Response to Wilkie motion – Crown casino allegations
The Government is not intending to support the motion and I will explain in detail.
Obviously it is the case Mr Deputy Speaker that the Australian Government takes all allegations of illegal activity very seriously. Everyone must abide by the Australian law and that is particularly the case for any members of our law enforcement, our immigration or our customs authorities.
They, of course, as part of the broader Australian law enforcement community hold very privileged positions and as such are expected to uphold the highest standards of integrity and professionalism at all times.
A strong integrity and professional standards culture is fundamental to public confidence in our work and the Australian Government's work.
I have considered the allegations that have been raised in media reporting and particularly as they touch upon allegations which are either directly relatable to, or tangentially relatable to, Commonwealth officers.
It is my view that there are sufficient concerns raised at least to warrant further investigations.
Now I might note for the benefit of Members that were speaking to this motion that saying that there are sufficient concerns to warrant me as Attorney-General to refer this matter for consideration under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006, is not to say that I have before me, or that there is any obvious evidence otherwise available that supports allegations against law enforcement, immigration or customs authorities. Rather it is the case that s18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act might be called a precautionary referral provision and I have already enacted that provision earlier today.
So I can inform the House that I have already referred this matter, these allegations, to the Australian Commissioner for Law Enforcement Integrity (ACLEI), under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act 2006.
And under that referral provision it would now become open for ACLEI to decide whether or not to launch an investigation or indeed if they determined not to, that would be a matter which they would need to inform me as to what it was that they considered was appropriate and if it was no further action they would need to advise me of that and obviously that is advice that I would relay publicly.
ACLEI is I might say to Members who have supported this motion and spoken in favour of it is a very appropriate and in fact the most appropriate body to consider these allegations.
They have very significant investigatory powers; very significantly stronger than those of a parliamentary committee, obviously including the ability to apply for search warrants, issue notices that attract a criminal penalty if not complied with.
I would note that ACLEI also has the ability to hold hearings, exercise coercive powers and seize evidence.
It is highly experienced in these types of investigations and indeed in considering prima facie allegations to determine whether or not a full investigation is necessary. And it's obviously better resourced to quickly and effectively consider the need for an investigation and to conduct that investigation into any alleged corruption if that is required.
I might say that in addition to the observation that ACLEI is clearly the best placed body to consider these allegations I would also offer the observation that a Parliamentary Committee of the type that you now seek to have formed is totally ill-equipped to deal with an inquiry of the nature that your envisage or that may be required in a matter of this type. And I'd also offer the observation that it would be significantly detrimental to have some form of Parliamentary inquiry running parallel to a potential ACLEI inquiry. There would be very likely significant legal issues and risks that could arise for any witnesses called before both hearings. And in fact a Parliamentary Committee inquiry would likely cause enormous difficulties to the efficacious running of ACLEI'S inquiry if they determined to undertake one.
I would also note that if ACLEI uncovered conduct by any other public service officers outside those determined in its remit as law enforcement officers or indeed civilians or employees of a commercial organisation who do not fall within ACLEI's jurisdiction, ACLEI can of course refer that information, and further allegations, to the AFP for further investigation.
Now I just note as these allegations have now earlier today already been referred to ACLEI under the section of Act that I have nominated, it would not be appropriate to comment further at this stage.
I would say though that I think the Member for Mayo's comments that anything other than support for the motion before the House reveals that the major parties are somehow beholden to the gambling industry is a frankly absurd contention to put.
This is now been referred' to ACLEI as I have noted. I think that is the appropriate course of action. I might also note for the benefit of the House Mr Deputy Speaker, l did advise the Member for Denison of the fact that I have already sent this mater to ACLEI as I am able to under section 18 of the Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner Act.
My observation is that it was probably the better course to withdraw the motion in those circumstances but of course it is up the Member for Denison to determine what he considers is the appropriate course.
But having had the matter refed to ACLEI, which is the body appropriately place to investigate it, pursuing a motion to set up a parallel Parliamentary Committee is wrong headed; it would actually discourage and withdraw efficacy from the ACLEI investigation. But if the motion is not going to be withdrawn it would be the Government's view that it should be opposed and we will oppose it on the basis that this has already been referred through to the appropriate authority.