House debates

Tuesday, 30 July 2019

Committees

Crown Casino Committee; Appointment

12:26 pm

Photo of Andrew WilkieAndrew Wilkie (Clark, Independent) Share this | Hansard source

by leave—I move:

That:

(1) a Joint Select Committee into Crown Casino be appointed to inquire into and report on public allegations involving Crown Casino, with particular reference to:

  (a) accusations of Crown Casino's links to organised crime, money laundering, improper activity by consular officials, tampering with poker machines, and domestic violence and drug trafficking on Crown property, including:

     (i) the allegations raised in the House of Representatives on 18 October 2017 by the Member for Clark (the then-Member for Denison) concerning Crown Casino;

     (ii) the Member for Clark's referral to the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission on 24 July 2019 of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation and the Victorian Police; and

     (iii) reports by Nine newspapers and 60 Minutes in July 2019 concerning alleged criminal activity and misconduct involving Crown Casino;

  (b) the actions taken or omissions made by state and federal agencies in responding to these allegations, and in particular the actions of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation and the Victoria Police;

  (c) the relationship between Crown Casino and governments, including the role of former members of state and federal parliaments; and

  (d) any related matters;

(2) the committee may report from time to time but make an interim report by 30 October 2019 and a final report by 28 February 2020;

(3) the committee consist of 16 members, three Members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Chief Government Whip, three members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Chief Opposition Whip, two Members of the House of Representatives to be nominated by the Member for Clark, three Senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Government in the Senate; three Senators to be nominated by the Leader of the Opposition in the Senate, one Senator to be nominated by the Leader of the Australian Greens, and one Senator from Centre Alliance;

(4) participating members may be appointed to the committee, may participate in hearings of evidence and deliberations of the committee, and have all the rights of members of the committee, but may not vote on any questions before the committee;

(5) three members of the committee constitute a quorum of the committee, provided that in a deliberative meeting the quorum shall include one Government member of either House and one non-Government member of either House;

(6) every nomination of a member of the committee be notified in writing to the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(7) the members of the committee hold office as a joint select committee until the House of Representatives is dissolved or expires by effluxion of time;

(8) the committee may proceed to the dispatch of business notwithstanding that not all members have been duly nominated and appointed and notwithstanding any vacancy;

(9) the committee elect a chair and a deputy chair;

(10) the deputy chair act as chair when the chair is absent from a meeting of the committee or the position of chair is temporarily vacant;

(11) in the event of an equality of voting, the chair, or the deputy chair when acting as chair, have a casting vote;

(12) the committee have power to appoint subcommittees consisting of three or more of its members, and to refer to any such subcommittee any of the matters which the committee is empowered to consider;

(13) the committee and any subcommittee have power to send for and examine persons and documents, to move from place to place, to sit in public or in private, and to report from time to time its proceedings and the evidence taken and such interim recommendations as it may deem fit;

(14) the committee be provided with all necessary staff, facilities and resources and be empowered to appoint persons with specialist knowledge for the purposes of the committee with the approval of the President of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives;

(15) the committee be empowered to print from day to day such papers and evidence as may be ordered by it, and a daily Hansard be published of such proceedings as take place in public;

(16) the committee have power to adjourn from time to time and to meet during any adjournment of the Senate and the House of Representatives; and

(17) a message be sent to the Senate acquainting it of this resolution and requesting that it concur and take action accordingly.

I will start from the top and not miss this rare opportunity! I will not read out the whole motion because it does go to two pages, and a lot of it is about the detail of establishing the committee and how the committee will operate. I will take the opportunity, though, to again read section (1), which goes to the substantive matter here—that is, that the parliament is being asked to establish a joint select committee into Crown Casino to inquire into and report on public allegations involving Crown Casino, with particular reference to:

(a) accusations of Crown Casino's links to organised crime, money laundering, improper activity by consular officials, tampering with poker machines, and domestic violence and drug trafficking on Crown property, including:

(i) the allegations raised in the House of Representatives on 18 October 2017 by the Member for Clark (the then-Member for Denison) concerning Crown Casino;

(ii) the Member for Clark's referral to the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission on 24 July 2019 of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation and the Victorian Police; and

(iii) reports by Nine newspapers and 60 Minutes in July 2019 concerning alleged criminal activity and misconduct involving Crown Casino;

(b) the actions taken or omissions made by state and federal agencies in responding to these allegations, and in particular the actions of the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation and the Victoria Police;

(c) the relationship between Crown Casino and governments, including the role of former members of state and federal parliaments; and

(d) any related matters;

The allegations in recent days have been breathtaking, and I would hope that they alone would be enough cause for this parliament to realise the value in establishing a joint select parliamentary inquiry into Crown Casino and associated matters.

Mr Deputy Speaker, I would remind you of some of the allegations that have been made in the media just in the last couple of days, such as links between Crown Casino and organised crime in China and the Chinese ruling elite; allegations of wanted international criminals flying in and out of Australia routinely on private jet aircraft, simply to gamble at Crown Casino; allegations of money laundering on a grand scale; allegations of sweetheart deals with consular officials to facilitate hundreds of visas for Crown patrons—perhaps as many as a few hundred a year; and allegations of the moonlighting of Australian officials who are working for foreign nationals and crime figures. These are remarkable allegations and, surely, they alone are cause for this parliament to constitute a joint select parliamentary committee to investigate the matters.

People might say, 'Well, aren't there existing regulatory agencies and justice bodies?' But we have a unique situation here, where the allegations, when viewed holistically, are multijurisdictional, because they involve allegations in Victoria, to do with Victorian companies and regulatory bodies—the Victoria Police—and also any number of federal agencies. They are multiagency; the allegations go to the performance and conduct of Victoria Police, the VCGLR, the Federal Police, AUSTRAC, the department of transport, Border Force and ASIO. And, of course, the allegations are multinational, because they go to Australian nationals and the conduct of Australian companies in Australia; Australian nationals overseas; Australian companies operating overseas; Chinese nationals in their own country and what they get up to, and their organised crime; and those Chinese nationals coming to Australia.

Clearly, the allegations that are now swirling around us are well beyond the remit of any one body. That is why we need to constitute a joint select parliamentary committee that can look into these matters and can look across jurisdictions, across countries and across agencies—one that has the power to summon witnesses and can provide an opportunity for witnesses to give their testimony safely and with privilege. That committee would also, no doubt, hear many other allegations. I can reveal today the testimony of yet another whistleblower, who my investigative team has met and interviewed. I have a recording of that interview. He was once a driver for Crown Casino. He routinely transported foreign nationals between Crown Casino and the Melbourne jet base through the notorious access gate 24. He recounts that there were no Border Force checks. Foreign nationals were getting off with up to 15 bags for a short stay, stopping only on the way to the casino to pick up a sex worker.

I have here a work ticket for this gentleman. He is bona fide; I can vouch for him. I will give some of the quotes from this latest whistleblower, from the transcript of his interview with my team. On breaking the law, this new whistleblower said: 'Crown is Crown. No-one touches Crown. You know, there is no law at Crown. You literally get what you want and you do what you want. Money talks. Even if it's illegal you can get whatever you want at Crown.' This latest whistleblower said about drugs: 'You could see everything from coke, pills to MDMA. You see everything; there is no "no". Whatever you want you will get.'

On delivering drugs in his Crown limousine, this latest whistleblower said: 'Everything goes straight in the boot. You don't touch it; the host comes out, chucks it straight in the boot, tells you where to go. You drop it off and that's your job done. As long as you don't ask questions of what's in it and you don't touch the package, the packages go in and out of Crown all the time.' And on that notorious pickup from the airport, this latest whistleblower—and this is all new—said: 'If I'm travelling'—this is travelling personally—'I go through checks. I've got to get my bags checked; I've got to get checked by different people. I've got to get Customs checks. If you're a high roller you are literally getting off the jet, Crown's private jet, and straight into a bunch of nice cars and you're rolling straight out there. No checks, no bag checks, no Customs checks—nothing. At the time you are picking up two guys, and they've got 15 suitcases and you're like: "What's going on here? What are they bringing?" And no-one knows anything, because Crown is a world of its own.'

On violence, this latest whistleblower told my team: 'You see women being degraded, women being abused, women slapped around—things like that. If you saw someone being slapped around you literally become numb to it, and you see it a lot.' That is the testimony of just one whistleblower. By now in this place I have relayed the testimony of new whistleblowers, and I add all of those testimonies to the remarkable allegations in the newspapers and on the television in recent days.

There is clearly a need for everyone in this place to understand we have a multijurisdictional, multiagency, multinational problem, and Crown Casino is at the centre of it. We cannot leave it to the regulatory agencies to deal with this alone. They have proven incapable of it or unwilling to do it. That's why, just last week, I wrote to the Independent Broad-based Anti-corruption Commission requesting it to investigate the peculiar power Crown Casino has over the VCGLR, Victoria Police and, potentially, Victorian politicians. What I did last week was obviously not something to be done lightly, but I was compelled to do so because the VCGLR and Victoria Police failed to investigate, at least properly, the raft of allegations I revealed in parliament on 18 October 2017, which were all backed up by witness statements and video evidence. In essence, that evidence exposed domestic violence in the hotel part of the casino, money laundering, drug use and trafficking, rigging of poker machines, supply of so-called picks to allow gamblers to illegally make poker machines run continuously and the issuing of multiple loyalty cards to allow poker machine users to illegally operate multiple machines simultaneously.

In response, the VCGLR took six months to find that Crown had indeed modified poker machines illegally but awarded only a laughably tiny fine. When Crown initially denied that allegation, it misled the community, shareholders and the stock market. Alarmingly, the VCGLR took 15 months to find that multiple loyalty cards were being issued to individual players but that the practice, in the VCGLR's opinion, was not illegal. Perhaps most remarkably, it took VCGLR 17 months to investigate the supply of picks and to find that it was, indeed, an improper practice but that no punitive measures would be imposed. In other words, what my staff could find out by simply walking into the casino on any day of the week, it took the VCGLR 17 months to investigate and come to a conclusion on, and then it did not award any punishment.

This is the bottom line. Crucially, these delays pushed back the VCGLR's findings until after Crown's five-year licence review, even though the findings were material to the review process. I put it to you that these very deliberate, conniving delays also ensured the findings were not made public before the 2018 Victorian state election, thus protecting the Premier and the gaming minister from scrutiny over this issue during the campaign.

As for Victoria Police, they simply refused to properly investigate any of the allegations, raising the question: does Victoria Police seriously believe that allegations of domestic violence or the selling of drugs should be beyond investigation when they are alleged to have occurred in Crown? Not irrelevant is that I now know of three police officers, two currently serving, who have openly said to my staff that, in Victoria, Crown is regarded as like the Vatican, an independent sovereign state all its own where the laws of Victoria and the laws of the Commonwealth do not apply. Surely when you've got serving police officers in Victoria referring to Crown Casino as 'the Vatican', it's time for this place to take action. It's beyond time now for this place to establish a joint parliamentary inquiry to investigate these matters.

In closing, the allegations about Crown and those who have dealings with Crown really go to the heart of justice and governance in this country. We know that former politicians like Helen Coonan, Karl Bitar and Stephen Conroy have all been on Crown's payroll. And the allegation now is that Crown has basically corrupted the Liberal Party and the Labor Party. I say to the government and to the alternative government at this point in time: how you deal with these allegations will be the test of your parties and of the integrity of your parties. If you don't agree, either by supporting this motion or agreeing to some other even more effective response to these Crown allegations, then you will simply show the Australian community that you've been bought by Crown and you don't care about these sorts of allegations.

These allegations cannot go unaddressed. I look forward to hearing from the Attorney-General what the government's response will be. I'm very grateful to the Attorney-General for having given me leave to speak for this extra bit of time and to have my say. I'm delighted that the member for Mayo will second this motion and offer a few comments.

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