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Tuesday, 30 July 2019
Page: 1130


Senator DI NATALE (VictoriaLeader of the Australian Greens) (15:26): I move:

That the Senate take note of the answer given by the Minister representing the Prime Minister (Senator Cormann) to a question without notice asked by Senator Di Natale today relating to ministerial conduct.

In recent days, we've heard allegations of the most serious kind, allegations of blatant corruption involving members of this place—two ministers; one federal MP—and we heard from the former Border Force Commissioner that he was encouraged by members of parliament to help fast-track visas and airport entry into Australia. That was entry for people who were known as international high rollers, people with bags of cash that they can spend gambling at Crown Casino. There were allegations of money being laundered, allegations of people who have very clear connections to criminal syndicates.

Just think about this. What we have is an allegation that members of this parliament were pressuring officials to fast track the entry of criminals into Australia so they could gamble at Crown Casino. We've heard allegations that they made pit stops on the way to Crown Casino—for sex workers, for drugs. These are people who have been facilitated into Australia by members of this government. Those allegations are being made by very senior members of the department. You think about that and compare it to the treatment of innocent people who have committed no crime, who come to this country seeking protection. They are people who are facing persecution and torture. We say they're not welcome here. We turn our backs on them. Worse still, we lock them up. We incarcerate them. We torture them. Yet what we're saying to people who are connected to international criminal activity is: 'Welcome to Australia. Show us your money and you're in the door. We'll make a pit stop as well on the way to the casino, to indulge you, because you've got some cash in your wallet.'

It is everything that stinks about politics in this country. And today, to the great shame of the Labor Party, they backed in the Liberals by refusing to support an inquiry that would uncover what is going on with ministers of this government. We saw the Attorney-General refer this off to the Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity. How convenient! How very convenient to refer this off to a body that has no mandate to investigate the activity of ministers of the Crown, to refer this off to a body that can't look at some of the most senior public officials in the country. They've tried to take the heat out of the issue by sending it off to a committee, making sure that it can't look at where the action really is, and hoping that it disappears off the front pages. Well, we're not going to let that happen. We are going to pursue this until the people who are responsible have answered questions.

If there's any more evidence required for why we need a national anticorruption watchdog, this is it. We need a national anticorruption commission with broad based powers that can call in people to investigate these matters. But, instead, what have we got? We've got the cosy club. We've got a protection racket being run by both sides of politics. And Crown are smart about this. Of course Crown are smart. What do Crown do? They recruit people from both sides of politics. Crown are the retirement home for former Labor and Liberal members of parliament. If you're a Labor or a Liberal minister, you're put out to pasture on a good paddock at Crown Casino, out there spruiking for the industry, as an insurance policy so that when these sorts of allegations come up what we get is silence, a diversion, the classic bait-and-switch tactic that we saw earlier today. It's hardly a surprise. When hundreds of thousands of dollars in donations from the gambling industry is funnelled into the pockets of both sides of politics, what do you expect? It's a great investment. I don't call that a bet; I call it an investment—investing in both sides of politics so that they can continue to do what they do without scrutiny or transparency.

This is a dark day in Australian politics. Again, what we see is everything that's wrong right now, with both sides running a protection racket for an industry while ignoring vulnerable people.

Question agreed to.