Thursday, August 1, 2019

Today by Paddy Manning

Dodging Crown
The Morrison government has questions to answer

Senator Mathias Cormann. Source

The government and Opposition traded meaningless blows today over the slow progress drafting legislation to set up the Coalition’s new Commonwealth Integrity Commission, as the Crown Resorts scandal proves why a federal ICAC is so desperately, urgently needed. But it is the crossbench – from the Greens to One Nation and everyone in between – that is in tune with public sentiment on this issue. The whole crossbench and Labor voted today in favour of a Greens motion to force the government’s leader in the Senate, Finance Minister Mathias Cormann, to answer allegations that current MPs, including ministers, pressured Home Affairs officials on behalf of Crown to smooth border checks for high rollers. It also asked that he detail whether the prime minister had investigated the allegations and if not, why not. Cormann ducked the questions.

The Nine newspapers overnight reported that the Australian Criminal Intelligence Commission has announced a sweeping investigation into organised crime in Australian casinos, with chief Michael Phelan saying that state and federal police and intelligence agencies had uncovered damning “insights into vulnerabilities … within casinos located in Australia”. Crown hit back in advertisements that the Nine papers declined to publish, instead responding to Crown’s advertisement point-by-point here. Meanwhile, Guardian Australia reports that Crown has yet to satisfy the Victorian gaming regulator that it has fixed serious problems at its Melbourne casino, and that the NSW Greens have called for Premier Gladys Berejiklian to review the company’s licence to run the new Sydney casino under construction at Barangaroo.

The Crown controversy is surely the last straw, and reverberates to the top of Australian society, as this Crikey overview [$] of the company’s board makes clear. It comes after a string of scandals – from the Sam Dastyari affair to reefgate, Helloworld, watergate and grassgate – that has degraded the federal parliament. The Greens today introduced, for a sixth time in a decade’s advocacy, a bill for a national anti-corruption watchdog with teeth, and vowed to bring on debate and a vote on the bill when parliament resumes in early September. Powerful crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie, who will often cast the swing vote in the 46th parliament, yesterday said she wanted the new ICAC to have “more teeth than Jaws”, and that if she didn’t get it would consider telling the government “where to stick their bills”.

Attorney-General Christian Porter – who seems to be doing half the work of the government – said “The Coalition – unlike Labor – has actually been doing the hard work necessary to deliver a carefully considered and properly funded watchdog since we first committed to establishing a CIC in December last year.” A draft bill was being finalised, which would form the basis of public consultation, and the final bill would be completed by the end of the year, he said.

The Greens had asked whether the prime minister had investigated the claims Nine made of ministers acting on behalf of Crown, which would be a prima facie breach of the ministerial standards. Cormann said only that the allegations had been referred to the Australian Commission for Law Enforcement Integrity, and that it would not be appropriate to comment, adding that the prime minister “is not aware of any of his ministers breaching ministerial standards”. The Greens’ Nick McKim slammed the response as “pathetic”, and described the referral to ACLEI as “convenient” – given it cannot investigate sitting politicians – and called the whole thing a “cover-up”. This will not go away.

“I am much encouraged by the great showing at the briefing this afternoon from across the political spectrum from all parties interested in coming to hear about the legal situation faced by Julian Assange. This is an Australian citizen who has lived with some sort of a restriction on his liberty for a decade and now faces 175 years in a US prison because of his publishing work with WikiLeaks.”

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange’s lawyer, Jennifer Robinson, talking after meeting with 30 cross-party MPs yesterday and dining with Labor leader Anthony Albanese.

“Bub, if you believed in democracy you’d campaign against things like that. But per your anti-free speech stance, we know you’re a fascist anyway. You couldn’t win elections so you took an anti-democratic position! You’re a fraud and a failure and I’m coming to Australia!”

Former Breitbart editor and self-described “bad boy of Brexit” Raheem Kassam, who has been invited to speak at next week’s Conservative Political Action Conference in Sydney, tweets at shadow home affairs minister Kristina Keneally, who yesterday called for him to be denied a visa over misogynist and Islamophobic comments.

The case for raising Newstart
As the campaign to raise Newstart intensifies, details emerge of who is actually living on the payment and for how long.

The amount spent on a review of the Home Affairs department that did not produce a single, consolidated report.

“Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud will propose an Inspector-General for the Murray-Darling Basin when the basin states meet for Ministerial Council on Sunday. The Inspector-General will hold the MDBA, Commonwealth and all states to account, provide independent assurance to the community around the plan’s implementation and ensure the laws governing water use are followed. The Inspector-General will be able to refer issues to the Commonwealth Integrity Commission once it is established.”

Minister for Water Resources David Littleproud proposes a “tough cop on the beat” across the Murray–Darling.

The list

“I received a letter from a government department that read, “You have been overpaid by $1314 ... I didn’t feel like someone who’d been overpaid. When the letter arrived I was living in a van with towels strung up everywhere to cover the windows. It wasn’t even my van. The letter said that I had 30 days to pay. I began, quietly, to seethe. The letter gave no explanation for how the debt was calculated, provided no evidence of any kind. This, I came to discover, is because it was a stab in the dark.”

“A key Labor strategist says the Opposition intends to ignore the one-man band leader as much as possible. ‘We’ll treat Morrison as if he is just another minister,’ he says. In Angus Taylor, they have more than enough to target. After trying to avoid admitting that emissions have in fact risen in every year of the Coalition government – especially after the repeal of the carbon price – he still couldn’t quite admit the truth of the situation.”

The annual Jarrad census: 

Jarrad (1, down 1), Jarryd (2, down 1), Jarrod (8, up 1), Jared (1, no change), Jarryn (1, no change), Darragh (1, no change)

Enter to win

The Monthly invites NSW readers to enter the draw for a chance to win one of 10 double passes to see the Australian Youth Orchestra. After an outstanding international tour to Europe and China, the Australian Youth Orchestra returns to Australia to perform alongside pianist Jan Lisiecki in an exciting homecoming celebration featuring works by Holly Harrison, Shostakovich and Rachmaninov, under the baton of Krzysztof Urbański. The event will take place at 8pm on Monday, August 5, at Sydney Opera House. Entries close at 12pm (AEST) on Friday, August 2.


Paddy Manning

Paddy Manning is contributing editor (politics) at The Monthly and has worked for the ABC, Fairfax, Crikey and The Australian. He is the author of Inside the Greens and the unauthorised biography of Malcolm Turnbull, Born To Rule?


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