labor heartland, which comprises the electorates of Tweed, Monaro, Dubbo, Tamworth, The Entrance, Parramatta, Murray-Darling, Penrith, Miranda, Menai, Heathcote and many other electorates.
Mr Gerard Martin: Point of order: I remind the honourable member, who is talking about Labor losing its heartland, that he has cut his margin by 300 per cent.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! There is no point of order.
Mr GERARD MARTIN (Bathurst) [3.51 p.m.]: Welcome, Mr Deputy-Speaker. It is good to see you back in the chair. The honourable member for Upper Hunter, who led in debate on this urgent motion, looks with disdain at clubs. He would not go in and rub shoulders with members of the working class; that is not his cup of tea at all. Opposition members are clearly out of touch with industry and community reaction to yesterday's announcement. They are continuing a pointless scare campaign instead of recognising the hard work that has been put into these negotiations by members on both sides of this Chamber. They should stand up for our clubs and oppose the Federal Government's decision to remove the tax-free status of South Sydney Junior Rugby League Club.
What are Opposition members prepared to do about that? That decision could have terrible ramifications for thousands of sporting clubs, the bowling club in Blayney and smaller clubs throughout my electorate. Yesterday, as clubs across New South Wales marked the agreement between Clubs New South Wales and the Iemma Government, a Federal bureaucracy poured cold water on their celebrations. It is a matter of utmost urgency that this House recognise and congratulate the clubs movement and the Iemma Government on reaching this accord. It is important that we place on the parliamentary record the real and lasting benefits of this agreement—an agreement delivered by our Premier who is a man of his word.
In the Central West, Orana and Lachlan regions we have clubs such as the Orange Ex-Services Club, which will pay no poker machine tax under the agreement announced yesterday. The clubs industry has welcomed this agreement. Today Mr Guy Chapman, Assistant General Manager of the Orange Ex-Services Club, told the Central Western Daily:
We are very happy with the situation ... this means we're no longer facing the prospect of local jobs being lost, and it means our money stays here in Orange to help the Orange community.
As the honourable member for Penrith said earlier, 60 per cent of clubs will pay no tax. Narromine Bowling Club, Deniliquin Golf Club, Batlow RSL, Lithgow City Bowling Club, which is now known as Club Lithgow, and bigger clubs will pay no tax. The other 40 per cent of clubs with poker machine profits of more than $1 million will receive substantial tax relief. Throughout debate on this motion Opposition members have promised everything to everyone. The Leader of the Opposition said from day one that there would be no further tax hikes, but on the other side of the ledger Opposition members are spending billions of dollars.
If we look at the history of the club movement in this State we find that it has one political friend, that is, the Labor Party. After going back to the commencement of the club movement I established that the oldest registered club in New South Wales is the Lithgow and District Workmen's Club, which is located in my electorate. I am a proud member of that club which was established in 1889 and which does a magnificent job.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Upper Hunter will resume his seat.
Mr GERARD MARTIN: The honourable member for Upper Hunter would have nothing in common with that club.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Upper Hunter has had an opportunity to speak in the debate.
Mr GERARD MARTIN: Opposition members have done the begging for the big end of town. They are not concerned about the impact of this tax on the club movement. Has the honourable member for Upper Hunter ever been to Gulgong or visited his electorate recently? He is a laughing stock in his electorate. He never visits his electorate, let alone the clubs located in it. Every time I visit his electorate members of the community ask, "George who?" My electorate shares a common border with the electorate of Upper Hunter. No-one in the town of Kandos, which used to be located in the electorate of the honourable member for Upper Hunter, remembers him.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! The honourable member for Upper Hunter will resume his seat.
Mr GERARD MARTIN: Do honourable members remember the Mudgee small field days last year when George was caught skulking into town? He drove around the corner, had a cup of tea and whizzed off when members of the community wanted to welcome him. When he was torpedoed by a journalist he was highly embarrassed and said, "I really just drove in and out. There did not seem to be any problems." He did not want to be seen and, more importantly, he did not want to do any work. I am not sure what is his favourite club, but I bet it is in the eastern suburbs of Sydney. It might be the University Club, but it certainly would not be the Lithgow and District Workmen's Club or one of the local clubs where people work for their community. The honourable member for Upper Hunter and a long list of former Leaders of the National Party are snobs who have nothing in common with the club movement.
Mrs JUDY HOPWOOD (Hornsby) [3.56 p.m.]: Mr Deputy-Speaker, welcome back. I support my Opposition colleagues in opposing this urgent motion. Government members had the appalling gall to state that they have solved the problems of clubs when for many years they have neglected clubs and the communities that support them, certainly for as long as I have been a member of Parliament. What an appalling backflip! Government members had the gall to state that Opposition members had not done their job and addressed the concerns of these clubs. Opposition members have referred on a daily basis to the problems that clubs are encountering.
I want the Government to answer this question: Where did it get the money to implement its policy when it has a budget black hole? I have a number of strong clubs in my electorate. The Hornsby RSL, a proud club that is 50 years old, is worried about the effects of this unfair tax on its activities. I met with Colin Bourke, the club president, and his executive and I have discussed these issues with them. That club selflessly collected money to donate to the victims of the tsunami; it has given money to sports clubs; and it has let out its rooms for nothing, and all for good causes. The same thing applies to Berowra RSL, Asquith Rugby League Club, Asquith Golf Club and Asquith Bowling Club.
All those clubs are under threat as a result of the policies of this spineless Government, which has not been able to overturn the policy of the former Carr Government and former Treasurer Michael Egan, both of whom are no longer members of this Parliament. The Government suddenly reinvented its policy, did a backflip, blamed all these problems on the Opposition and said that no blame could be attributed to it. This spineless, lazy Government deserves to be thrown out on its ear next year. What an appalling display! I am shocked, horrified and alarmed at the garbage that has been spoken by Government members, who are panicking.
Community members who use their clubs and sporting facilities and who participate in cultural activities have this Government's number. Members of the Coalition are friends of the clubs and the clubs are friends of the Coalition. Today the Government implemented this agreement but after the tax hike in September it will do another backflip. I hope that after the next election members opposite are no longer able to perform any backflips. I hope that they will be on the opposition benches and the new Coalition government will be implementing its good policies. This Government was dragged kicking and screaming to make these changes because many Labor electorates are vulnerable. It is too little, too late. It is not good enough. It is policy on the run. It is a patchwork policy that will not make any difference to the opinion that the New South Wales people have of this Government.
The Opposition and the community are scared of what the Government will do next. Look at Labor's polling numbers. They are going down the gurgler—as they should. How many clubs have closed as a result of this tax? Who has been deprived of services—and many people have been? Clubs in my electorate have come to me in distress and alarm. They received community requests for money and assistance and, for the first time, they had to say no. They could no longer help all those whom they used to assist because the Government has dropped the ball. It failed to recognise the community concern and appreciate the urgent need to turn the policy around. That should have happened before today.
Clubs in my area were happy to sign the memorandum of understanding because they could see that the Coalition cares about clubs. Opposition members attended the two rallies held by the clubs movement. Father Chris Riley spoke out against the tax a couple of years ago, when the Government created this mess. But the Government took no notice even of people of the calibre of Father Chris Riley, who called on Labor to support his Youth Off The Streets project and many others like it. Father Chris Riley stood outside Governor Macquarie Tower and told the Government not to do this to the New South Wales community. But the Government went ahead and introduced the gaming machine tax. Labor was deaf to the needs of the community and of the clubs and it deserves everything that comes its way in March next year.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL (Tweed—Parliamentary Secretary) [4.01 p.m.]: I am very proud to join my colleagues the honourable member for Penrith and the honourable member for Bathurst in debating this urgent motion. I congratulate the Premier, as the motion does, on negotiating the new poker machine tax rates for clubs in New South Wales. The agreement reached between the New South Wales clubs movement and the New South Wales Government represents the fifth tax cut delivered by Premier Iemma in just eight months. A few weeks ago I had the pleasure of drawing to the attention of the House the overwhelmingly positive community and business response to the Premier's payroll incentive tax package for the North Coast. Boy, was that well received! Today I can report to the House that this latest tax cut has received a similar response on the North Coast. Page 7 of today's edition of the Northern Star carries the headline, "Pokie tax deal is a winner, says Ballina RSL". The accompanying article states:
"The State Government and ClubsNSW's new deal on poker machine taxes is a significant win for the Ballina RSL Club", general manager Bill Coulter, said yesterday.
I look forward to hearing the honourable member for Ballina and the honourable member for Lismore, whose electorate is not far from Ballina, also applauding the new agreement. I welcome the good news for North Coast clubs on behalf of members opposite, who seem to be a bit shy about doing so. Under the new agreement clubs such as Bellingen RSL Country Club and Ocean Shores Country Club will pay no tax.
Mr Thomas George: You're the member for Tweed. What do the clubs there say?
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: I am moving up the coast geographically to the top seat in New South Wales. I am about to get to the Tweed. This is thanks to a very fair and responsible agreement that will provide tax relief for clubs into the future without compromising our ability to expand essential services and provide practical solutions for community needs in areas such as health, education and policing. This agreement is the culmination of hard work and dedication on both sides. I acknowledge the work of Clubs New South Wales in returning to the table to work towards achieving agreement. Those opposite are a bit annoyed about this agreement because they wanted this little dispute to continue for quite some time. They are upset that the Premier has gazumped them.
Let us consider the clubs in the electorate of the honourable member for Upper Hunter that will benefit as a result of this agreement. Clubs such as the Scone Bowling Club, Muswellbrook Golf Club and Murrurundi Bowling Club will be subject to no tax under this agreement. What did the shadow Minister say about that? We heard only his usual carping and whingeing. Unfortunately, that is the sort of out-of-touch attitude that we have come to expect from Opposition members.
Mr Thomas George: Name the Lismore clubs.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: We will get there.
Mr DEPUTY-SPEAKER: Order! Opposition members will allow the honourable member for Tweed to speak.
Mr NEVILLE NEWELL: Let us go right to the top to the Twin Towns Services Club. The newspaper carried the headline, "Tweed clubs welcome jobs certainty"—because that is what this announcement means. Why would they not? After all, Twin Towns is one of the biggest employers in the area and I am delighted that this agreement has been reached. The 10 per cent reduction from 2011 on represents a saving of $2.5 million per year for Twin Towns. I am delighted that that money will stay in the Tweed economy. The club's commitment to the local community through community development support expenditure funding will continue—as it would have continued under the previous arrangement. The $2.5 million that Twin Towns will save will be invested in the club industry through entertainment and members' benefits. Twin Towns is the biggest club in my electorate. Let us step down to smaller clubs such as Tweed Heads Bowls Club and Seagulls leagues club. They will benefit by more than $1 million under this agreement. That money will stay in their pockets and be invested in the local economy. I know that Opposition members will be happy about that, although it does not help them politically. [Time expired.]
Mrs KARYN PALUZZANO (Penrith) [4.06 p.m.], in reply: I thank the honourable member for Bathurst, the honourable member for Tweed and those Opposition members who have contributed to the debate this afternoon. I listened with interest to the speech of the honourable member for Upper Hunter. The agreement from the other side was unfunded, unfounded and unreasonable. It would have sent a wrecking ball through the New South Wales economy. I alluded to the impact of this new agreement on clubs in the Penrith area. Penrith RSL will have an 11 per cent reduction in taxes. I say to the honourable member for Hornsby: In this place we need actions rather than emotions. This is a new Premier, a new Government, a new direction and a new agreement. The community does not want "I" and "me" statements; it wants to hear statements from its elected members that consider community needs.
I have outlined the clubs' contributions to the community on numerous occasions in private member's statements, and again today. The Gaels club supports not only the Relay For Life but people in the community learning Irish dancing and the Gaelic language. Glenbrook Bowling Club supports its ladies' and men's bowling teams. The Penrith Nepean Rowing Club supports its teams and their commitments at rowing championships. The honourable member for Upper Hunter referred to scaremongering and taxation changes. I hope that he was not alluding to the decision by the Administrative Appeals Tribunal regarding Souths Juniors. The withdrawal of that club's Federal tax-free threshold could have major ramifications for clubs in New South Wales. On a day when Premier Iemma—who is a man of his word—is delivering on a promise, the Federal Government is putting a New South Wales club at risk.
For the benefit of members opposite, I will speak very slowly. Clubs New South Wales and the New South Wales Government have settled the long-running negotiation about the poker machines tax. What does this mean? It means more than half of New South Wales clubs will pay no State tax and the zero tax threshold will rise from $200,000 to $1 million. Today the people at Penrith Golf Club and Dunheved Golf Club are extremely happy. From 1 September 2007 every single club will be better off under the new agreement. New gaming tax rates will apply to poker machine revenue in clubs between 2006 and 2011-12. The agreement balances the valuable social and economic contributions the club industry makes to New South Wales and its obligation to pay a fair rate of tax. The agreement is about the obligation of the club industry to pay a fair rate of tax. It is a fair and reasonable agreement that provides tax relief for clubs in future years without compromising the Government's ability to expand essential services, such as health, education, policing and transport.
From day one the Iemma Government has listened to the case put by clubs and objectively reviewed their proposals. This outcome provides certainty for clubs, their members, the charitable and social groups they support and the businesses that rely on them for much of their trade. Importantly, hundreds of smaller community clubs, which are often those in rural and regional areas, will not be liable to pay State-based gaming tax under the new tax scale. I also remind honourable members that Clubs New South Wales Chairman, Peter Newell, said yesterday:
The revised tax increases afford clubs a degree of financial security which allows them to continue providing and supporting the community as they have always done.
Question—That the motion be agreed to—put.
The House divided.
Question resolved in the affirmative.
Mr J. H. Turner
Mr R.W. Turner
Motion agreed to.