POLITICS

Major Parties Accused Of 'Scandalous' Abandonment Of Casino Inquiry

The Liberal and Labor parties have been accused of grovelling to the poker machine industry.

19/10/2017 4:11 PM AEDT | Updated 19/10/2017 4:11 PM AEDT
Peter Rae/Fairfax
Andrew Wilkie: "I think that is scandalous, quite frankly. It is absolutely scandalous."

CANBERRA -- Anti-gambling parliamentarians have accused the major parties of being under the sway of the poker machine industry after refusing to back a senate inquiry into explosive pokie tampering and money laundering allegations levelled at Melbourne's Crown Casino under parliamentary privilege.

In particular, Independent MP Andrew Wilkie and Independent senator Nick Xenophon have told reporters in Canberra that Labor leader Bill Shorten had "gone to jelly" overnight over the misconduct allegations.

The claims -- including accusing Crown of money laundering, tampering with poker machines to increase gambling losses, ignoring drug use and covering up domestic violence -- were made by Wilkie under parliamentary privilege on Wednesday. They were based on untested anonymous video testimony from three Crown whistleblowers and have been roundly rejected by Crown's management which has urged the MP to come forth with further evidence.

A vote on a possible senate inquiry into the allegations and wider Casino regulations was due to be taken on Thursday, but facing defeat, it has been postponed until Monday, the next parliamentary sitting day.

Both the Government and Labor had indicated casinos and venue-based poker machines were purely a state matter, with Shorten stating, "the Senate is not a police force" not a "state house of parliament".

He also restated his view that the allegations were "very serious".

Earlier on Thursday, communications minister, Mitch Fifield, said casinos and venue-based poker machines are "matters that fall squarely within the jurisdictions of the states", but the financial intelligence agency Austrac would investigate allegations relating the federal crime of money laundering.

But Wilkie has declared the lack of support for Senate inquiry from the major parties was "scandalous".

"The fact that the Labor Party and the Liberal Party are both sidestepping the issue shows that they continue to grovel to the poker machine industry," the MP and former Defence whistleblower told reporters in Canberra.

"And I think that is scandalous, quite frankly.

"It is absolutely scandalous.

Wilkie held particular contempt for the Labor leader, suggesting he had been "spoken to" overnight.

"Was it the casinos, was it the clubs, was that the factional warlords, or did no-one ring him and he just turned into jelly on his own?" the Tasmanian MP said. "Whatever has happened, the comment from the Opposition Leader today is, I think, quite scandalous."

The office of Bill Shorten completely rejected the allegations, but offered HuffPost Australia no official statement in response.

But to the proposition from reporters that political donations from Crown may have have had something to do with it, the men stepped carefully.

"Governments are free to ignore the outcomes of an inquiry, Xenophon said. "The fact that they don't want an inquiry to get up in the first place raises questions about the impact and power of Crown."

"I think what it indicates is that Crown is a very powerful entity. But if Crown says that they have done nothing wrong, then they shouldn't stand in the way of a Senate inquiry."

Wilkie and Senator Xenophon reject the arguments that the casino allegations are a state matter.

"To say that this is a matter for the Victorian government and Victorian authorities is entirely misleading, because the serious allegations include money-laundering, and that of course is a serious federal offence," Wilkie said.

"(And) let's remember here that a parliamentary inquiry, where the witnesses would have parliamentary privilege, would be just the sort of mechanism to get to the bottom of these allegations."

But the political pair was particularly scathing of the ability of state and Territory governments to get to the bottom of the Crown allegations.

Wilkie said the idea was "laughable" with the states "deeply conflicted" over gambling revenue, while Xenophon described them as "jackpot junkies".

"The problem with State governments is that they are completely conflicted," Xenophon said. "The biggest jackpot junkies around the country are State governments, who between them rake in $5 billion in revenue from gambling."

"We have a situation where Crown Casino is one of the biggest players in the gambling market. But these allegations cannot be ignored."

Since his explosive allegations in federal parliament was made, Wilkie said he had spoken to the AFP and Victorian Police Commissioners and had written to the prime minister and the Victorian premier.

He said he was happy for criminal investigations to take place, but he said whistleblowers needed the protection of a federal parliamentary inquiry, although there is no confirmation that the three men making these allegations would appear.

Both Wilkie and Xenophon are urging the major parties to reconsider their positions.

"These are very serious issues that will not go away," Xenophon said. "The only way to get to the truth of this is to let the whistleblowers come forward under the protection of parliamentary scrutiny."

"And I believe we need to go further, that inevitably there may need to be an independent judicial inquiry into this, because if we don't have that independent judicial inquiry, these very serious allegations will continue to fester."

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