Major Events Legislation Amendment (Unauthorised Ticket Packages and Other Matters) Bill 2021
MR HIBBINS (Prahran): I rise to speak on the Major Events Legislation Amendment (Unauthorised Ticket Packages and Other Matters) Bill 2021. This bill obviously builds on previous legislation that we have passed in this Parliament that put restrictions on ticket scalpers and onsellers to major sporting events and other major events in Victoria. On the passage of that legislation it seems that scalpers and onsellers have managed to get around that scalping legislation by putting on packaged events, as outlined just previously by the member for Box Hill. I am intrigued by the selection of ‘baverage’s’ that may be available for the Boxing Day test, but for 130 bucks, yes, I might give that one a bit of a pass, I reckon.
We will be supporting this bill, but I just want to make a few broader remarks about major events legislation, which we have had in this state for a number of decades now. At its heart major events legislation should be about protecting the public interest and protecting the interests of attendees and ticketholders, and I note one of the previous acts, the Sports Event Ticketing (Fair Access) Act 2002. This act was ultimately combined into the major events legislation that we have today, but the main purpose of this act was to maximise access by members of the public to tickets to certain sporting events. I think that is an important point to make. Now, that purpose has been, from my reading, lost in the current act that it was amalgamated into. But again I make that point: the purpose was to maximise access by members of the public to tickets to certain sports events. Yes, that does include protecting attendees at events from the really unscrupulous onsellers and ticket scalpers buying up tickets and selling them at inflated prices and now doing it with package deals. But I make that point because major events legislation cannot just be about protecting the profits of the primary ticket seller or the company that puts on the event; it should be primarily about ensuring fair access to tickets. Yes, as I said, it is about stopping scalping and protecting consumers against scalping, but that is not to say that there are not issues with the primary ticket sellers as well and those who put on their events in terms of ensuring fair access to tickets.
Some actions from primary ticket sellers can include not offering enough general sale tickets—tickets to your general punter; themselves offering inflated package deals and forcing attendees who cannot access cheaper tickets to purchase package deals at inflated prices; not disclosing, for example, how many shows are going to be put on—I think there are always examples of artists coming out to Victoria for what might be advertised as two or three shows, but suddenly you are in seven shows deep and tickets are able to be inflated on that basis; and not necessarily disclosing just how many and what tickets are available. These are issues with primary ticket sellers. I always point out the grand final itself, which is covered under this legislation; they actually got covered under the legislation which requires them to publish a ticket scheme and be transparent about the tickets that the AFL sell to the grand final. But the point I make about the grand final is that that is a really good example, because you have got, I think, around 30 per cent of tickets being made available to club members, who pay up at the start of the year and attend the games week in and week out, and suddenly you have got a hundred thousand-odd—sometimes more these days—trying to access a small amount of tickets.
We then have around, I think, 5000-plus tickets that are nominated as corporate tickets, and very largely these are not corporate tickets; these are your members now having to fork out thousands of dollars for their corporate event, which essentially is just a very expensive ticket. So these are some of the issues that you have with primary ticket sellers, and I made these points when the original bill—the bill that this builds on—came before Parliament last.
This bill adds a new category of major event declaration. We currently have, or previously had, the sporting events declaration, which the AFL Grand Final is covered under. Now they have to publish a ticket scheme and be transparent about what tickets are available to the general public and what categories are being made available. I always make the point that within that scheme the Minister for Tourism, Sport and Major Events does have the power to not approve that ticket scheme if they do not feel that there is fair access to the general punter, and I have always thought that the government should take a much more interventionist approach with those tickets made available for the grand final. But under this new category of major event declaration, there is no requirement to publish a ticket scheme and to be transparent about the allocation of tickets. This covers not only events like Moulin Rouge! and what have you; it also covers I think the AFL Anzac Day footy and finals events too, so it covers sporting events.
Now, there were reasons given for why a ticket scheme would be impractical for some of these events: obviously they have many shows over a time and it might be unclear about how many tickets are available. But what I would call for is at least some sort of public interest test, some sort of ability for the minister or the government to ensure that if a major event is declared, whether it is a show or a sporting event, with all the protections that they are offered under this act—that is, preventions on ticket scalpers and onsellers, authorised officers and what have you—there is some mechanism to ensure fair access to tickets for your general punter. I think, to me, that would strike a reasonable balance between protecting the event—protecting the primary ticket seller, ensuring that the integrity of their event is maintained—and also ensuring that the average punter is protected and ensuring that the heart of major events legislation is not just about, say, protecting the profits of whoever is putting on the event but ensuring the fair access to tickets for the general punter.
As I said, we will be supporting this legislation, but I would certainly encourage the government to look very strongly at how it can ensure fair access to tickets for the general punter to major events. I think it is only a fair and reasonable approach to take. Again I also encourage the government to take a much more interventionist approach to the ticket allocation to the grand final. I think it is ridiculous that at the start of every year footy fans are encouraged, supported and pushed very hard to sign up and become a member of their club, which many people do now in droves—hundreds of thousands of people signing up—yet when it comes to the last Saturday in September they have got to fight for those 30 000-odd tickets that are made available, when there are 70 000-odd tickets going elsewhere. And a very large proportion are nominated as corporate tickets but are really just inflated package deals.
Victoria obviously, for many decades now, has had a really strong focus on and a real pride in its major sporting events and its major artistic and cultural events. Certainly it is part of our identity as a state. But the legislation that goes along with this cannot just be about giving those who are putting on the events everything they want just to protect their profits. At its heart it needs to ensure fair access to those events for the general public and for your average punter.