Thursday, 23 June 2022


Casino and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022


Casino and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022

Second reading

Debate resumed on motion of Mr LEANE:

That the bill be now read a second time.

Ms TAYLOR (Southern Metropolitan) (16:25): The Casino and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 is really the next stage of our government’s overhaul of gambling regulation following the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. We know at the end of last year our government established the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission as a standalone gambling regulator to focus on holding the industry to the highest standards. This bill will finalise the governance and structure of the VGCCC and respond to further recommendations of the royal commission with enhanced powers and functions, including giving casino inspectors greater access to surveillance equipment and casino records and requiring casino employees to assist inspectors to access and operate surveillance equipment to monitor all activity on the gaming floor. The bill will also protect Victorians from gambling-related harm by embedding this as part of the VGCCC’s core functions, mandating that this shapes every decision it makes. Liquor regulation—I am just giving a bit of an overview here, I should say—will be transferred to a new liquor regulator within the Department of Justice and Community Safety (DJCS), allowing the VGCCC to focus solely on regulating the casino and gambling industries. The bill contains measures to ensure continuity in the transition to new regulators, ensuring there is no disruption to regulatory activity, giving businesses the certainty that they need.

The royal commission handed down its final report in October last year, and the government has indeed responded expeditiously—I should say, in record time. We legislated the commission’s nine priority recommendations through the Casino and Gambling Legislation Amendment Act 2021 in December last year. This set up the framework necessary to start holding Crown to account, including establishing the role of the special manager. Stephen O’Bryan QC, Victoria’s first IBAC Commissioner, has been appointed to the role, overseeing every single aspect of casino operations and reporting on its suitability to hold a licence over the next two years. Make no mistake, unless Crown can demonstrate to the regulator that it has become suitable, the licence will be automatically cancelled.

This legislation also dismantled what we might term the sweetheart deal put in place by the previous Liberal government, which made Crown untouchable. This arrangement meant that Crown would be entitled to compensation for any changes to rules governing its operation. The royal commission was highly critical of this deal, which only served to shield Crown from accountability. Abolishing it has paved the way for our reform program to restore integrity to Victoria’s casino. The legislation also increased the maximum penalty Crown could face from $1 million to $100 million, above and beyond what the royal commission recommended, and empowered the regulator to act directly on the royal commission’s findings. We have accepted the remaining recommendations in principle and will bring further legislation to Parliament this year to address these, ensuring the injustice uncovered by the royal commission can never happen again.

The former regulator, the Victorian Commission for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, was established by the previous Liberal government, and its merged model of gaming and liquor regulation was not fit for purpose. We are now completely overhauling how we regulate gambling in this state with a dedicated new regulator, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission. The new VGCCC has oversight of all gambling and gaming activities within Victoria, from pokies through to the casino, with its core business also focused on protecting Victorians from gambling-related harm, which is of course incredibly important.

Led by inaugural chair and CEO Fran Thorn and Annette Kimmitt, the VGCCC has wasted no time holding Crown to account. Since commencing on 1 January 2022 it has already taken disciplinary action against Crown, imposing an $80 million fine for the China UnionPay process uncovered by the royal commission. This is one of the largest fines imposed on a casino anywhere in the world. It has also been conducting a thorough investigation of unpaid casino tax, having already recovered $61 million from Crown, responding directly to findings of the royal commission. And it signed a new memorandum of understanding with the federal anti-money-laundering authority, protecting Victorians from serious financial crimes.

Now, just to zone in on that particularly important element of harm minimisation, our Victorian government is doing more to tackle problem gambling and the harm it creates than any government has before, and this bill is really a testament to that. This bill will enshrine harm minimisation as the guiding principle of how we regulate gambling and protect Victorians from associated harms by embedding this as a key objective. The VGCCC does not currently have legislated objectives which guide how it regulates gambling; hence the bill will insert new objectives into the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission Act 2011 to legally oblige the regulator to have regard to minimising gambling harm in its decision-making. Specifically, it will make minimising gambling-related harm part of the VGCCC’s core business by requiring the commission to consider this in each and every decision it makes. It will also expand the regulator’s education function to include educating the public and delivering activities which minimise gambling harm.

These reforms build on our strong record of tackling gambling-related harm, including increasing funding to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to $153 million over four years, the largest commitment to address problem gambling in Australian history. Labor also introduced YourPlay, the nation’s first statewide precommitment scheme, and tightened restrictions on how much and where gamblers can access money in venues. Only this Labor government can be trusted to ensure that we have the most comprehensive harm minimisation measures across the country and will work with responsible venues and the people they employ.

What about disciplinary action? The bill will empower the VGCCC to take disciplinary action against the casino for a single breach of the responsible gambling code of conduct. Currently this can only be done for multiple breaches, so you can see the tightening elements in this bill. This further strengthens the regulator’s role in minimising gambling harm, particularly in the high-risk environment of the casino. The Crown Melbourne Responsible Gambling Code of Conduct includes rules on promoting responsible gambling, interacting with customers and how customers can access self-exclusion or gambling support services. Crown Melbourne specifically breaching the code is also a breach of the licence. This will mean that Crown could face fines of up to $100 million for any single breach of these rules, empowering the VGCCC to take a stronger stance on breaches of the code by the casino operator than has ever been done before.

What about the inspector powers? The bill will introduce mandatory reporting requirements for casino inspectors who observe or suspect criminal activity, specifically money laundering, loansharking or the sale of illicit drugs. The VGCCC must refer any such report to the agency responsible, whether that be law enforcement or the federal anti-money-laundering agency, AUSTRAC. The bill will also enhance inspectors’ powers, with increased access to surveillance equipment, books, records or documents at the casino. These were recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence, which identified consistent failures on the part of the casino operator to use its surveillance equipment to detect money laundering and other crime. These measures will give inspectors the powers they need to do their job and also assist law enforcement to be able to do their job.

Further, I should speak to ministerial directions powers. The bill will empower the minister to provide high-level directions to both regulators to ensure that their overarching priorities are consistent with the government’s. This new directions power will allow the minister to issue written directions of general application but expressly excludes directions on specific regulatory functions. Ministerial directions, along with a statement of reasons, will be published in the Victoria Government Gazette. This approach will preserve arms-length, independent regulatory decision-making whilst ensuring consistency in policy objectives.

As part of this bill, the VGCCC will have powers to require and accept an enforceable undertaking from the casino operator as part of its compliance and enforcement powers. If the casino operator breaches that undertaking, a court may direct them to comply, and it will also become a ground for disciplinary action under the Casino Control Act 1991. This will provide the VGCCC with an additional mechanism to improve compliance.

What about the very important issue of VGCCC governance? The bill will fully establish the VGCCC, providing for its organisational structure and governance arrangements. This will include dedicated casino and gambling divisions and commissioners established administratively to provide strengthened oversight of the casino. The bill will require that there be a spread of skills across the VGCCC commissioners, including finance, regulatory and legal experience. The bill will also provide that key functions of the VGCCC which carry high risk are no longer able to be delegated, to ensure decisions are being made at the appropriate level.

With regard to the establishment of a new liquor regulator, the bill separates the regulation of liquor from the VGCCC’s functions and establishes a new liquor regulator within the DJCS. Similarly to the VGCCC—

Mr Ondarchie: Similarly?

Ms TAYLOR: Yes, exactly. What you said. There will be required to be a spread of—

Mr Ondarchie: It was almost like a soliloquy, wasn’t it?

Ms TAYLOR: Almost. There will be required to be a spread of skills across Victorian Liquor Commission commissioners, including health sector experience and legal qualifications. Independent commissioners will be supported by staff from DJCS—and wow, we are clocking up the acronyms, but it is critical in this space and it is fair enough—who will undertake licensing, compliance and enforcement activity.

So our government is getting on with the job, and we are ensuring our regulatory framework is in place to uphold the highest standards in Victoria’s casino and gambling industries. The bill will provide a focused new regulator with enhanced powers to hold the casino to account and a dedicated focus on protecting Victorians, very importantly, from gambling-related harm. The government is committed to implementing all recommendations of the royal commission and ensuring the wrongdoing it uncovered can never happen again.

Ms SHING (Eastern Victoria) (16:39): I would like to think that indeed, if there were a mechanism by which words could be converted into successful policy outcomes, Ms Taylor and I would be in fact well at the forefront of continuous improvement in our statute book. But that being as it may, I want to talk today about the way in which regulation and oversight have not only been understood and recognised as a priority within the casino environment but have also led to a pretty significant discussion around regulation, compliance and enforcement. In doing so, I am picking up on a number of the themes that we have discussed earlier today as they relate to gambling controls and harm minimisation, through other amendments relating to gambling legislation, including as they relate to the very grassroots end of the scale and changing the regulatory environment for threshold values before a community raffle can be undertaken. That is one end of the spectrum.

At the other end of the spectrum we have the subject matter of the bill before us today, which deals with some extraordinary incidents of improper and inappropriate behaviour and conduct not just by individuals but on a large, systemic scale. These issues are well known to Victorians and indeed at a federal level as exemplifying some of the worst behaviour and exemplifying the complete absence of best practice, and indeed, as was found in the inquiry and the commission’s findings around the work of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission (VGCCC) in the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence, they need to be addressed as a matter of urgency. And we can see from the fines that have been levelled already that this is a matter of enormous significance not just as it relates to the way in which unpaid moneys have not been acquitted or returned—and that is to the tune of around $61 million in unpaid casino tax—but also the $80 million fine which was levelled against Crown Casino as a consequence of the royal commission.

When we look to the royal commission’s recommendations it is really important to note that of those recommendations there have been nine responses to date and there are a further two recommendations which are acquitted as a consequence of the passage of this bill. That is out of a total of 33 recommendations, and it is again something I want to put beyond any doubt around the response to the remaining recommendations: they will also be a feature of a government response in the remainder of the term of this Parliament, and that legislation will be developed and indeed before the legislative process prior to the caretaker period.

One of the things that I also want to do with the time I have available is to talk about notice requirements and the nature of notice that is required to be given prior to inspectors’ attendance at the casino to access particular resources or data or information. That includes surveillance footage; it might also include books and records or other documents. It is broadly defined, and it is within the scope of investigators’ powers to inspect these records in order to assess the extent to which there has been any infringement, and that notice is an important part of this framework. There have been concerns raised by the opposition around the requirement to provide written notice, and I think it is really important that we go through the consequences of not providing written notice in a situation such as that which the opposition is seeking to prosecute with its amendments and what that means for the rigour and the accountability of the framework of inspection, what that means for obfuscation by a large-scale operator, particularly where there are multiple layers of reporting and compliance within that organisation, and also as it relates to transparency of process.

We know that where people have access to written information there is a greater capacity to understand the intent of the inspection, the basis upon which the inspection is occurring, the activities that will be undertaken in relation to the inspection and further actions that might result as a consequence of the inspection. This is pretty important stuff. It is important because not only does it provide a mechanism of protection for the inspectors who are undertaking this work but it provides a clear and consistent basis upon which an organisation, as I said, with those multiple layers of responsibility, from direct employees at one classification on the floor, as it were, right through to senior management and the C-suite operators within a large-scale organisation, is able to understand what is being required and why and for people to all understand the nature of that requirement without the ambiguity that might otherwise arise.

Obfuscation is another really important part of the landscape which has prompted this particular written requirement of notice. It is also a requirement that provides an element of procedural fairness that is also attendant on the nature of access to information. It is a common application of these principles to require written notification at the time of the exercise of functions such as the collection of materials or the access to those materials. One of the things that I can think about, for example, is the execution of a warrant which indeed requires that written framework. That can be issued relatively instantaneously in this setting, and that is an important thing to note: that where in fact there may be a concern raised by the opposition which has perhaps underpinned its desire to see this written notice requirement removed we understand the nature in which these notices can be approved by the commission and the consequence of that in a temporal sense—namely, that this is not intended to give anybody the heads-up. It is not intended to facilitate a quick getaway, indeed as it might relate to a hypothetical destruction of documents or removal of material from a premises. It is, rather, intended to make sure that accompanying a decision to request and indeed require an inspection, and indeed to request and require access to documents and materials, is a written notice that sets out the basis for those actions being undertaken.

These are the things which underpin the provisions here in this bill, and they are the reasons why we will not be supporting the opposition’s amendments as proposed. We want to make sure that there is a process in place to protect, as I said, inspectors, to make sure that there is no ambiguity in the terms of the execution of an inspection and to make sure that there is a mechanism to document the exercise of those powers and the casino’s compliance or indeed non-compliance with those powers.

We have a range of other matters that have been discussed by the opposition in the course of this debate. As I said, they go to the heart of the totality of 33 recommendations following the royal commission—the nine recommendations which have already been acquitted or indeed are part of a government response and the two additional recommendations that are part of this bill.

The Victorian Commissioner for Gambling and Liquor Regulation, on a separate note, is also something which the opposition has raised. It is really, really good to see that they are on board with the reform processes and mechanisms that flow from the royal commission. I would really like to see ultimately that those on the benches opposite would see fit to accept and indeed endorse this model for reform that delivers new and enhanced powers and that also ensures that the VGCCC’s leadership team has got not just a preparedness to use these powers but an acceptance of the necessity to use them in practical circumstances where they are warranted.

Making sure that we can also work within a multijurisdictional framework, the memorandum of understanding that was entered into with the federal government earlier this year—I think it was around Easter—was a really important component of understanding the way in which anti-money-laundering authorities can function together at a state and federal level. These are matters of enormous significance in making sure that here in Victoria we are able not only to deter, to intercept, to prevent and indeed to sanction money-laundering activities and what those anti-money-laundering frameworks look like but also to assist the commonwealth in the way in which it might also engage with other jurisdictions at a state and territory level around similar levels of cooperation. It is this memorandum of understanding that I hope the Albanese government will also be in a position to work alongside other states and territories to implement.

These are the sorts of things that are really relevant to tackling the issues of gambling and of the knock-on impacts that necessitate a conversation around harm minimisation—again, a number of those elements which I discussed earlier this morning in a bill as it relates to much, much smaller operations but applies by extension nonetheless to these large-scale operators and indeed to Crown and the royal commission recommendations.

The understanding of the way in which regulators are being split is important—and that work is underway—as well as understanding the division of inspectors between those two regulators. Making sure that there are issues around resourcing is key to understanding where we go from here. The 2022–‍23 budget has around $55 million—an investment of that sum—in gambling regulation. That funding for the VGCCC is again a framework that will include and practise and promote deterrence and indeed sanction of non-compliance of an area of law that has, as we have all seen from public reports, been mired in shadowy behaviour, in illegal behaviour and in behaviour which has caused enormous loss and enormous damage for individuals and for their families and indeed for communities. So we have, I think, a solid basis on which to proceed with this bill.

As I indicated earlier, it is not appropriate—for the circumstances that I outlined—to support the removal of a written notice requirement. It is also not appropriate to countenance the changes that have been put, I think by Derryn Hinch’s Justice Party, as they relate to those splitting functions and the concerns that were raised there. These are important matters to discuss as a chamber and to discuss by reference to questions and queries that others may have, and to that end I note that there does not appear to have been any objection from the Greens. I am not sure—Dr Ratnam is not here—but I am hoping that she will able to make a contribution on this matter and that we can continue to have conversations about the practical effect of this bill in delivering recommendations from the royal commission, the way in which we can continue this work, the importance of cooperation at a state and commonwealth level and the way in which we can more broadly embrace a culture of transparency and accountability, particularly given the size and scale of these operations, the reach that they have and the hitherto really shadowy practices that have only recently and as a consequence of the royal commission been uncovered and subjected to the sort of sunlight that they deserve and that I hope will lead to the reforms continuing and being acquitted in full. I commend this bill to the house.

Ms PATTEN (Northern Metropolitan)

Incorporated pursuant to order of Council of 7 September 2021:

I rise to make a contribution to the Casino and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022, a bill that will fully establish the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission and separate out liquor regulation.

Insofar as this bill implements recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence, it has my support.

But it should go further.

As members of this house will recall, several years ago I brought a motion of urgent public importance to this chamber in relation to Crown. The motion may not have been successful then—but it was clear at the time that there was insufficient oversight of Melbourne’s casino and that it was not free from criminal influence.

Ultimately, those same concerns led to a royal commission and if my actions contributed in any small way to that commission being established or expedited, then I am pleased.

Of the 33 recommendations made by that royal commission we will legislate for two here today to supplement the nine recommendations implemented earlier this year.

I am assured by the government that legislation for the remaining 22 recommendations will follow by the end of the year. They must make good on those assurances. The changes due are important and go to the heart of the problems at Crown, including the manager, inspectors, the structure of the operator, money laundering and responsible gambling.

Royal Commissioner Finkelstein referred to Crown’s failure to implement effective harm prevention measures as amongst its most egregious failures. That is why six of his recommendations addressed that issue.

We should be doing so much more in relation to gambling harm.

It is curious that this bill will amend the VGCCC act to introduce new objectives in terms of gambling harm minimisation, yet this government continues to shy away from pokies reform that could make a real difference.

For years I have advocated for $200 daily limits on EFTPOS withdrawals at pokies venues, maximum opening periods of 16 hours per day, an outright ban on cashless gaming and maximum bets of $1.

We saw that during the pandemic, with poker machines off limits for periods, Victorians not only saved millions of dollars but saved lives and livelihoods—the consequences of problem gambling are that real.

That break from pokie play meant that problem gamblers were able to ‘detox’ in a sense, making this the perfect time to implement harm reduction measures—before people fall back into damaging habits.

That window is closing, so I urge the government to act.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (16:54): I just would like to do a brief summary on the Casino and Liquor Legislation Amendment Bill 2022 before we go into committee. This bill marks the next steps in this government’s overhaul of gambling regulation—the most comprehensive set of reforms in a generation. It builds on our reforms to increase oversight of the Melbourne Casino in response to the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. It will finalise the establishment of the strengthened new regulator, the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission, the VGCCC, focused solely on upholding the highest standards in the casino and gambling industry. Importantly this bill will protect Victorians from gambling-related harm by embedding this within the regulator’s legislative framework, ensuring this shapes every decision it makes.

The bill also responds to further recommendations of the royal commission by enhancing the functions and powers of inspectors at the casino. The bill will also separate liquor regulation into a new regulator within the Department of Justice and Community Safety, allowing each regulator to focus solely on their respective industries.

I need to touch on Mr Ondarchie’s amendments. The opposition has proposed amendments that would remove the requirement for inspectors to provide written notice to the casino to access surveillance facilities, books and records. The government will not support the amendments on the basis that they would make it more difficult for inspectors to use their enhanced powers. Without providing written notice, the practical implication is an absence of a legalised process to ensure that the casino is cooperating with inspectors and complying with its obligations.

While it appears the intention of these amendments is to improve the inspectors’ power at the casino, the reality is that it would be counterintuitive to this end. An inspector may seek to access these parts of the casino in the course of their work, but they need a process to rely on in the face of non-compliance. Written notice provides that process. Legislating that notice is required in writing also provides a mechanism to document the exercise of inspectors’ powers as well as the casino’s compliance with them.

The bill does not specify a period of time for a notice to be provided. This means that there is no minimum requirement for the amount of notice given. The royal commission recommended expanding inspectors’ powers to access the casino, and that is what this bill will do. These amendments would only undermine this.

The opposition has raised a number of royal commission recommendations that are currently outstanding. The commission made 33 recommendations. Nine were acquitted last year, and this bill responds to two further recommendations. I want to take this opportunity to reaffirm the government’s commitment to all remaining recommendations. The government will implement reforms this year and acquit all recommendations of the royal commission. Further legislation will be before this house within this term of government.

I just want to touch on Mr Barton’s comments and reassure him. I understand Mr Barton has some concerns about written notice being required to be issued to the casino for inspectors to access surveillance, books and records. I want to thank Mr Barton for his advocacy on this point and his interest in seeing the royal commission recommendations implemented. I know he has raised this with the Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation to ensure that inspectors’ powers are used in the spirit in which they are intended. Let me assure you there is no minimum notice period for inspectors to use their powers. Once approved, there is nothing in this bill preventing an inspector from issuing written notice to the casino immediately. By no means are these provisions intended to delay the process. This is about ensuring that the process is in place and that there is a paper trail to ensure the casino complies. You could think of it as being similar to a warrant in that respect.

I want to thank all members for their contributions on the bill. We will be enshrining a dedicated focus on harm minimisation within the core business of the VGCCC, providing increased protection for gambling-related harm for all Victorians, getting on with restoring integrity to Melbourne’s casino and completely overhauling how we regulate gambling to ensure the highest standards are upheld. This bill is a critical part of that reform.

Motion agreed to.

Read second time.



Clause 1 (17:00)

Mr ONDARCHIE: The Liberal-Nationals coalition will not be opposing this legislation, and we give our full support to the recommendations of the Royal Commission into the Casino Operator and Licence. I have to say, Minister, if this bill passes today, the government will have 22 outstanding recommendations of the possible 33 recommendations that the royal commission has made, so only 33 per cent will go through. If we do the mathematics, that means it is going to take you until 2025 to complete all of the 33 recommendations. Minister, when will we see the balance of these recommendations come before the Parliament?

Mr LEANE: Thank you, Mr Ondarchie, for your question. The government will implement this year reforms that will acquit all recommendations of the royal commission. Further legislation will be before this house within this term of government.

Mr ONDARCHIE: Why don’t we have them now, before the winter break?

Mr LEANE: Look, I think, Mr Ondarchie, these are very important reforms, and we have committed to implementing the recommendations of the royal commission. The easiest way for the government to do that within best practice is to do it in three tranches. We did one previously and this is the second one. I can only, again, put on the record that there will be a further piece of legislation in this house within this term, and this term, as we both know, is rapidly running out.

Mr ONDARCHIE: Minister, thank you for your answer. I am just a bit concerned given that you have got 22 more to do in the last tranche, and even as soon as next week you might not even be the minister responsible for this in this chamber, come what might happen in the next week.

Ms Taylor interjected.

Mr ONDARCHIE: That is why I am keen to make sure that we get the recommendations of the royal commission through. You cannot excuse me, Ms Taylor, for that. Minister, let me take you then to the movement of the liquor control bit to the new regulator—the Victorian Liquor Commission (VLC) moving out of the Victorian Gambling and Casino Control Commission. How will the government measure the effectiveness of the VGCCC, given you are moving the liquor part out of it?

Mr LEANE: Mr Ondarchie, it is the same as any measures of any agency similar to this—budget paper 3 performance measures. And our expectation is that with the new powers that the legislation will give them, they will perform their role very well.

Mr ONDARCHIE: I will take the ‘trust me’ answer then, Minister, thank you. What are the staffing requirements for the VLC?

Mr LEANE: That will be a responsibility for the VGCCC, so the manning levels are not part of the scope of this bill.

Mr ONDARCHIE: Is the government foreshadowing an increase in employees to service the needs of the VGCCC and the VLC, or are they just taking some staff from one to the other?

Mr LEANE: That will be a matter for both of those agencies.

Mr ONDARCHIE: Minister, are you then telling us that we could see an additional expense to the public purse as a result of this legislation?

Mr LEANE: I am not necessarily saying that, Mr Ondarchie; I am just saying that the staffing levels of these two agencies will be up to them.

Mr ONDARCHIE: It is a bit opaque, Minister, that in bringing this legislation before this place and talking about the establishment of a new organisation, a new commission, and it taking some responsibilities out of an existing commission you are not able to articulate exactly what the workforce requirements are for both those organisations. Why is that?

Mr LEANE: It is not for us in this committee to determine the operational needs of those two agencies when they are formed.

Mr ONDARCHIE: I am not asking that. I am just asking if it means more workforce. You can take advice if you want to.

Minister, like a lot of legislation that comes before this place, this bill will not really take effect until it gets royal assent, and it is up to the government when they present it to Her Excellency the Governor for royal assent. When will you be presenting this piece of legislation, should it pass this house, to the Governor for royal assent?

Mr LEANE: Mr Ondarchie, as you would know, there is a standard process for any sort of item that needs to go to the Governor in Council or the Governor in particular for royal assent, and that practice will not be any different as far as the time frame for this bill goes, or any other bill I would imagine.

Mr ONDARCHIE: Given the comments of Commissioner Ray Finkelstein AO, QC, regarding his final report on 15 October 2021 about how important this is, the government as a matter of practice choose when they take legislation to the Governor for royal assent. It does not happen with certain immediacy. I am looking for some certainty from the government that they will take this to the Governor at the earliest possible opportunity.

Mr LEANE: Putting my old hat on from a previous role I had here, it is my understanding that the Clerk of the Parliaments meets with the Governor when it comes to royal assent for bills. I suppose, to alleviate your concerns, there is no intent of the government to put any artificial delays into when this bill, or I can say any other bill, receives royal assent.

Clause agreed to; clauses 2 to 8 agreed to.

Clause 9 (17:08)


1. Clause 9, page 7, lines 19 to 20, omit “may, by notice in writing,” and insert “may”.

2. Clause 9, page 8, lines 7 to 13, omit all words and expressions on those lines.

The amendments relate to clause 9 of this bill, specifically around the requirement for gambling inspectors to provide notice in writing if they choose to view the CCTV at Crown Casino. I say that because at other places they can go to—hotels, clubs, pub TABs—they do not need to provide notice in writing when they turn up and want to inspect the CCTV, as is their need, but there is a specific clause in this bill that says they have to when they go to Crown Casino.

If I cast my mind back to other commentaries—by whistleblowers, et cetera, et cetera—right now they are just allegations, but there was some suggestion that there is a time lag between when gambling inspectors turn up to look at things and the time they get to view the footage. There has been some suggestion that in that time lag there is a capacity or an ability for that footage to be edited. I am not suggesting it is, but it does cast some doubt on the ability to do this. The concern I have about this is that if there is a time delay, it could lead to some inappropriate, dare I say it, illegal behaviour. I do not think there is a need to have that time delay in there. They should be able to, the inspectors—like they do at other places, like pub TABs and clubs and hotels—turn up and say, ‘I want to see the CCTV footage’, and be able to do that forthwith.

You would not expect Victoria Police, to use the example that was used earlier today, to turn up at a premises with a warrant and say, ‘I’ve got a warrant to inspect your premises’, and the people say, ‘Just hang on a little bit while we get ourselves sorted’. You can hear some running around in the house, maybe some flushing of toilets, things being washed down the sink and things being hidden and taken away, and then, ‘Okay, you can come in now and execute your warrant’. You would not expect ASIC to turn up at a business premises to do some audits and be told, ‘Just hang on a minute before you come in. Just have a seat in the foyer and we’ll get to you when we can’, and they can hear shredders running. You would not expect to hear that happen.

The same applies here, Minister. I put to you that having a clause that says they have to do it in writing is actually against what we are trying to achieve here, given what Commissioner Finkelstein said in his report. So I put it to you that this clause should be amended to allow inspectors to turn up as part of their role and say, ‘I want to see CCTV footage right now’, and they should be allowed to do so without any time delay, without any lag. It could take up to half an hour by the time they turn up at the casino, present their credentials in writing and get to go downstairs and look at the CCTV footage. What could happen in that up to 30 minutes could be anybody’s guess. I think as legislators in this place, given what Commissioner Finkelstein said, we should be giving them the opportunity to do their job correctly and to do their job swiftly.

Mr LEANE: The government will not support the amendments, on the basis that they would make it more difficult for inspectors to use their enhanced powers. Without providing written notice the practical implication is the absence of a legislative process to ensure that the casino is cooperating with inspectors and complying with its obligations. While it appears the intention of these amendments is to improve the inspectors’ powers in the casino, really they would be counterintuitive to this end. An inspector may seek to access these parts of the casino in the course of their work, but they need a process to rely on in the face of obfuscation and non-compliance. Written notice provides that process. Legislating that a notice is required in writing also provides a mechanism to document the exercise of inspectors’ powers as well as the casino’s compliance with them.

I know Mr Ondarchie quoted a period of time, but the bill does not specify a minimum period of time to be provided. This means there is no minimum time. I think the legislative process to ensure the casino is cooperating with the inspectors and complying with its obligations but also make sure the inspectors are following a process that is transparent is very important. There is no basis for a minimum time. The government will not support Mr Ondarchie’s amendments.

Committee divided on amendments:

Ayes, 15
Atkinson, Mr Davis, Mr Maxwell, Ms
Bach, Dr Finn, Mr McArthur, Mrs
Bath, Ms Hayes, Mr Ondarchie, Mr
Crozier, Ms Limbrick, Mr Quilty, Mr
Cumming, Dr Lovell, Ms Vaghela, Ms
Noes, 18
Barton, Mr Meddick, Mr Symes, Ms
Elasmar, Mr Melhem, Mr Tarlamis, Mr
Erdogan, Mr Pulford, Ms Taylor, Ms
Gepp, Mr Ratnam, Dr Terpstra, Ms
Kieu, Dr Shing, Ms Tierney, Ms
Leane, Mr Stitt, Ms Watt, Ms

Amendments negatived.

Clause agreed to; clauses 10 to 63 agreed to.

Reported to house without amendment.

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (17:21): I move:

That the report be now adopted.

I thank the Deputy President and Mr Ondarchie for their cooperation during the committee stage.

Motion agreed to.

Report adopted.

Third reading

Mr LEANE (Eastern Metropolitan—Minister for Local Government, Minister for Suburban Development, Minister for Veterans) (17:21): I move:

That the bill be now read a third time.

Motion agreed to.

Read third time.

The PRESIDENT: Pursuant to standing order 14.27, the bill will be returned to the Assembly with a message informing them that the Council have agreed to the same without amendment.