House debates

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Committees

Crown Casino Committee; Appointment

1:12 pm

Photo of Zali SteggallZali Steggall (Warringah, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

I commend this motion. It raises such extremely serious questions that I don't think anyone who has sat here listening to them can listen without a serious pause for thought. What exactly is going on? It highlights the need for two very important aspects, I believe, of good governance. It highlights the freedom of the press to be able to highlight these events and these allegations; without their investigative powers, we would not have these stories and would not be alerted. I think it also highlights the need for a national anticorruption commission. We need to have the power to properly investigate. All the members in this place should feel that their reputations in fact are at stake if these kinds of allegations can be aired. We need to be able to investigate and clear them appropriately. The Australian public deserves to have confidence that no-one is above the law—that everyone is ultimately held to account for their actions.

In my short time in this parliament, I've certainly heard the government talk forcefully of the need for our strong borders and for us to be extremely vigilant as to who is allowed into Australia. We've seen the passing of legislation in relation to holding Australian citizens from coming back, due to their activities. We've certainly seen a strong approach to poor refugees in dire need of medical treatment, and there are all sorts of allegations made in relation to criminal behaviour or that they are not persons that we would want in Australia—never mind the fact that they're not actually trying to come and stay in Australia but simply to come for medical treatment. Yet we have allegations here being raised of persons of seriously questionable character and criminal background being allowed to come to Australia without the proper scrutiny. No one person is above the law, and we, in this place, have a responsibility to make sure that it is applied equally to everyone.

There have been over the last, say, 12 months a number of incidents and allegations raised from both sides of the aisle here about really questionable conduct and deals that highlight the need for a Commonwealth integrity commission. We have heard commitments from the government that this will be pursued but no real indication as to what teeth such a body would be given. In the 2019-20 budget, the government allocated $104.5 million over four years to establish the commission. These are all steps in the right direction but, again, there have been a number of events raised that require this to be dealt with urgently. This isn't something that should take time.

The Australian public has just come through campaigning over several months, with lots of allegations and issues. We had the $444 million contract granted to the Great Barrier Reef Foundation without tender or due diligence; we had the $420 million contract awarded to the Paladin Group, again without tender or competition; we had past and present politicians helping Liberal Party donors Helloworld win a $1 billion contract for federal government travel; and we had the appointments of former politicians and ministerial staffers to the AAT by the government. Meanwhile, Labor is not blameless. It is under fire for the influence of the unions over its policy and direction and how union fees are collected. We have bills before this House in relation to that.

So members of the federal government have the opportunity for nepotism, favouritism in appointments and the granting of contracts, the misuse of confidential information, conflicts of interest, misuse of entitlements, decisions that favour political donors, and crossover appointments between industry lobbying and parliament, yet there is no criminal sanction against these actions. Clearly, we need action. I commend this motion. It is a step in terms of serious criminal behaviour that needs to be investigated, but we also need the proper investigation of ministers and other members.

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