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Pressure for inquiry into Crown Resorts

Wed, Jul 31, 7:53am by Staff Writer

Political pressure is building on Crown Resorts after its alleged links to money laundering and the federal government’s fast-tracking of visas for the casino’s Chinese high rollers, with a growing number of crossbench politicians pushing to set up a federal parliamentary inquiry.

The Australian Financial Review is reporting the Greens are pressing Labor to support a Senate inquiry into alleged “special favours” Crown receive from the government in relation to fast-tracking visas and lobbying government ministers.

Labor deputy leader Richard Marles called on Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton to explain his department’s handling of visa approvals for Crown’s foreign clients visiting Australia.

The Opposition is yet to support an inquiry pushed by several crossbench MPs and senators. Labor’s backing would be required.

Centre Alliance Senator Rex Patrick told the Financial Review he would endorse a “broad” inquiry into Crown and its relationship with governments, including the fast-tracking of visas by the then-Department of Immigration and alleged money laundering at its Melbourne casino, as revealed by Nine’s 60 Minutes.

“This is a very serious issue and Centre Alliance would support an inquiry,” Senator Patrick said.

Unlike state governments that were beholden to the casino industry for tax revenue, Senator Patrick said Centre Alliance was independent.

Former Border Force chief was lobbied by ministers

The former head of the Australian Border Force, Roman Quaedvlieg told 60 Minutes he was personally lobbied by two government ministers and another backbench MP to make it easier for Chinese gamblers to pass through border checks on private flights into Australia.

The Greens’ proposed Senate inquiry would be conducted by the legal and constitutional affairs committee and give Mr Quaedvlieg parliamentary privilege to allow him to name government ministers.

“We don’t rule out” an inquiry, Labor’s Mr Marles said as he pressed Mr Dutton to respond immediately to the claims.

“Ultimately, I’m interested in hearing from the Morrison government and from Minister Dutton,” Mr Marles said on ABC Radio on Tuesday.

“There are a series of allegations here which are serious in relation to Crown Casino and we need to actually hear from the minister about this, and it does relate to the relationship between Crown and the Home Affairs Department – through Australian Border Force.”

Crown has close links to both major parties, with former Liberal communications minister Helen Coonan as a director and former Labor operative Karl Bitar serving in a senior corporate affairs role.

Tasmanian independent MP Andrew Wikie has called on Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese to back a joint inquiry because of concerns of failures by gambling regulators, immigration staff and border protection officials.

He will push a motion in the House of Representatives on Tuesday for the government to set up an inquiry into Crown.

The Department of Home Affairs said it has stakeholder arrangements to facilitate “quick visa processing of short-stay visas with a number of large international organisations.”

“The arrangements with Crown Casinos was put in place in 2003,” the department’s spokeswoman said.

“The arrangement was last affirmed by the minister in June 2011 and ceased in 2016.”

The department did not say why the fast-tracking program ended.

“These arrangements always make it clear that applicants are subject to the full range of applicable checks,” the spokeswoman said.

“There is no reduced vetting in certain locations or for certain applicants.”

“Our offices in China are well aware of the risks that may be present in their caseloads and they scrutinize and manage applications accordingly.”

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