Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:06):
My question is for the Special Minister of State.
The Crown allegations are not going away. On Monday we had a former employee detail instances where he had witnessed illegal activity on almost a daily basis.
On Tuesday we saw footage leaked by whistleblowers within the regulator itself, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, showing large-scale money laundering activities at Crown.
Today we have revelations of a businessman blacklisted by the United Nations and Australia because he funded a war criminal being aided by Crown into the country to gamble.
I tried to force the Parliament to debate this matter and launch an inquiry, to no avail. The gaming minister said she would investigate the claims and expected a report back in two weeks. That was two months ago.
As Special Minister of State, your portfolio oversees government transparency, integrity and accountability. Given there seems to be none of these three contained in the government’s response to this serious matter so far, will the minister step in and order an inquiry into Crown himself?
Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan—Leader of the Government, Special Minister of State, Minister for Priority Precincts, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (12:07):
I thank Ms Patten for her question and perhaps the implied confidence in but misdirected understanding of my responsibilities in this matter. So I will answer on my own behalf to indicate to the member that the government of course is concerned about these matters, and I have had a conversation with the relevant minister in relation to these circumstances and the scrutiny by which she is expecting the liquor and gaming regulator, the commissioner, to acquit their responsibilities and to consider any matters appropriately.
I am also aware of the interest of Victoria Police in relation to some of these matters, and I am also aware of the engagement and the ongoing scrutiny of a number of federal regulatory bodies.
As you have indicated through the scope of issues that you have just identified, there are a number of border security issues, there are a number of, in a sense, immigration issues, there are a number of integrity issues that apply in the commonwealth jurisdiction, and within those regulatory environments there is a capacity, and I acknowledge that, for appropriate scrutiny to sometimes fall between the gaps. In fact it is our obligation to try to make sure that they are interlocking.
As I understand it, there are four relevant commonwealth agencies who have jurisdiction over various circumstances described in these matters, as well as the regulatory environment in Victoria and law enforcement within Victoria.
I can give the member a guarantee that within my responsibilities I will continue to act as part of the Victorian government in collaboration with my colleagues to ascertain the best way in which we can provide confidence to the community that these matters are considered on their merits without fear or favour, that in fact justice and an investigative pathway are fully assisted by the government in terms of making sure that our obligations to keep our community safe and to ensure that due process is followed and in fact that there is not illegal activity that takes place within the gaming industry or any activity that is associated with it. I will work with my colleagues in that frame.
I do not have administrative responsibility to act in the way that you call on me in your question to do, but I can assure you that I and other members of the government take these matters seriously and we will continue to scrutinise these activities and do our best to ensure that justice prevails and that appropriate remedies are put in place for any illegal activity.
Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan) (12:10):
Thank you, Minister, for the response. I really think you undersell yourself here. By way of supplementary, I think community confidence comes to the nub of this. You speak to the community and they are not surprised. They just go, ‘Well, that’s just how it is.
The place is corrupt and the government does nothing’. We have had review after review by the casino regulator, whose ability to do the job is under serious question right now. They have recommended reforms that Crown has simply ignored—for instance, the use of player data analytics in support of intervention, which remains in a trial state five years after the regulator’s fifth review and a full decade after it was first raised.
Crown treats the government and the regulator, I think, as chumps.
In light of these serious allegations currently swirling around Crown, will the minster hold Crown, who are licensed to operate by the Victorian government, and investigate with his colleagues why these recommendations from the government’s independent regulator have never been followed up?
Mr JENNINGS (South Eastern Metropolitan—Leader of the Government, Special Minister of State, Minister for Priority Precincts, Minister for Aboriginal Affairs) (12:11):
I do not think there is any politician in this jurisdiction, across the nation or across the world that undersells themselves, so let us start from that basis. But in terms of my formal responsibilities, I think I have reminded you and the chamber of what my responsibilities may be.
In terms of my concern about these matters and the government’s concern about these matters I reiterate that we are concerned about these issues.
I will talk to my colleague and other parts of government in relation to the way in which we can provide that confidence into the future and to be seen to follow the due process of investigation and regulatory compliance. That is the best I can offer you at this point in time.
Fiona Patten MP
Leader of Reason
Member for Northern Metropolitan Region
Question without notice 17/10/19