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'Harm minimisation' strategy failing with prediction of additional $600 million in pokies profits by 2020

The NSW Government’s own budget forecasts show its ‘harm minimisation’ strategies for poker machines will fail, predicting a massive $600 million  in additional profit  from poker machines in clubs and hotels over the next four years and an almost $200 million increase in gambling taxes. The 2016-17 budget forecasts obtained by The Greens show: a projected $277,070,971 increase in profits from poker machines in  hotels from 2016-2020. a projected $334,117,440 increase in profits from poker machines in clubs from 2016-2020. an additional $189,095,496 in pokies taxes from clubs and hotels combined from 2016-2020 At the same time, poker machine numbers reduced by 348 in the 12 months to June 2016 from 98,002 to 97,654[i]. NSW Greens MP Justin Field said the budget forecasts make a mockery of the Government’s ‘gradual reduction strategy’ and rhetoric of ‘harm minimisation’ when it comes to poker machines in NSW. “The Government and industry make noises about harm minimisation and responsible gambling but the budget forecasts show they are anticipating a significant increase in the harm these machines do in the NSW community. Clubs, hotels and the Government’s will profit from this harm to the tune of $600 million over the next four years taking total expected annual profits to $6.62 Billion by 2020,” Mr Field said today. “The Government’s own budget forecasts show it expects the current harm minimisation approach will fail, and despite a reduction in the number of machines over the period, profits to the gambling clubs and hotels will increase and losses to the community will grow. NSW is home to almost half the poker machines in Australia and 10% of machines globally. “These machines are designed to make people play to extinction. We know they trigger the same reward pathways in the brain as cocaine or ice and can lead to addiction. The harm caused in the community is significant including through relationship breakdowns, domestic violence, homelessness and suicide. “The NSW Government’s messages promoting ‘harm minimisation’ and ‘responsible gambling’ are not credible when we see at the same time they are projecting huge profit increases for the industry. “I’m calling on NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole to put people before pokies and implement genuine harm minimisation approaches such as $1 maximum bets, rapidly reducing the number of machines in NSW and empowering communities with venue-by-venue data on poker machine losses in their local area,” he said. Spreadsheet with copy of Treasury documents available here: https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/0B9GFQCz85cceRG5wemJzdHlwdTA?usp=sharing Question asked by Justin Field in the Legislative Council today: My Question without notice is to the honourable Niall Blair representing the Minister for Racing, Minister, Last year the NSW community lost approximately $8 billion on the pokies. Your Government’s most recent budget forecasts predict an increase in club profits – which also represents losses to the community - of more than $600 million over the next 4 years. How can your Government claim to support harm minimisation strategies to reduce the social [i] Budget estimates transcript, 1 September 2016, Questions to Racing Minister Troy Grant by Mr Justin Field, p30

NSW Parliament acknowledges Steve Posselt's historic climate emergency kayak journey

The NSW Legislative Council has passed a motion acknowledging the achievement of local adventurer Steve Posselt and his 1,330km kayak journey down the NSW coast raising awareness of the urgent climate emergency. Steve set off from Ballina in Northern NSW in his kayak on New Year's Day and completed his journey by handing over a petition with nearly 20,000 signatures calling on political leaders to acknowledge and act on the climate emergency in Canberra on 27 February. Greens Member for Ballina Tamara Smith said, “Congratulations to Ballina local Steve Posselt on his epic journey and its impact on raising community understanding of the need for urgent action to curb global warming. “Steve's kayak trip has inspired and informed communities from Ballina and Moruya and political leaders in the halls of Canberra,” she said. Greens MP Justin Field said, “the impacts of climate change are not off in the future, they are being felt right now. Steve has led in the way in showing every one of us can and should play a part in addressing the challenges of global warming and moving to a renewable-powered economy. “The decisions being made now will determine whether we have a safe and stable climate for current and future generations,” he said. Motion passed by NSW Legislative Council 7 March 2017 Steve Posselt kayak - climate emergency acknowledgment That this House notes that on the first of January this year climate activist and adventurer Steve Posselt began a 1,330 kilometre kayak journey down the NSW coast from Ballina to Moruya and is today pulling his kayak inland to Canberra where later this week he will call on the Federal Government to declare a climate emergency and take urgent action to address climate change. That this House notes Steve Posselt’s efforts to raise public awareness of the risks from failing to address climate change.

South Coast youth unemployment at crisis levels

Youth unemployment on the South Coast is at crisis levels according to NSW Greens MP and South Coast spokesperson Justin Field. The number of unemployed young people on the South Coast and Southern Highlands has hit 21.2%, the highest rate since July 2013. The figures were published this week by the NSW Parliamentary Library in their January Labour Force Trends report incorporating data from the ABS Labour Force Survey. The figures showing near record high youth unemployment on the South Coast and Southern Highlands were released the same day as the federal announcement that Sunday penalty rates will be cut for hospitality and retail workers. This move will see many young people with jobs in the region facing a cut in their take home pay. NSW Greens MP and spokesperson for the South Coast Justin Field said, “Youth unemployment on the South Coast and in the Southern Highlands is at crisis levels. “Local youths are stuck in a vice of disadvantage -- many who want to work can’t find employment and many in jobs are now facing a significant pay cut from the unfair removal of Sunday penalty rates. “While employment opportunities have grown slightly elsewhere across NSW, they have tanked in our region. “Today more than 21% of young people aged 15-24 in the Southern Highlands and South Coast are unemployed and face challenging futures. “Youth employment continues to rise across the South Coast and Illawarra but is highest on the South Coast at 21.2% with the Illawarra at 15%.” “While the Berejiklian Government is busy in Sydney privatising the state’s assets, regional young people are facing the bleak reality of unemployment, underemployment and wage cuts through weakened Sunday penalty rates. “Creating and sustaining regional jobs needs Government investment and support, not an approach that victimises the unemployed or continually seeks to attack the pay and conditions of young workers. “I’m not going to pretend there is an easy solution to this, but at these crisis levels, all sides of politics, unions, employer groups, and the community has to work together to create real opportunities for our region’s young people. “This is a community with a lot to offer in terms of its natural beauty and tourism, skills and infrastructure to support manufacturing and agriculture as well as service provision in health, ageing and government services. “We need a coordinated strategy to give regional young people the opportunity to find rewarding jobs and a secure future," Mr Field said.

Newcastle V8 Supercars: Wrong Race, Wrong Place

  The NSW Government will fast-track plans for the Newcastle V8 Supercar race without adequate community consultation or due consideration of heritage, environment and community impacts, according to Greens MP Justin Field. The Government yesterday forced through legislation, supported by the Labor Party, which will give Destination NSW special powers to approve the race plans and will diminish environmental and heritage controls and community input into the plans. Mr Field said, "the track for this race will be as little as three metres from people’s homes and will have substantial impact on access to public space yet the Government refused to meaningfully consult with the impacted Newcastle community until after contracts are signed, legislation passed and the deal is done. “The Newcastle V8 Supercar race is the wrong race, in the wrong place,” he said. “Real consultation is talking with the community before an event is signed off so they can have a genuine say. “The Greens aren’t opposed to public investment in major events for NSW but we’ll only support them if there is meaningful consultation with local communities up front and clear benefits for all and that case hasn't been made in this instance and no cost benefit analysis has been released.” "Construction has started for a $12 million motor racing circuit track at Raymond Terrace, north of Newcastle, which is a viable alternative and more suitable venue for this event," Mr Field said. Greens Newcastle City Councillor Michael Osborne said, “the actions of council in supporting the race promoter and Destination NSW without adequately considering community impacts is unacceptable. "The race will generate significant noise impacts for residents – some living as little as three metres from the track boundary –  and create access challenges including for the many aged and disabled in and around the race precinct. "We've also heard that community groups are already being informed they face being denied access to public spaces during the construction and race bump in period. “There are also 150 small businesses within the footprint of the track, many of a nature that will not benefit from an increase in tourists over the weekend, but will suffer from restricted access and ongoing works in the months preceding and after the event. "The legislation passed at state parliament today will require Destination NSW to call for submissions on the race plans, I encourage to actively engage in that process and raise their voices to be heard,” Mr Osborne said.

Greens reveal $5.46 billion toll of poker machine losses on local communities

New data purchased by NSW Greens MP Justin Field has today revealed the NSW community lost $5.46 billion on poker machine gambling in clubs alone in the year ending August 2016. The data reveals some of the biggest profits to clubs – the losses to the individual – from poker machines come from the most financially disadvantaged areas across the state, with Fairfield topping the state. The analysis shows average income lost on poker machines in Fairfield in Sydney’s West was 10.4% of average income based on the regulated average 90% return to players. In stark contrast, average income lost on pokies in Waverley/Woollahra in the city’s East was just 0.65% of income. “This new poker machine data purchased by the Greens reveals a massive impact where families and communities across NSW are losing billions to addictive poker machines,” Mr Field said today. “The losses are not experienced equally across the state, with areas home to some of the most financially disadvantaged are propping up the largest profits for the gambling industry. The industry is targeting these communities with huge disparity in the number of machines across venues in those communities. “NSW Liquor and Gaming data on poker machine operations is not transparent or accessible, unlike in other states. The Government tries to hide the true impact by making people or groups pay hundreds of dollars to find out the cost to their community from poker machine gambling. “Even purchased data aggregates poker machine losses so people can’t identify which venues are having the greatest impact on local communities or businesses. “The Greens are calling on NSW Racing Minister Paul Toole to end the secrecy and publish venue by venue data online for free on a monthly basis so the community can readily understand the true impact of this industry. He should stand up for families and communities rather than with the vested interests of big gambling who want their damage kept secret. “If the Minister can’t or won’t do the right thing, The Greens will purchase this data, analyse it and make it available so the community can have a more informed discussion of the harm caused by poker machines across our state,” he said.   Gaming Machine Data by Local Government Area available here: http://bit.ly/1708Pok

New poll shows overwhelming majority of community oppose privatisation of NSW land titles

15 February 2017 A new poll has revealed an overwhelming majority of NSW homeowners (84%) oppose the Government’s plan sell off of the states’ land titles registry the LPI. The research from the Institution of Surveyors NSW found only six per cent of people supported the sell off. While more than 70 per cent of people were unaware of the NSW Government’s plans to privatise the world-class registry, most opposed it when they learnt what was being proposed The survey comes off the back of strong opposition to the sale by organisations as diverse as the NSW Police Association, ICAC, the journalist union - MEAA, the Law Society, the Real Estate Institute, and the Royal Australian Historical Society. Greens Treasury Spokesperson Justin Field said, “This poll is yet more evidence that the Coalition Government doesn’t have community support for the sale of this essential and monopoly public asset. “The NSW community knows a dud deal and the more they find out about this sale, the more opposition grows. “The community is right to be concerned about increasing risk of fraud, misuse of personal data and increasing costs of property purchases as a result of the privatisation. These are the same concerns professional bodies and the Greens have been expressing since this sale was first proposed. “The LPI is widely recognised as one of the best land title registries in the world. The service is secure and provides low cost property transfers while earning a profit for the taxpayer. “The Berejiklian government is putting at risk the security of people’s homes and is undermining its  own commitment to affordable housing by proceeding with this rushed privatisation. “The Government’s plan represents a one-off “sugar hit” but it threatens to undermine the true value of this asset to the people of NSW as a safe and secure property transfer service. “The change of leadership within the Government, including changes with the finance and treasury portfolios, offers an opportunity to reconsider this sale which is clearly not in the public interest,” he said.

If Dominic Perrottet wants to represent my generation, he’s got his priorities wrong

If the new NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet wants to be the voice for my generation – he’ll have to do better than continue the sell it off, rip it up short-term opportunism of the NSW Coalition Governmen In a Sydney Morning Herald profile piece,  the new Treasurer outlined his ‘vision’ of intergenerational equity. He states, “I don't think it's fair that my generation is going to foot the bill for modern day governments that don't live within their means”. It’s a good sound bite but the devil is in the detail. Mr Perrottet’s prescription for living within our means is for continuing ‘asset recycling’ – more commonly known as privatisation  –  and reigning in expenses, which is code for cutting public service jobs and reducing services for the community including in health and education. When it comes to his priority of housing affordability – Mr Perrottet seems to have succumb to the property developers line of “more supply”, despite years of new housing development having failed to reign in prices and put homeownership in reach for individuals or families earning an average wage in our state. The harder and more effective option we know is pushing for important tax reform that will change the focus of housing policy from supporting speculative investment to meeting an essential social need. I can’t imagine too many Gen-Xers would think the Treasurer’s vision is a prescription for future prosperity given it’s the same one that has got us to where we are today. I don’t think you’d find too many people who wouldn’t agree that an average wage earner should be able to afford an average home in an average suburb – it’s as simple, and as complex, as that. What’s clear to many people my age and the generation coming after us is that the economic program of the past two decades has been full of promise but the outcomes don’t stack up. The cost of education has exploded, housing is out of reach, employment opportunities are dwindling as manufacturing declines and offshoring takes hold, and baby boomers delay the path forward in many professions. The failure to deal with climate change looms larger every day and we all instinctively know it will consume many of our future hopes and dreams if we don’t change course. The good life promised by continuing economic growth seems further out of reach and time for family, friends, enjoying the great outdoors and creative pursuits seems ever more constrained. A progressive way forward The new Treasurer and I may both be in our 30’s, but as the NSW Greens Treasury spokesperson I couldn’t have a more different view when it comes to the role of Governments in delivering for our generation and those into the future. Starting out, we need to expect more from our political leaders with their hands pulling the levers of the economy. Our economy is there to serve us, not the other way around. Governments can’t allow the public purse to be the play thing of big business and vested interests with sweetheart deals for miners, casinos and clubs, toll road operators and property developers and nothing but rising prices, more congestion and reduced services for the rest of us. The obsession with a balanced budget means nothing if the other indicators of a happy and prosperous life and healthy and sustainable natural environment continue to decline. My generation has a broader perspective and richer expectation when it comes to measuring our success and setting a program for the work of Government. It looks much more like the UN’s sustainable development goals, which sets benchmarks far broader than GDP, that include reducing inequality, full employment and decent work, affordable and clean energy, justice and strong civic institutions, and climate action. Economists have a saying that what you don’t measure, doesn’t matter. It’s time we stopped judging our economy based on gross state product and number of public assets sold off and started looking at the bigger picture. Act on climate change for a healthier economy If you care about intergenerational equity and a sustainable budget into the future, first things first, we need to act on climate change. There is no greater threat to the wellbeing of people in this state and around the world and no greater threat to the state budget than failing to mitigate the risk of global warming. After a weekend where NSW was the hottest place on the planet, following the hottest summer on record, following the hottest year on record, it has never been more clear that climate change is not some problem off in the future – it is now. As a coal producing and exporting state, with an over reliance on coal fired power and billions of dollars of infrastructure lining increasingly at risk coastlines, mitigating climate risks must be a priority for Government at all levels. The privatisation agenda of the past two decades has failed. Just last year Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Rod Sims  acknowledged that privatisation has severely damaged the economy, often done to boost proceeds rather than to enhance economic efficiency. The recent power outages across Australia have shown the potential market failure of the privatisation of electricity assets across the country means now is the time to pause and reassess this discredited market approach. Yet we know the new treasurer will continue to push the sale of the land titles office in NSW, a monopoly service that has a proud record of keeping land transfer costs low while being a secure titling system. If housing affordability is a goal, selling the LPI is the wrong way to go and will potentially expose home-owners to the potential need to take out expensive mortgage insurance. It will also sell-off a profit-making public service and contributes to the state budget while providing an essential service. I don’t think it’s fair that my and future generations will have to pick up the bill for recent governments decisions, but failing to live within our means isn’t the problem. It’s failing to mitigate the risk of climate change, overseeing the hollowing out of public services and gifting the wealth of this state to private corporate interests that we need to deal with.

Land and Property Information service sale financially reckless

1 February 2015 Greens Treasury Spokesperson Justin Field has blasted the NSW Government’s plan to privatise the state’s land titles office, the LPI, saying the sale would short change NSW taxpayers and is financially reckless. The claim follows confirmation the NSW Government is failing to ensure potential windfall profits of a likely buyer could be clawed back by NSW taxpayers. In response to a Question on Notice from the Greens concerning possible profit sharing, the Government admitted that the state would be seek only an upfront, one-off, payment for the right to run the service. Reports today in Fairfax Media on a leaked Government Expression of Interest (EOI) paper, co-authored by investment bank JP Morgan, reveals the massive profit expectations the Government is signalling to potential buyers. The document described the LPI as the "largest and most active land registry in Australia" and the "single source of truth" that provides "essential, monopoly services." Claw-back or profit sharing arrangements would ensure the taxpayer has a share in the future profits made by a private operator, to ensure long-term value for money on the sale of a public asset. A similar proposal  to privatise the UK Land Registry, which was subsequently abandoned by the UK Government last year due to public opposition, recommended ‘gain sharing’ arrangements be considered. Mr. Field said, “The Greens don’t support selling this world class asset, but the public would be even more furious to know it is being so shortchanged in the sale. “The Government’s plan represents a one-off “sugar hit” but that would undermine the true value of this asset to the people of NSW as a safe and secure property transfer service. “It’s impossible to calculate today what sort of new and adapted services will be possible through the digital transformation of the LPI and the sorts of profits a private operator could make using the public’s data. While the LPI should be kept in public hands, if the Government insists on a sale, a profit-sharing arrangement should be included to ensure the public gets a fair price. “This failure highlights the problem of legislation being fast-tracked through the Parliament without proper scrutiny and consultation as we have seen with the LPI sale legislation. “The idea that the Government would sell an “essential, monopoly service” and not guarantee taxpayer value for money would not be supported by the NSW public and raises real concerns about the coalition financial management. “The EOI document also revealed for the first time a 2015-16 profit of $130 million which is expected to grow markedly with significant population growth over the 35 years of the transaction. The current market speculation of $2billion for the sale equates to $57million a year of the 35 years, a substantial discount on profit projections and a slap in the face to NSW taxpayers. “Right now this sale is opposed by organisations as diverse as the NSW Police Association, ICAC, the journalist union, MEAA, the Law Council and Law Society, the Real Estate Institute, the Royal Australian Historical Society, and surveyors. Given the extent of opposition to the sale and serious concerns raised by other stakeholders, this question about value for money adds weight to the argument for the sale to be halted. “The change of leadership within the Government, including changes with the finance and treasury portfolios, offers an opportunity to reconsider this sale which is clearly not in the public interest.

Climate change biggest risk to enjoyment of the NSW coastline and marine environment

January 2017 NSW Greens Marine and Fisheries spokesman, Justin Field,  has called on the NSW Government to strengthen the network of marine parks in the state, including creating a new marine park for Sydney, following the release of a draft New South Wales Marine EstateThreat and Risk Assessment Report. The report lists climate change and reductions in abundance of marine species as the top threats to the social and economic values of our coastal and marine environments. Mr Field said: “It is encouraging to see a NSW Government commissioned report recognise climate change as the biggest single threat to coastal economies and the ongoing enjoyment of the NSW coastal environment. Now it’s time to do something about it. “We know that marine parks and especially fully protected marine sanctuaries offer the best chance to build resilience in the marine environment to be able to best adapt to the growing risk of climate change and other threats like overfishing. “Climate change is not a threat off in the never never, the impacts are being felt now and the report recognises a growing threat over the next 20 years. “Previous Government reports have recognised a critical gap in the Sydney region when it comes to marine protections, a marine park for Sydney would be one appropriate response to the growing body of evidence that threats to the marine environment are increasing. “Currently less than 7% of NSW coastal waters are fully protected in no-take marine sanctuaries. The report identified threats across three NSW regions, North, Central and South, where climate change, pollution, habitat impacts from coastal modification and fishing activities including recreational and certain commercial fishing were identified as priority threats. “All users of the marine environment, whether swimmers, fishers, divers have an interest in improving the health and sustainability of the marine environment and ensuring we can continue to enjoy the wonderful coastal lifestyle and have fish for the future. “The vision of the marine estate management program in NSW is for “a healthy coast and sea, managed for the greatest well-being of the community, now and into the future”. This report gives urgency to the challenge to address the growing threats to these values and in particular to strengthen the marine park network in NSW.

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