Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Statements by Senators
We've had four scandals in the first four weeks of this parliament. All of them were over ministers and ex-ministers acting—or being seen to be acting—in a way that gives inappropriate benefit to them or their mates. In every case, it's got to do with cash. And then this Crown Casino story comes along and turns up the volume to 11. You say, 'There's nothing to see here!' Just because you can't see anything wrong doesn't mean there's nothing to see. Maybe you just need your eyesight checked. Maybe you've spent too long on a minister's salary cuddling up to gaming lobbyists and executives—lobbyists like former Labor minister Stephen Conroy, who's now the head lobbyist for the gambling industry, and executives like former Liberal minister Helen Coonan, who's on the board of Crown. You spend too long drinking the free drinks of the gambling industry and, what do you know, your vision gets blurry. Maybe that is why you think there is nothing to see here when everyone else can see it a mile away. Here's the truth of it: casinos are above the law because they have money and they pay big. They have dirty, filthy money to buy rotten politicians. They are using it, and you are letting them.
We have allegations that foreign nationals were allowed to get off private jets coming from China. There were no checks from Border Force, no paperwork and no Customs checks—absolutely nothing. One allegation is that a wanted criminal was allowed to touchdown in Australia on his private jet, despite being subject to an Interpol notice. We have allegations that Crown was bringing in people who were being investigated or monitored by police and intelligence agencies. Australia's consular staff knew it was happening. They didn't stop it. They were actually helping it. We have allegations of money laundering going on at the Crown casino.
We have allegations that two ministers pressured the Border Force chief to make it easier for Chinese gamblers to get into Australia on private jets. What is the response from this place? It's a referral to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. I guess it is just a coincidence that the commission isn't allowed to investigate ministers or former ministers. How convenient! Everyone gets investigated except for the politicians in this place. It is one rule for this place and one rule for every other Australian.
When politicians leave the parliament, they still get a free pass to do what ever they want. Say you are Christopher Pyne and you want to go from being the Minister for Defence to the ex-minister being paid to get money from defence. That's fine! That's within the rules. Once again, there's nothing to see here! Bruce Billson took a salary from a lobby group while he was sitting in parliament. He was getting paid by the public to work for them and, at the same time, was getting paid by a bunch of companies to work for them—both at the same time. That's fine! Apparently, there is no conflict here and nothing to see! Ian Macfarlane went from being the Minister for Industry, Tourism and Resources—he was responsible for regulating the mining industry—to being the head of the mining lobby. You don't see a problem with that one either?
People see this for what it is: it is politicians treating public service like it is a paid internship for the job you really want when you leave. They see you trading on the professional relationships you have developed, which taxpayers paid for you to develop. You then go and sell those relationships to the highest bidder. What do we get for our investment in you? We get laws that apply to us and not to you. Remind me, how many ministers have ever breached the Statement of Ministerial Standards? We have the only rules that regulate the conduct of ex-ministers being a statement that doesn't do anything. It is like a Monty Python sketch, isn't it? The man responsible for enforcing it says that it can't be enforced.
The Liberals and The Nationals say that they have to send in AFP officers to search the underwear drawers of journalists because nobody is above the law. Are you going to find out who leaked a classified ASIO and Border Force briefing back in February? There are 11 people who had a copy of it, including the minister. The AFP didn't commence any investigation into that one. Is that just a coincidence? We get companies like Crown that face allegations of being so far above the law that it's like they are a country of their own. We get this bipartisan conspiracy of silence when it comes to gambling because both sides are up to their necks in it. Money comes out of the pockets of the most poor and vulnerable via the pokies and then makes its way back to fund your re-election campaigns—charming!
Tasmanians, remember the money being poured into the coffers of the state Liberal Party from the pokies lobby in the last election? Remember the way they spent hard and spent big to stop dead any hint of reform? The Tasmanian Liberals got over half a million dollars into their election coffers to be able to outspend everybody else. They also had two separate multimillion dollar campaigns run by the pub pokie barons and the federal group. They were campaigning alongside them with all of the money in the world and none of the responsibility. They bought an election with money coming from problem gamblers. Half of their money comes from problem gamblers. They are using that money to block anything that would ever help problem gamblers. They're abusing the most vulnerable and they're doing it in alliance with the Liberal Party.
They know that most Tasmanians want pokies gone from pubs and clubs and they know that reform was popular and necessary, so they spent big to send a message to every other state that was watching: 'What we're doing here we'll do there too. If you want to win an election again, you'll leave the gambling lobby alone—or we'll take you down.' That's exactly what happened in Tasmania. That's exactly how it played out. As a result nothing changes—all because a bunch of billionaire pokies bosses would rather hurt pensioners and single mums than their own bottom line.
So they buy an election and they get to write the rules. The rules that apply to them get written by them and the rest of us just have to live with it and suck it up. Crown gets to write its own rules because it has got enough to buy them. If the rest of us have a problem with that, it's tough luck, too bad. Nobody wins when you can buy an exemption from the rule of law. We end up with a democracy that is for sale—and it is for sale. The people out there see it happening and they think it is absolutely disgusting—actually they think it's worse, but I won't use the words that they use; I won't do that in here—and I do too. They're looking at you lot in here to do something about it and they're seeing what I'm seeing—you're doing absolutely nothing and you're now buying seats. People are now living in misery for that. That is not democracy. That is not the Australian way.