Thursday, 26 October 2017
Then I move:
That so much of the standing orders be suspended as would prevent the Member for Denison from moving the following motion immediately—That this House:
(1) notes that:
(a) a fifth Crown Casino whistleblower has now made allegations consistent with earlier whistleblowers about serious misconduct at the Casino;
(b) one of the allegations is that one or more machines manufactured by Xcite were illegally tampered with, to reduce the payout to gamblers, through the removal of the "gamble button", a feature which allows users to bet on their winnings, and that the relevant button was replaced by a blank plastic cap;
(c) this modification is inconsistent with the regulator' s approval of this type of machine and is therefore illegal;
(d) to verify the veracity of these latest allegations, one of the Member for Denison's staff visited the Casino at approximately 10 pm on Sunday, 22 October and confirmed this machine was operating on the floor of the Casino on the river side, near the membership office, but when that member of staff revisited the Casino on Wednesday, 25 October at approximately 4 pm the machine had been replaced by a different machine and the first machine was nowhere to be found;
(e) the illegal machine disappeared after the Member for Denison raised allegations concerning Crown Casino in the Parliament, which is clear evidence of someone covering up criminal activity; and
(f) there is a record of this episode which will be forwarded to police and the Victorian gambling regulator as soon as possible;
(2) further notes, that it is reasonable to assume that the misconduct in question is not unique to Crown Casino and extends to the poker machine industry broadly; and
(3) calls on the Government, and the Opposition, to immediately support a parliamentary inquiry into the casino industry so that those who allege misconduct, and representatives of the industry, can have their say in an open and transparent way and so that the community, including the 17 million who visit Crown Casino annually, can be witness to this.
There is a pressing need to suspend standing orders and for the parliament to deal with what I will now call the Crown Casino scandal. No longer are we talking about untested allegations by anonymous whistleblowers. Now we have a credible witness, a senior member of my staff, who went to the casino on two occasions at my direction. On the first occasion he saw an illegal machine in operation on the floor of the casino. It was a machine where a button had been removed and a function had been removed from that machine with the sole intent of increasing the revenue from that machine and decreasing the payout to poker machine gamblers. When he went back to the casino several days later, the machine had been removed and was nowhere to be found. So not only do we now have a credible witness—not hearsay; this is a man I will stand by and stand behind; I will vouch for what he tells me—who is a witness in recent days to an illegal poker machine on the floor of Crown Casino, but we also have a credible witness to a criminal cover-up with the removal of that machine as a direct result, obviously, of the allegations I've been airing in the parliament last week and this week.
All of a sudden all of the whistleblowers—five have now approached me—and all of their allegations, so far untested, are now to be seen in a different light, because at least one of those allegations, the one allegation I could easily check, we did check and it was found to be true. So I now am shifting from saying these are allegations which need to be explored, to saying quite clearly and unambiguously at least some of those allegations are correct and Crown Casino is guilty of criminal behaviour.
So far the response in this place has been, 'It's all someone else's problem.' Well, it's not someone else's problem. It is our business. One of the allegations is of money laundering. That is a serious criminal offence. We can only speculate at the purpose of that money laundering. Is it to do with drug running? Is it to do with terrorism? Who knows what it's to do with? That should concern us.
One of the allegations is about the competence of the Victorian regulator, another reason for federal intervention. It comes back to the point that, when it comes to poker machine regulation in this country, we simply cannot trust the state and territory governments to regulate it effectively. And no wonder, because they are deeply conflicted. The state and territory governments receive about one-quarter of the money that's lost on the poker machines in this country. There's over $10 billion a year lost, and about one-quarter of that goes to the state and territory governments. They can't be trusted on the one hand to enjoy that revenue and want to see more of it, and on the other hand to ensure the industry is run well and the welfare of members of the community is protected.
There is a pressing need for this parliament to act, and the way we can act is to establish a parliamentary inquiry. This is the ideal way, the perfect way, to let those who have made allegations, and others, and representatives of the industry who will want to defend their industry, to come out of the shadows, to stand in the open in front of members of the parliament, in front of the media, in front of the community and say what they have to say and to say it in a safe environment, because those witnesses will have the protection of the parliament.
I've now had dealings with five separate whistleblowers about Crown Casino, and some of them are scared. People say, 'Why don't they just go to the police?' Put yourself in their shoes. Making allegations against one of this country's biggest and richest and most powerful corporations—of course they're scared for their safety! We know the sorts of allegations that also circulate about the rough and tumble that you'll see in some parts of the gambling industry in this country. No wonder people are scared. They're worried for their safety. They're worried for the safety of their families. They're worried for their job prospects in the future. There are any number of reasons why they don't want their identity to be known, but they come to people like us to do stuff like this, because the justice system, the police, the regulators, the state and territory governments are not doing their jobs well enough.
So far the call for an inquiry has fallen on deaf ears. Both the government and the opposition are refusing to weigh into this. I don't doubt there are some really good people in this place, some really good people in the government and some really good people in the opposition: people who care about the community and don't like the current shape of the gambling industry in this country. But, systemically, you're all compromised because the major parties receive millions of dollars in donations from the gambling industry. Crown Casino alone in the last five years has paid three-quarters of a million dollars to the major parties in political donations. And what a great return on that investment Crown has so far gotten from the government and the opposition, both of which are running a hundred miles from the call for a parliamentary inquiry. You know, $750,000 buys a lot of influence in this place, and so far it has bought a refusal to have a parliamentary inquiry.
As of today, it's no longer hearsay; it's no longer untested allegation; it's no longer anonymous whistleblowers. It's me standing here saying that I have a senior member of staff who walked into Crown Casino within the last week and saw an illegal machine on the floor of the casino—a criminal act by Crown Casino. That same member of staff went back several days later and the machine was gone and was nowhere to be found. In the motion, I've even identified where the machine was originally sited. The cover-up of a crime is a crime.
The time has come for the government and the opposition to show that they have not been bought by the gambling industry, that they haven't been bought by Crown Casino. Today is the day for them to stand up and show the community that they are their own men and women and that they haven't been bought off—bribed, in effect—by the poker machine industry and by Crown. I again call on the government and the opposition—the good people among you—to say to your leaders that now is the time for a parliamentary inquiry and that it's not good enough to leave an investigation to the police and the regulator. Let's have a proper inquiry. Let's shine some sunlight on this. Let's get to the bottom of it.