This Bill provides for the privatisation of the national lottery.
To justify this on the basis of getting funding from the sale of the licence for the national lottery over a 20 or 25-year period by claiming the proceeds would go to finance a national children's hospital simply adds a touch of cynicism to the whole idea. We have been given no clear figures for the cost of the national children's hospital and there are various estimates in the media ranging from €400 million to €600 million. We have not been given any accurate figures for this nor do we have a clue if the Government goes ahead with this reactionary proposal what the licence would earn for the private capitalists who want to get their hands on it.
To privatise the licence for the national lottery to fund a children's hospital, or any other infrastructure, is to admit this is another tax on ordinary people under the guise of a lottery. When he introduced the Bill last Thursday, the Minister for Public Expenditure and Reform referred to some of the states in Australia where the privatisation of the lottery licence was used to get upfront cash payments. The Minister stated that a number of jurisdictions are examining how best their state or regional lotteries can be used to help alleviate fiscal pressures. He said it would be remiss of Ireland not to take a similar approach in the case of our lottery at this time.
The national lottery has been transformed into another bailout tax that will fall upon the shoulders of ordinary working class and poor people. The billions that should go into infrastructure such as the national children's hospital and other infrastructural projects that are desperately needed, such as the remediation of water infrastructure, and that should go into job creation are going instead to pay off banks and bondholders to make up their gambling losses from their reckless profiteering days during the Irish property bubble. The Government then comes with the begging bowl to ordinary people in various guises, including the national lottery.
It is an extraordinary way to fund public projects, community organisations and social projects that are very necessary and perform a crucial role. To institutionalise gambling to fund social or physical infrastructure is incredible. It is also an extremely inefficient way to raise funds. In 2011, to get €231.9 million for so-called "good causes", a term I detest and that is patronising and humiliating because these are causes that are in reality necessary social and cultural projects, €761.4 million had to be raised in the national lottery. There were costs of €104.3 million, prizes of €422.5 million, a modest fee for An Post for managing the national lottery and then, for the projects, there was a total of €231.9 million. What an extremely inefficient and ineffective way of attempting to raise funds.
It is true, and it is no exaggeration to say it, that national lotteries prey on poor people in particular, those on low incomes and social welfare. To sell national lottery tickets, there is a cynical endless pushing through television and various other forms of advertising of the impossible dreams of luxury and wealth without end. The odds of winning, of course, are virtually zero. Nevertheless, in an Ireland that has been reduced to penury by the disastrous economic policies related to the current crisis in Irish capitalism and by this Government's disastrous austerity policies, increasing numbers of our people are reduced to poverty, low incomes and are struggling to survive. To prey on them with these images of fabulous wealth is cynical and reprehensible.
A study by academics in University College Cork based on the Irish household budget survey of 2004-05 found the national lottery is socially regressive. As the Library and Research Service points out in its summing up of the study, poorer households spend larger proportions of their income on the lottery and the evidence casts doubt on the idea that national lottery proceeds are used to favour lower socio-economic households. On many occasions, national lottery funds have been used as slush funds by the politicians in power to ingratiate themselves with their local constituencies in the most cynical way.
In the current context, with the State bailout of speculators and bondholders to the tune of billions of euro, and using austerity policies to achieve that, Fine Gael and the Labour Party are desperately casting about to make up funding for necessary services such as social and cultural projects and the children's hospital. These parties have turned their faces completely against taking any measures that would raise serious funding by tackling the super-wealthy in our society who could afford to pay far more towards our services and infrastructure.
The Department of Finance provided us with figures towards the end of last year in preparing for the budget that showed the highest paid 5% in the State earned €20.12 billion and of that paid €7.145 billion in taxes, an effective tax rate of 36%. Raising that effective tax rate to between 37% and, for those over €1 million in income, 60% would raise €2.5 billion in a single year. It would still leave that super-wealthy sector of society, a small minority, very wealthy. Why will the Government not take that option instead of pathetically seeking to flog the licence for the national lottery to some gambling company to get relatively minuscule funding compared to what could be raised by that measure alone?
Similarly, we have produced figures that if the headline corporate tax rate, even remaining at 12.5%, was made the effective tax rate, it would bring many billions of euro extra in on an annual basis. We got figures from the Minister for Finance which demonstrate the hard facts in this regard. I have not even raised the issue of a wealth tax. Therefore, we have a Government which has set its face against raising real amounts of funding to the tune of billions that could transform our infrastructure and our communities in terms of their cultural and social infrastructure. It is a Government that will not challenge the minority of the super-wealthy and major income earners in order to achieve that but comes with this pathetic privatisation of the national lottery licence.
Privatisation of the licence for the national lottery will mean that the privateers who get it will immediately budget for a private profit. They are not humanitarians. This private profit is to be provided for, on the one hand, by increased sales which means encouraging greater numbers of people to gamble, which is quite reprehensible. In any case, the continuing intensity of austerity means that ordinary people simply do not have major spare funds to increase the amount they spend on the national lottery. On the other hand, they could cut costs which means wages and conditions of workers who administer the lottery will be squeezed. It is undoubtedly the case that such course of action will be taken.
There is another cost with which the Minister did not deal. An Post gets a management fee of €2.7 million over and above the costs to administer the national lottery. An Post has a universal social obligation to provide services to areas and communities, which services cost it money, for example, in the delivery of post, etc. An Post does not get social funding from Government to meet this obligation but the Government proposes, possibly, to remove that €2.7 million through handing the lottery over to private profiteers. If that is the case, how will An Post make up for this funding to assist the provision of its obligation to people and communities, particularly in rural areas? Instead, the equivalent of this fee will go probably to the private profits of major multinational lottery operators or gambling companies of various kinds.
There are other provisions in the Bill. There is a regulator and a new stratum of bureaucracy on top of the lottery - a new quango by the Government that was supposed to hold a bonfire of the quangos. What is that about? It is not necessary. There could be supervision from the public service without new costs and a new bureaucracy. Unfortunately, the Labour Party is shamefully betraying any vestige of a commitment to public ownership in the privatisation of the lottery licence, as it is doing in the privatisation of the Coillte trees, and Fine Gael is also totally wedded to that policy. If the lottery is a fact of life, the Government at least should keep it in the public sector, keep it with An Post, not extend gambling as a basis for providing necessary services, infrastructure and social, community and cultural infrastructure, and put real tax on the minority in society who can afford it. That is the alternative to this despicable proposal.
Dá bhrí sin, táim glan in aghaidh an Bille um Chrannchur Náisiúnta 2012. Níl ann ach príobháidiú ar an chrannchur náisiúnta trí an cheadúnas a thabhairt do chomhlacht príobháideach - comhlacht ilnáisiúntach b'fhéidir - a mbeidh brabús príobháideach ag teastáil uaidh, brabús a thiocfaidh amach as pócaí an lucht oibre a ritheann an crannchur náisiúnta, nó ag teacht as airgead eile a chuireann an pobal, gnáth daoine, isteach. Tá an Rialtas ag iarraidh dreacha níos fearr a chur ar an scéal, ag rá go bhfuil an t-airgead a dteastaíonn uaidh a fháil le dul don ospidéal náisiúnta do leanaí.
Táimse go mór i bhfábhar ospidéil na leanaí agus i bhfábhar infreastruchtúir eile maidir le cultúr agus le tograí sóisialta agus a leithéid i ngach pobal. Ach caithfidh mé a rá go bhfuil an iarracht á dhéanamh ar an infreastruchtúr seo a íoc le geall glacadóireacht dochreidte. Is Rialtas é seo, de chuid Fhine Gael agus Pháirtí an Lucht Oibre, nach bhfuil sásta airgead - an-chuid airgid - a fháil ón mhionlach sin den daonra atá thar a bheith saibhir agus a bhfuil rachmas thar cuimse acu. D'fhéadfaí na billiúin bhreise a thabhairt isteach gach bliain gan aon chruatan a chur ar an mhionlach san. Ach seachas an bóthar sin a thógáil, tá an Rialtas ag iarraidh a chur ina luí ar níos mó gnáth daoine, go mór mhór daoine ar ioncam íseal, níos mó ticéad a cheannach chun níos mó airgid a dhéanamh don infreastruchtúr seo.
Cén saghas polasaithe é seo chun forbairt a dhéanamh ar infreastruchtúr atá thar a bheith riachtanach dár sochaí agus dár ndaoine? I ndáiríre, séard atá ag tarlú anseo ná go bhfuil geall glacadóireacht á úsáid chun airgead atá thar a bheith riachtanach do sheirbhísí poiblí a thógáil isteach. Dá bhrí sin, chun na billiúin atá á thabhairt do lucht na mbannaí, do na bainc mhóra agus na caipitlithe móra san Eoraip - a theip orthu sa tír seo leis an brabúsaíocht a bhí ar siúl acu ag tógáil tithe agus a leithéid - a íoc, tá an Rialtas ag teacht ar ais chun níos mó a thógáil arís as pócaí gnáth lucht oibre atá faoi chois agus faoi bhrú go mór ag an déine cheana féin.
Dá bhrí sin, tá an reachtaíocht seo náireach amach agus amach. Ba cheart ar a laghad an crannchur náisiúnta a choimeád sa seirbhís poiblí, leis An Post, agus ag an am céanna, ba cheart fáil réidh leis an glacadóireacht mar shlí chun seirbhísí a chur ar fáil agus cáin réadúil a chur ar lucht an rachmais, daoine gur féidir leo an t-airgead seo a íoc.