Mr BURGESS (Hastings) (16:49:47) — It is a pleasure to rise to speak on the Major Events Legislation Amendment (Ticket Scalping and Other Matters) Bill 2017. Just following on from the member for Mordialloc, it is always interesting that they are claiming to be open and accountable. Certainly with this particular responsible minister it is interesting to note that under proposed section 182N(3) to be inserted into the Major Sporting Events Act 2009 by clause 16 of the bill there is a discretion for the minister to dispose of forfeited tickets or tickets that have been taken in any way he sees fit. I would have thought, and I am sure all members on this side of the house would have thought, that the Minister for Sport already had about as many tickets as he could possibly handle. Certainly he has got a bit of a record for having sports events tickets and receiving them from all over the place. So his having the discretion to dispose of these tickets in any way he sees fit I think is anything but open and accountable.
There are a range of concerns that the opposition has with this particular piece of legislation. The background to this is that Victoria was one of the first jurisdictions to have a Major Sporting Events Act which protected events in such ways, particularly from scalping. I think that has worked quite well for Victorians. Certainly I think that there is a particular shadow cast over that now with the uncertainty over this bill. One of the many reasons the opposition was so intent on going into consideration in detail on this is that there are so many areas of this legislation that are just unclear. It is difficult to understand who has actually written this. A clause will say, ‘The authorised officer must’ and then ‘The authorised officer may’ and then the authorised officer seems to be able to ‘maybe’ do something, and if there are other circumstances that make them impractical, then the authorised officer does not have to do anything.
There is also great uncertainty about timing. The minister is able to declare an event so that it comes within this legislation, but the bill does not say anything about the timing or anything about the number of events that might be involved in that process. You might have a situation where there are five of six concerts in a series, and the minister may not declare them until partway through. There is just so much uncertainty involved with the minister declaring an event under the bill. There may have been all sorts of scalping going on prior, say, to concert three in a series. So concerts one and two have been fine, and then they are not allowed to do it for concert three. There does not appear to be any way of making that known, other than the minister declaring it. It is likely to create great confusion, not only for consumers but also for those who up until now have had an honest business.
We believe there have been seven authorised ticket resellers up to now. They are genuine businesses reselling tickets, and their future is uncertain. That is a recurrent theme with this government. Every piece of legislation that passes leaves businesses with uncertainty. That is probably the number one thing that businesses are complaining about. They do not want uncertainty, and this government seems to be making a great art of it.
Prior to this bill there was already legislation that deals with scalping, and which seemed to be dealing with it reasonably well. This legislation will tend to confuse the matter. The bill gets more confusing every time you open it. For a declared event scalping was already banned and five tickets was the maximum; now it is six. There does not seem to be any reason why it has gone to six. There does not seem to be any definition of when a declaration can be made. There does not seem to be any indication of why a particular event would be classified as a declared event, but nevertheless the minister is able to do.
There is a whole range of things that make this legislation confusing, that indicate in one circumstance that an authorised officer ‘may’ do things and then in another that they ‘must’ do things:
New subsection (1) provides that a person referred to in section 182J(1) or (2) from whom any ticket has been seized under section 182J may apply to the Magistrates Court for return of that ticket.
If the minister has declared an event close to the time of the event, it is difficult to understand why anyone would apply to get the tickets back.
New subsection (2) provides that an application may be made at any time after the seizure, but must not be made if any proceedings for an offence against section 182F(1) or (2) or 182G(1) or (2) have been commenced …
You can imagine the difficulty for the average consumer in trying to understand what their rights are under this legislation — not only the rights of the consumer but obviously the person who is reselling tickets. They may in fact think that they are doing something that is within the law and find all of a sudden that they are outside the law. If they have been selling tickets for two of the events and then when they are selling tickets for the third event, which is a declared event, they can find themselves falling foul of this legislation.
An authorised officer can approach somebody who is selling tickets and ask for the tickets, or can ask the purchaser for the tickets. It is not clear in the legislation whether the consumer will be forced to hand over the tickets or whether the authorised officer can do anything about that. So while there seems to be an indication that there is a seizure power in the legislation, if the purchaser has not done anything wrong, and there is no indication that a purchaser has done anything wrong according to the bill, then what is the authorised officer going to do to obtain those tickets? If the authorised officer is in fact unable to obtain those tickets, then they are unable to prove that there has been an offence.
There might have been some inkling of sense behind this legislation, but with the way it has been put to paper and with the way it has now been presented, it does not make any sense at all. It will make it very difficult for an authorised officer and it will make it impossible for somebody who is trying to resell tickets but stay within the law, whether they have got five tickets or six tickets, and how they prove that and whether they are within 10 per cent of the purchase price or not. There are all these difficulties that are going to be presented for each person in this chain of events.
The purchaser of tickets may think they have done nothing wrong, and then be approached by an authorised officer or a police officer and asked for the tickets. The legislation says that they can be asked for them but it does not appear to give any requirement for the purchaser to hand them over. Certainly being an innocent third party you would not expect that an officer would be authorised to search or seize or in some way to compel a person to hand over the tickets.
In summary, the legislation may have some benefit; it may in fact have some good cause that it is trying to apply. The Leader of the House has chosen to renege on a deal for us to have a consideration‑in‑detail stage. Also the minister has chosen not to make himself available and is not in the house while this bill is being debated to answer questions and clear things up so we can understand how this legislation is going to operate and what it is going to mean to promoters of major events.
I have listened to members detail how important major events are to Victoria and to Melbourne, and they are, absolutely. They are part of the culture of our town and our state. But to introduce legislation which makes things so unclear to everybody who participates, from the promoter all the way down to the person who has purchased the tickets, is certainly a retrograde step. While it is not surprising that this government would become involved in something like this, it is regrettable.
We need clarification of the matters that I have raised, and that other speakers have raised. We need to understand what the intent of this legislation is — what the minister intends it to do. The minister has refused to turn up and answer questions. He has been supported by the Leader of the House, who has reneged on a deal to have a consideration‑in‑detail stage. This is entirely disappointing, and certainly the industry will be very disappointed with this as well.