Wednesday, 31 July 2019
Questions without Notice
Thank you, Mr President. My question is to the Minister representing the Prime Minister, Senator Cormann. Australians are increasingly concerned about the revelations surrounding Crown Casino and its relationship with authorities. If dodgy visa access, drug trafficking, money laundering, and prostitution aren't enough, reports yesterday about a Victorian property known as a 'dude ranch' are simply bizarre. The dude ranch, known to the Victorian police and the local council, is where high rollers visiting Crown allegedly 'gun up' and kill wombats from the windows of their luxury limousine. Minister, what is your government doing to investigate and speak with the Victorian police about this alleged illegal activity?
I thank Senator Hanson-Young for her question. The first point I would make is a point that I made earlier in the week, and that is that the Australian government takes allegations of illegal activity very seriously. Everyone, of course, is required to abide by the Australian law, which includes casino operators, public officials and visitors to our country. You would also be aware that our law enforcement agencies are working hard to disrupt and deter criminal groups by collecting evidence and intelligence about financially motivated crime. It is not something that is done by government at the political level. It is something that is done, appropriately, independently by our law enforcement agencies, and it wouldn't be appropriate for me to provide specific details, given the potential to compromise ongoing investigations.
I would also remind the senator that on 30 July 2019 the Attorney-General referred allegations of corruption involving the Department of Home Affairs and Crown Casino to ACLEI, the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. The referral relates to media reports involving various allegations of corruption with respect to interactions between employees of Crown Casino and others. All these allegations have now been referred to ACLEI. It would not be appropriate for me to comment further.
I do question that, if the government can't protect our wildlife, how on earth can we believe they can protect our borders? Minister, allegations have been publicly raised about ministers and their relationship with Crown. Can the Minister representing the Prime Minister assure the parliament that there have been no breaches of the Statement of Ministerial Standards by any current or former ministers?
Obviously, I'm not aware of the facts in relation to this at all. Law enforcement investigations are not political exercises. Law enforcement investigations are, appropriately, handled independently by those agencies. I've already referred the Senate to the referral by the Attorney-General on 30 July 2019 of various matters related to this to ACLEI. In relation to the question which is, I guess, implied in Senator Hanson-Young's comment, whether ACLEI can investigate ministers: ACLEI is responsible for the investigation of corruption issues in designated Australian government law-enforcement agencies. If ACLEI discovers information relating to issues outside its jurisdiction, ACLEI may share that information with an appropriate state or territory police force for further action. ACLEI may also share the information with the relevant ombudsman or other integrity agency.
I completely reject that last part of the question—completely and utterly reject it. But in this country, appropriately, law enforcement investigations are not conducted as political exercises. I don't think that the Australian people would be well served by political exercises along the lines that are implied in the question. The senator also clearly did not listen to my previous answer where I pointed out that, if ACLEI discovers information relating to issues outside its jurisdiction, ACLEI may share that information with appropriate Commonwealth, state or territory police forces for further action. ACLEI may also share the information with a relevant ombudsman or other integrity agency.