Question Time response - Gambling harm

Ms Anne Stanley MP, Government Whip, Member for Werriwa:  My question as to the Minister for Communications. What is the Albanese government doing to protect vulnerable Australians from gambling harms, including gambling-like features in video games?

Minister for Communications, Michelle Rowland: I thank the member for her question. In only 10 months, the Albanese government has taken a range of important steps to minimise harm from gambling. We have implemented three long-overdue elements of the national consumer protection framework. Mandatory monthly activity statements came in last year, and, from today, new evidence-based tag lines with messages about the potential harms of gambling must be in place as well as training for online wagering staff.

Yesterday, I announced the government will seek the agreement of the states and territories to introduce mandatory minimum classifications for games with gambling-like features. Research commissioned by my department has found concerning associations between gambling-like features in games and harm, including problem gambling. Games with simulated gambling will be classified R18+, restricted to those 18 and over, and games containing paid loot boxes, where a player can purchase a virtual box with a randomised prize inside, will attract an M rating. We know Australians value the classification framework, and these new ratings will send a strong message that there are risks associated with these products so consumers can make an informed choice about what they and their children watch and play.

But the classification framework is in urgent need of updating. The 2020 Stevens review, the report of which I also released yesterday, made a range of recommendations to update the framework, including on the classification of games. Those opposite received this report when they were in government back in May 2020, but they sat on it, taking no action in response to the growing body of evidence about the harms associated with gambling-like features in games. It's another example of the former government talking big about keeping Australians safe and yet failing to respond to their own review, which showed a clear need for stronger protections.

In contrast, the Albanese government is acting on this as a priority. In fact, what we are proposing actually goes further than what the Stevens review recommended. The classification framework is one avenue to address harms associated with gambling-like features, and we know that we need a multifaceted approach. I therefore asked my department to examine non-classification options to further the objective of harm minimisation in this area. I note this matter is also being considered by the House inquiry into online gambling.

I look forward to working with my counterparts in the states and territories to implement these changes so we can protect those most vulnerable in our community from gambling harms, including children.