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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1110

Gambling


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:15): My question is to the Leader of the Government representing the Prime Minister. Minister, in recent days we've heard allegations of serious corruption involving two federal ministers and one federal MP pressuring the Department of Home Affairs to allow international high rollers with criminal connections to bring bags of laundered money straight from the airport to gamble at Crown Casino. Minister, who are these three members of parliament and has the Prime Minister questioned them about their involvement? If not, why not?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:16): Firstly, I would caution Senator Di Natale from what appears to be an attempt to be both the police officer charging as well as the judge, jury and executioner all at the same time. Obviously it is the case that the Australian government takes all allegations of illegal activity very seriously. Everyone must abide by Australian law. This is particularly the case for any members of our law enforcement, immigration or customs authorities. The Attorney-General announced earlier today, of course, that he will refer this matter that Senator Di Natale has raised in relation to Crown Casino for consideration under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commission Act 2006 for inquiry. Obviously we are not pre-empting their findings, but the Attorney-General has considered the allegations that have been raised in the media reporting, and particularly—

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, on a point of order?

Senator Di Natale: Mr President, I kept the preamble short and the question was very specific. I asked who were the three members of parliament and whether the Prime Minister had questioned them about their involvement.

The PRESIDENT: I remind senators: the preamble may have been short, Senator Di Natale, but the minister is being directly relevant to the question as asked. I'm going to start asking senators to not use points of order repeatedly simply as a chance to restate a preferred part of the question. By all means highlight it, but at least make a link to direct relevance, please, and do not just restate a preferred part of the question.

Senator CORMANN: I answered a very specific question yesterday in relation to visa processing. I pointed out that there is actually no discretion in relation to the application of laws in relation to assessments of character, health and various other relevant grounds. As I was about to indicate to the chamber, the Attorney-General considered the allegations that have been raised in the media reporting, particularly as they touch upon allegations which are either directly relatable to or potentially relatable to Commonwealth officers, and it was his view that there were sufficient concerns raised to warrant further investigations, which is why he has referred this matter to the law enforcement Integrity Commissioner. In the circumstances it wouldn't be appropriate, of course, for me to make any further comments in relation to these matters. It is now, obviously, a matter for ACLEI to further consider.

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, a supplementary question.







Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:18): You're right, Minister: the Attorney-General has indeed requested that the Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity examine this case. But we both know that they don't have the capacity to investigate politicians. Minister, hasn't it been referred to ACLEI specifically because they can't investigate politicians? Minister, isn't this just more evidence of a protection racket for ministers in your government, and isn't this why we need a national anticorruption watchdog?


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:19): I reject the premise of the question. I would just point out that, in relation to visa facilitation, the Department of Home Affairs has absolutely no evidence of visas being rubberstamped or of requirements being waived for visa applicants supported by Crown Casino. No waivers to Australia's visa requirements have been provided. Departmental officers apply the same legal criteria to all visa applications in accordance with the Migration Act. There is no discretion for officers to depart from these requirements.

Visa applicants' individual circumstances are assessed against all legal requirements, including in relation to national security, character and health. No-one is exempt from these requirements. In relation to the integrity of Australian Border Force and visa staff, all staff are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism, at all times. A range of controls are in place to prevent, detect and respond to internal fraud, corruption and serious misconduct. The acting secretary is aware of allegations of inappropriate conduct by an ABF officer. It would be inappropriate for me to comment on the matter. (Time expired)

The PRESIDENT: Senator Di Natale, a final supplementary question.



Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (14:20): In the past, Liberals—it must be said, with the support of the Labor Party—have joined to shut down inquiries into money laundering, tampering with poker machines, covering up abuse within their own premises. Minister, isn't the reason that you've shut down these inquiries—and, again, have not referred this to the appropriate channels—that Crown Casino donates hundreds of thousands of dollars to both parties and employs former ministers, like Minister Coonan and Minister Arbib, as an insurance policy against scrutiny? (Time expired)


Senator CORMANN (Western AustraliaMinister for Finance, Vice-President of the Executive Council and Leader of the Government in the Senate) (14:20): I completely and utterly reject the premise of this question. And I reject the proposition that no appropriate action has been taken. The Attorney-General, as I've indicated, has referred these matters to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

Senator Bernardi: President, I have a point of order: that Senator McKim is being very disorderly and interjecting. It's even more disorderly because he's not in his own seat. Could you ask him to go back to his own seat so he can interject appropriately, or to cease and desist?

The PRESIDENT: It would be inappropriate for me to ask someone to interject appropriately. There should be no interjections, and people should seek to make contributions from their seat.