Major Events Legislation Amendment (Ticket Scalping and Other Matters) Bill 2017
Mr HIBBINS (Prahran) — I rise to speak on behalf of the Greens to the Major Events Legislation Amendment (Ticket Scalping and Other Matters) Bill 2017. This bill has been introduced to expand ticket scalping controls to non-sporting events such as the theatre, concerts and festivals, although I do understand that it will also be used for other sporting events such as AFL finals and the Anzac Day match between Essendon and Collingwood. It does this by creating a new declaration called a major event ticketing declaration which will differ from the current sports ticketing event declaration, which I understand will be retained. Under the existing sports ticketing event declaration it requires the minister to declare a sports ticketing event some nine months before the actual event and then requires the organiser to lodge a ticket scheme which contains conditions of the sale of those tickets and disclosure of the ticket allocation among other things, and obviously the minister then approves that ticket scheme.
My understanding is the new major events ticketing declaration will apply to not just sporting events but of course those other events, and would remove those time frames and the requirement for the lodgement of a ticket scheme. The bill also creates a new authorised ticket officer to enforce these new anti-scalping laws. The reasons behind this bill are pretty clear. There has been a lot of outrage over ticket scalping and the use of ticket onselling. Tickets for —
Mr Pearson interjected.
Mr HIBBINS — I will get to that. Tickets for concerts, shows, football matches go on sale, sell out and hours later they are on sale on second-hand ticket sites for massively inflated prices. This year's footy finals were a pretty clear example of this. The Greens did put out there, with the support of the AFL Fans Association, that if the government did not act to include these sellout footy matches under anti-scalping laws we would introduce our own bill so it is good to see some action in this regard. We have also had some very dodgy practices by ticket onsellers, most notably Viagogo, which clearly have a business model based on deceiving consumers about who is the primary ticket seller. They are basically a business model based on deceiving consumers about who the real ticket seller is, the availability of tickets, and then trying to attract the highest price from the consumer. Whilst they are probably an outlier in terms of behaviour of ticket sellers — I believe they have been taken to court by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission — it is really clear that there are people who are profiteering from sellout events through onselling tickets and ticket scalping. It is really important that sellout events are protected from ticket scalping and footy fans and event goers are not ripped off.
Whilst there might be a place for some onselling — for example, for those people who have bought tickets but cannot go and need to onsell their tickets — there is a need to protect sellout events, regulate the secondary ticket market and protect consumers.
The protection of consumers is the reason I have some issues with this bill. I am concerned about the failure of the bill to require event organisers, the primary ticket sellers, to disclose their distribution of tickets. While there are serious issues with ticket onselling and the effects that has on consumers, event organisers are not off the hook when it comes to practices that limit the availability of tickets to the regular punter and force consumers to purchase tickets at a price that is higher than they should be. I am concerned that while the bill extends protections for event organisers from ticket scalping, it does not require them to be transparent about their own ticket allocation.
Under the sports ticket event declaration there is a requirement to lodge with the minister for approval a ticket scheme which outlines how those tickets are distributed. It requires them to say where the tickets went, along with other conditions. I think this is entirely reasonable, because of course the ticket practices of the primary sellers can actually contribute to ticket scalping itself. We have a ticket distribution that — for example, tickets for the AFL Grand Final — limits the amount of tickets available to the regular punter but then forces them to purchase the higher priced tickets or is not clear about where the tickets are going.
The government has included reasons for not requiring organisers to prepare a ticket scheme. What the minister stated in the second-reading speech is:
It will not be necessary for an event organiser to prepare a ticket scheme. This is preferable for cultural events which often do not have a regular fixed venue, date or event organiser. Often a significant cultural major event such as a concert, theatre event, gallery exhibition or festival will be secured a few weeks or months before staging, which does not provide sufficient time to undertake the existing process under the act. In addition, ticket scheme proposals can be difficult to prepare for such events as staging or seating requirements are often modified quite close to the event.
We are also given the reason that this would be an administrative burden for event organisers. I am not entirely sure that is actually the case. I am pretty sure that in many events the ticketing arrangements, what the tickets would be priced at and the profits that would go into it would be pretty well canvassed within the organisation itself. I would suggest that getting that information out to the public might not be as great an administrative burden as has been suggested.
In the case of the other reasons given, it might be true for some events but not necessarily the case for others. Whilst there is a difference between events like the grand final, which is played every year, and other events or shows that occur as part of a tour or a season, with the potential short time between the declaration and the actual event I think it would be reasonable that if an event and the event organiser had the protection of the law and the state was enforcing that law with authorised ticket sellers, of course with all the benefits that go along with that to the organiser, we could come to some sort of arrangement with some sort of compromise which would require organisers at some level to disclose their ticket allocation — how many are in each category, corporate sales, given sponsors and the like. That would be of much more benefit and give much more protection to consumers by giving them the full picture. The Greens will be supporting this bill. However, we will be looking very closely at potential amendments that will improve transparency of ticket allocations.
I am also very concerned that the new major events ticketing declaration without the ticket requirement will be substituted for events that should be covered by a sports ticketing declaration. I would be very concerned if there were sporting events that should actually fit under the sports ticketing event declaration being then put under the major events declaration. As I said, we will be looking very closely at the amendments to this bill to ensure that this bill puts the protection of consumers and event-goers first and requires the transparency of ticketing allocations.
I want to touch on a few other ticketing issues that arose. Of course what I have been interested in is grand final ticketing. My concern is that the current allocation of tickets to the grand final is not fair and that the ticket scheme submitted by the AFL only provides for around 34 per cent of tickets to go to competing club members. The Greens put forward a bill in the other place that would lift that allocation to at least 50 per cent. We have got a ticket allocation in the grand final that essentially creates an environment for ticket scalping to flourish, where those fans who pay up year in, year out miss out on tickets and are forced to buy expensive tickets, go onto the black market or seek tickets by other means. The minister has the power within the act to modify that ticket scheme and to go back to the AFL and say, 'Look, we don't think this is a fair ticket allocation; we believe you should actually change it'. The minister certainly does have that power, and that is why the Greens introduced a bill in the other place. I was very disappointed that neither the government, the opposition nor other members of the crossbench supported that bill.
The other ticketing issue I would like to raise is that of the Australian Formula One Grand Prix. I guess the question I would like to put is, when are we going to find out how many people actually go to the grand prix? We know it is costing the state $60 million a year, but the government refuses to publish how many people actually attend each year. At Etihad Stadium they provide a running tally of the crowd number up on a screen, yet it seems to be completely beyond the Australian Grand Prix Corporation to accurately count and then publish how many people actually attend the grand prix. I would suggest there is a bit of scope for improvement within the ticketing practices of both the grand prix and the grand final.
As I said, the Greens will be supporting the bill in this place, but we are going to look very closely in the other place to see if there is any potential for amendments that would go to further protecting consumers.