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Labor Party quiet on Crown casino saga

Mon, Aug 5, 10:52am by Staff Writer

Opposition leader Anthony Albanese has defended Labor’s opposition to a parliamentary inquiry into allegations federal ministers interfered in visa applications for Chinese high rollers.

SBS News reports that Crown Casino is facing claims it had a “hotline” to Australian consulates to fast-track visa applications, which the company denies.

Independent MP Andrew Wilkie last week said that he had no doubt there were corrupt federal MPs in parliament who had allowed political donations to influence their decisions.

But Mr Albanese said he didn’t agree with Mr Wilkie’s claims.

“I have not seen any evidence of direct corruption that I’ve seen, that has been proven in my time when I’ve been in parliament,” Mr Albanese told ABC’s Insiders on Sunday.

Mr Albanese said the opposition supported the government referring the matter to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity.

The Labor leader said a crossbench attempt to set up a parliamentary inquiry into the Crown allegations wasn’t a “serious option” because independents and minor parties would have been over-represented.

“You don’t conduct serious investigations with a parliamentary committee,” he said.

“What you need is a body that has the same powers of a royal commission, which this body has.”

The ACLEI inquiry has been criticised because it has no power to investigate MPs and ministers, but Mr Albanese suggested that could be overcome.

“By investigating the department who made lobbying exercises to the bureaucracy, then certainly by definition, MPs would be drawn into that if any MPs are involved,” he said.

Labor is continuing to push for a National Integrity Commission, while Attorney-General Christian Porter is drafting a bill to establish a similar body.

A swag of crossbench MPs and senators have urged the government to create a corruption watch dog.

60 Minutes Crown story hit and miss

The build up to Channel 9’s Crown Casino story on its 60 Minutes program last week said it would “rock the foundations of Australia”, but many viewers have been left unimpressed.

News.com.au is reporting that the year long investigation looked at tens of thousands of Australia’s biggest casino.

The Sunday night current affairs show claims these emails show Crown’s links to Chinese crime bosses and community party figures, drug syndicates, money laundering and alleged sex trafficking rings.

In a promo released a few days before the show aired, 60 Minutes said the episode would feature “a story so important it can’t be missed”.

From the get go, it was clear that many viewers felt let down – saying they felt the episode had been massively over-hyped.

Others pointed out that ABC’s Four Corners ran a similar story in 2017 called ‘Crown Confidential’, which included allegations that Crown had “developed a business model based on luring rich Chinese, known as VIP high rollers, to its casinos … in a country where gambling and promoting gambling are illegal.”

The Age journalist behind the story, Nick McKenzie, defended the 60 Minutes exclusive, calling on viewers to judge the story, not the promo.

Questions asked of government’s role

Others came to the show’s defence, saying it exposed an obscene level of corporate greed in Australia and posed serious questions for the Federal government – particularly given it claimed the Australian Consulate was helping Crown by handing out hundreds of visas to dubious gamblers.

Sacked Border Force Commissioner, Roman Quaedvlieg, even claimed he was encouraged by ministers to help fast-track Crown’s Chinese high rollers through Australia’s borders.

The investigation by The AgeThe Sydney Morning Herald and 60 Minutes, aided by one of the biggest leaks of corporate data in Australia, showed how Crown helped bring criminals into Australia — raising “serious national security concerns”.

One of the journalists who worked on the story, Nick McKenzie, said the emails showed a “lust for profits-proven arrogant culture where almost anything, including courting people with ties to the criminal underworld was not only allowed but encouraged”.


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