Tuesday, 20 October 2020
I rise to speak against the suspension of standing orders. The government will not be supporting the suspension of standing orders and the government doesn't support this motion. The suspension of standing orders is calling for a motion to be moved which self-evidently calls to refer a matter to a royal commission, so to create a royal commission. The government believes this is a completely inappropriate course of action.
These issues are not new to this chamber. Members would recall that in July 2019, when these serious allegations were first raised, the government referred them to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commission Act 2006. I can also advise the House that on 30 July 2020 ACLEI concluded its investigation, and its investigation report is publicly available on its website. The investigation considered three allegations: whether there was corruption by Home Affairs staff in relation to the provision of Australian visas for Crown VIPs; whether there was corruption by Australian Border Force staff in relation to the clearing of those VIPs at the Australian border; and whether an ABF staff member engaged in corrupt conduct while employed by a VIP junket operator. A significant investigation was undertaken by ACLEI in relation to each of these three corruption allegations. This investigation was looking for any evidence that staff members from Home Affairs or Australian Border Force engaged in corrupt conduct in the provision of visas for Crown VIPs or the clearing of those VIPs at the Australian border. The investigation also looked for evidence of corruption in relation to a particular ABS staff member who was also employed by a VIP junket operator. In investigating whether there was corruption by Home Affairs staff in relation to the provision of Australian visas for Crown VIPs, ACLEI's investigation included reviewing the arrangements Home Affairs had with Crown to support applicants for visas and for reviewing visa applications processed under that arrangement. The investigation did not find evidence of corrupt conduct by Home Affairs or ABF staff in relation to any of the three allegations.
As was stated in the House the last time the member for Clark sought to establish a joint parliamentary committee inquiry into allegations surrounding Crown casino, ACLEI was the most appropriate body to consider these allegations. It is worth reminding the member and the House that ACLEI is the specialist agency responsible for the investigation of corruption issues in Australian government law enforcement agencies, including the Department of Home Affairs. ACLEI is highly experienced in these types of investigations. In fact, it is better resourced to quickly and effectively commence an investigation into allegations of corruption than any other single body or envisaged body in the Commonwealth.
I might note for the member for Clark's benefit that ACLEI's investigative powers are essentially the same as a royal commission's, including the power to compel evidence. I might also note that it has covert powers, such as controlled operations powers, as well as the power of arrest. So, if ACLEI obtains admissible evidence of any criminal offence in the course of its investigation into this matter, it must, by compulsion, give the evidence to the relevant police or prosecutorial authority, including state or territory authorities. As noted, the ACLEI investigation has been completed, with the conclusion that there was no corrupt conduct.
It is also worth noting that the New South Wales state government has launched its own investigation, chaired by the Hon. Patricia Bergin. The Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority established an inquiry under section 143 of the Casino Control Act 1992 in New South Wales on 14 August 2019 regarding Crown Resorts' Barangaroo casino licence. Under its terms of reference, the inquiry has focused on the events in late May 2019 sounding Melco Resorts & Entertainment Ltd's share sale agreement with CPH Crown Holdings Pty Ltd to buy shares in Crown. Media reporting raising various allegations into the conduct of Crown Resorts, including money laundering and junket operators and whether it should continue to hold a restricted gaming licence, and ILGA's regulatory capability and domestic and international best practice on gaming operations and regulation. Hearings commenced on 24 February 2020 and will continue in the lead-up to the commissioner's report to the ILGA on 1 February 2021. I would also add that the Australian government's financial intelligence agency, AUSTRAC, has confirmed that it has commenced an enforcement investigation into Crown Melbourne and the enforcement investigation is as a result of an AUSTRAC compliance assessment that commenced in September 2019.
Standing orders should not be suspended to allow the member for Clark to move this motion. The government doesn't support the creation of a royal commission to conduct a simultaneous investigation into Crown casino when many of these issues have been addressed by ACLEI's investigation, while others are still subject to the ongoing New South Wales and AUSTRAC investigations.