Online gambling ad ban an opportunity to cement Peta Murphy’s legacy, independents say

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Independents are calling on the federal government to build on the legacy of the late Labor MP Peta Murphy by banning online gambling ads as Social Services Minister Amanda Rishworth says it is still considering a report recommending the move.

An advertising ban phased in over three years was one of the key recommendations of a cross-party committee into online gambling harm, which was chaired by Murphy and delivered its report to the government in June.

Labor MP Peta Murphy, who died on Monday, in the House of Representatives in November.Credit: Alex Ellinghausen

Murphy’s husband, Rod Glover, sent this masthead her final thoughts on the advertising ban on Thursday, three days after her death aged 50 following a battle with cancer.

“We recommended a staged three-year implementation of an advertising ban because we recognise this isn’t an easy or quick fix,” Murphy wrote in comments dated November 30.

“We want government to get this right. But it needs to be done.”

Independent senator David Pocock said it was not often that a committee report had the backing of members from the major parties as well as the crossbench.

“This week we’ve seen … an outpouring of emotion for a politician who was deeply respected,” he said.

“I think there’s an opportunity here to really build on her legacy with her report and to truly make a difference … the choice for government is do they do what the parliament has recommended and what most Australians want, or do they do what the gambling industry would like them to do?”

The gambling sector, along with sports bodies and TV firms, opposes an outright ad ban, while the Greens, crossbenchers and anti-gambling advocates are in favour.

Australians spend the most in the world, per capita, on legal forms of gambling, losing $25 billion every year. Their participation in online gambling jumped from 12.6 per cent in 2010-11 to 30.7 per cent in 2019, the committee found.

On Friday, Rishworth would not commit to an advertising ban but said the government was giving the report the “diligent attention that it deserves”.

“Our number one priority is harm reduction when it comes to online gambling and ensure that people can get the support when they need … I will be working with my ministerial colleagues to look at that through a harm reduction lens,” she said.

In a statement, a spokesperson for Rishworth and Communications Minister Michelle Rowland, who share responsibility for gambling policy, said Murphy was a passionate advocate for gambling harm reduction and their response to her report would be announced in due course.

“The government has been clear that the status quo for gambling advertising is unsustainable,” the spokesperson said.

This masthead revealed in October that government officials had been consulting industry stakeholders about limiting the frequency of ads on TV and radio rather than banning them.

But independent MP Kate Chaney, who was on the committee examining online gambling harm, said there was plenty of evidence that partial bans did not work.

“I will be very disappointed if the government prioritises the interests of the gambling industry, the media and the sports codes over the people of Australia,” she said. “Really to do honour to Peta’s legacy in this area, I would like to see the recommendations fully adopted.”

Kooyong MP Monique Ryan and Goldstein MP Zoe Daniel also expressed support for a gambling ad ban to honour Murphy’s memory.

‘I can’t think of a better way to cement her legacy than by passing a Peta Murphy Bill to ban gambling advertising.’

“I can’t think of a better way to cement her legacy than by passing a Peta Murphy Bill to ban gambling advertising,” Ryan said.

Daniel, who introduced a private member’s bill to ban gambling advertising earlier this year, said if Rishworth and Rowland did not go ahead with a ban “they will have breached their primary duty of care to our communities – to do no harm”.

Advocacy groups including the Salvation Army, Suicide Prevention Australia and Anglicare wrote to Prime Minister Anthony Albanese and Rowland on Monday, calling for the government to adopt the committee’s recommendations.

The joint letter, seen by this masthead, says gambling advertising “targets, manipulates and exploits”.

“We cannot state strongly enough our support for the comprehensive banning of online gambling marketing, on all channels,” the letter says.

A spokesperson for Responsible Wagering Australia – a peak body for wagering service providers – said it acknowledged community sentiment has changed regarding gambling advertisement, but was against a ban.

“Introducing blanket bans would be extreme overreach and would rip hundreds of millions of dollars from sports and broadcasters – money which flows through to regional broadcasters, local and professional sport, sports integrity programs and Australian content,” the spokesperson said.

“The number one priority of government and industry must be reducing harm. Bans on advertising and other products could actually increase harm by driving people to illegal offshore markets where they are offered no protections.”

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