ABC 774 MELBOURNE DRIVE
SUBJECTS: Crown Casino Scandal, Political Donations, Anglicare Jobs Report
PAUL KENNEDY, HOST: Yes, the Pollie Graph. It’s Wednesday afternoon and Peter Khalil is an MP for Wills, from Victoria. And so too Dr Katie Allen, a Victorian MP, both in Canberra today. Member for Higgins for the Liberal Party. Thank you both for joining us from Canberra.
DR KATIE ALLEN, MP: Good afternoon Paul.
PETER KHALIL MP: G’day Paul, thanks for having us on.
KENNEDY: It’s my pleasure. I want to first start with this call for a Royal Commission into casinos. Rebecca Sharkie, who has had a busy week I should say, from Centre Alliance adding her name to the list of cross-benchers who are saying that there should be a Royal Commission into casinos. After those stories we’ve seen on the ABC this week involving some video footage of bags of cash and questions over money laundering. Firstly I’ll just get both of your reactions to that. Would you like to see a Royal Commission?
KHALIL: I might start. I think these allegations by the whistleblowers are deeply disturbing and of course we would want to see these allegations investigated by the authorities and the full force of the law. And I know that Rebecca Sharkie and also Andrew Wilkie – two crossbenchers – have called for a Royal Commission. There are existing laws around money laundering and authorities that investigate and prosecute those types of unlawful activities. Royal Commissions as you’d know Paul are very long-range, structured, deep-dive, they’re there to address potentially structural reform in a particular area of the law. But they don’t have immediate consequences for wrongdoers and law enforcement does, so if there are serious allegations-
KENNEDY: They can very quickly hand the matters over to police, that’s what they can do. They’ve got powers and they are independent.
KHALIL: That’s right. I would argue that any of these allegations need to be put to law enforcement right now and they need to be addressed immediately. And if there is illegal activity occurring these people need to be charged and prosecuted and that needs to happen ASAP. The other thing I would say about Rebecca and Andrew’s call is that they have made some very serious allegations. Andrew said something like the Victorian regulator is not doing their job properly, when in actual fact it contradicts the fact that it was the inspectors of the Victorian regulatory body that actually raised these serious concerns in the first instance. And he’s talked a bit as Rebecca has about “top cover” or “cover” by politicians. If there were serious allegations they should put it forward to the police, absolutely.
KENNEDY: Peter Khalil, let me just read out before I get to you Dr Katie Allen a direct quote from Mr Wilkie, who points out the money that is donated to major political parties by gambling institutions and then says, and this is a direct quote, “The Liberal and Labor parties protection racket is obviously in good shape and this was seen again by everyone today.” Dr Katie Allen, would you support a Royal Commission into casinos to find out whether they’re laundering money?
ALLEN: Look I think the first thing to say is that we already have a number of investigations going both in Victoria and New South Wales, and now Christian Porter, the Attorney General, has called for the Australian Law Enforcement Integrity Commission to get involved because there is a member, I think a member of the AFP, who has been part of this. And so I think I actually completely agree that we need to have swift and importantly responding to these claims at the moment because people I mean they’re extraordinary actually potentially if these are true. So I think we need to use what is already in process and then, where that goes I don’t know. But at this point in time I think it’s a little premature. It’s with law enforcement agencies involved and those things have been activated.
KHALIL: I’ll just add Paul Labor’s Shadow Attorney General Mark Dreyfus hasn’t ruled out further action if required on this matter. And as Katie said it has been referred particularly to the Australian Law Enforcement Integrity Commissioner for investigation. I think that investigation has to be completed and further action taken if necessary.
KENNEDY: Thank you. It’s worth also pointing out if you mention that we don’t want to act prematurely that it’s not the first time we’ve heard serious allegations against Crown. This is Nick McKenzie, the well-known investigative journalist back on the drive program in August.
NICK MCKENZIE (GRAB): The reason this has arisen is that there is a multitude of State and Federal agencies who all have a bit of the pie when it comes to analysing money laundering, Chinese Communist Party influence, the activities of the casino, and no one agency has full responsibility and none of the agencies to date seem to have effectively worked together to tackle that problem.
KENNEDY: Now that was Nick McKenzie. Peter Khalil and Dr Katie Allen, I’ll just put this to you, an observation of mine is that people don’t become enraged when they see bags of cash at casinos, and perhaps they think that well that’s the casino’s business. But I do think there might be concern about a lack oversight and a lack of will from politicians to make sure that those gambling outlets are doing the right thing. Peter?
KHALIL: Well I don’t particularly think there is a lack of will from politicians. I would actually call this out a little bit. If the crossbenchers who are calling for a Royal Commission actually have serious allegations about politicians that are providing as Andrew Wilke said “top cover”, name them. Put them out there in the public. Give them to law enforcement and throw the full force of the law against those people who are providing cover for this kind of illegal activity and also put the full force of the law and law enforcement against those who are conducting illegal activity. This argument that a Royal Commission will somehow be better – I think Nick mentioned the fact that there are a lot of different agencies or authorities that are looking at this. That’s certainly true. They have their roles to play. And I mentioned that the Victorian regulator actually raised these concerns in the first instance. Well the law actually has to be allowed to operate. Law enforcement has to investigate these allegations and bring charges to the people who are conducting this activity. No-one is above the law, whether it be a politician or a casino official.
KENNEDY: Just one final one from me on this and we do have a message here from one of our listeners. “We need a Royal Commission into why all of a sudden we need a Royal Commission into everything”. Were you hinting at that? That we are getting Royal Commission fatigue?
ALLEN: I think Royal Commissions play an incredibly important role. I think Peter was quite on the money, literally, when he said that these are about deep dives, they’re very extensive, they cost a lot of money and it’s very important that we know what it is that we are heading forward with. I think in this particular case the right reaction is there at the moment. We’ve got some very important Royal Commissions at the moment. I’m actually looking forward to hearing particularly the aged care Royal Commission. I think that’s going to be an incredibly important one. I think they are very important things to do.
KENNEDY: Let’s move on. By the way we are taking your calls. We’ve got the politicians standing by to answer your questions. I’ll stop asking these questions and hand over to you if you want to pose something to Peter Khalil or Dr Katie Allen. 1300 222 774, or if you want to send your question via text 0437 774 774. Are you both aware of the snapshot from Anglicare of jobs in this country that was released today. Among other things it mentioned that there are 19 application for every entry-level job as the number of low-skilled positions dry up. That’s research from Anglicare taking a look at the situation of employment in this country. Dr Katie Allen, are you aware of those observations made?
ALLEN: Yes look I have to say y’know jobs, absolutely front and centre of the strategy for this Government about what we want for the future of all Australians. We want all Australians to have a job. I do believe we are going through a significant, in fact a massive societal change with regards to job transitioning into the 21st Century. There’s a lot of changes going on. I think if you ask anyone in the street they will say to you that the jobs of today are not the same as the jobs of 20 years ago and in even 10 years time the jobs of the future will also be different. We know for instance that the Future for Young Australians a few years ago released a very important report about job transitioning. I think the Federal Government is very aware that job transitioning is going to be an ongoing issue as we move our workforce into the 21st Century more firmly.
KENNEDY: It can be very very grim for those people.
ALLEN: And we have to… I think this report has pulled up what we sort of all know and we’ve all been watching and the Federal Government has already got two very important initiatives that were announced by the Minister for Jobs and Small Businesses Michaelia Cash in this most recent Federal Election. They were budgeted for, they will be delivered. And those two initiatives are really to focus particularly on the young workforce and getting them into jobs and the second one is the over-55 year old workforce. And we know that particularly women over the age of 55, some of them are struggling to transition to the new jobs that are available and so the second part of that initiative is a significant investment in helping people over the age of 55 upskill. It’s a $2200 package in order to do that and that’s really important because often people can lose their confidence, they’re not ready with the skill they need to transition to a different position.
KENNEDY: We did talk about that on the show yesterday, the difficulty of preparing a resume. Dr Katie Allen, Liberal MP for Higgins, the Prime Minister keeps saying the best form of welfare is a job. These figures are showing that people are applying for the jobs, they are just not enough of them. I’ll just draw your attention to one other statistic from Anglicare saying that entry-level jobs have been decreasing over time. In 2006 those kinds of jobs made up 22 percent of overall job ads. Now they’re just 10 percent. Should the Prime Minister stop being so heavy-handed in his language in this regard?
ALLEN: Well I mean we are putting our money where our mouth is. We are investing significantly in upskilling and training for the young and we have 80,000 new apprenticeships that we are bringing online and there is a lot of work being done particularly with the Minister for Education Dan Tehan making sure that we have people ready for the future of work. And I would say that this is a very important area there is this issue about we’ve got very low unemployment but high under-employment so we need to be aware that even the way people interact with jobs and getting jobs is changing and so the other half of this new initiative is actually for those who are very tech-savvy to use more online services instead of having to go into Centrelink and also allowing employers to be better able to access jobs and jobseekers as well. So making that simpler and easier, bringing jobs and people together and then allowing the resources to be targeted to the more vulnerable who are struggling so I think we need to be a bit more nimble and agile and I think that’s what Michaelia Cash is doing.
KENNEDY: Dr Allen you put out a media release only recently I believe attacking the Andrews Government for not doing enough for jobs. Peter Khalil for Wills, you’re in Victoria, what do you take out of these figures, both state and federally?
KHALIL: I’ve got to disagree with Katie on this one. I mean seriously. Yes, she’s right about the fact that the economy is transitioning. That’s certainly true. The Government is responsible in many respects for taking opportunities away from people. You’re making them look and compete for jobs that just don’t exist. You mentioned Scott Morrison’s rhetoric. They promised 80,000 apprenticeships, but they’ve actually got rid of 150,000 during their time in Government. There are fewer apprenticeships today than there were 10 years ago. We talk about the low-skilled jobs as well. There’s 18,200 low-skilled jobs available and 704,000 people who are unemployed. There’s five-and-a-half people as job seekers for each entry-level job. The Morrison Government has actually ripped $3 billion away from skills and training. To say that they’re putting their money where their mouth is, they’re actually taking their money and putting it in their pocket to try to bolster their confected surplus.
ALLEN: It’s not our money, it’s taxpayers money.
KENNEDY: Dr Katie Allen you can respond.
ALLEN: There’s a difference between the Liberal and Labor policy and ours is that it’s the taxpayers’ money, not the Government’s money.
KHALIL: You know that you had a good go there Katie. The fact is that you’ve ripped $3 billion out of skills and training. Basically with the robo-debt fiasco have raised billions of dollars off the most vulnerable people in society all to feather this confected surplus so Josh Frydenberg can go out there and say “Look everyone, I have a surplus”. And how have they done it?
KENNEDY: We are going to take a call because Sue has been standing by and Sue is in Melbourne CBD wants to pose a question. Sue?
SUE (CALLER): I actually have met Peter Khalil, but apart from that… I want to refer back to a discussion Virginia had on her program this morning about dealing with structural issues of inequality but also with reference to the coming review into retirement incomes. I’m a 65-year-old woman, single person, on a disability pension. There is one simple thing the Government can do at the stroke of a pen that would significantly increase the position I’m in. I’m paying rent, limited food, renting, so y’know… People like me there is a whole cohort of women in this position and I hope this can be done. And it was raised twice by different people this morning. We can only earn about $70 a week. I’m disabled, there’s nothing wrong with my brain though. The sort of work I can do can earn me reasonable amounts of money, but I get cut off my pension if I earn more than $70 a week. It is just ridiculous. It doesn’t even take you up to the minimum wage. Why can’t the government, this amount of money that pensioners can earn hasn’t changed for years and years and years.
ALLEN: Well um… My understanding is that pension does increase with CPI so it does increase every six months, but I hear what you are saying and it sounds like you are potentially receiving disability allowance and rental assistance… There are a number of different allowances that you’re receiving is that right, or is that the age pension?
SUE: I’m not talking about the amount of money I’m receiving, I’m talking about the amount of money you are restricted from earning on top of the pension that you receive. If I could earn $300 a week on top of my disability pension I would be fine.
KENNEDY: You’re talking about a disincentive to work.
SUE: It’s a total disincentive for people like me, but it also works at the other end of the scale as well for young people. They can only earn a certain amount, not even up to the minimum wage which is just under $700 a week.
KENNEDY: Sue thanks for your call. Dr Allen, just a quick response to that if you want before we tackle the traffic.
ALLEN: We would like people to get good jobs and earn significant amount of money so they don’t need to have the other forms of income.
KENNEDY: Let’s get a quick look at a traffic, and then we’ve got a couple of calls lined up.
KENNEDY: We have our politicians Peter Khalil the Labor MP for Wills and the Liberal MP for Higgins Dr Katie Allen generously lending us their time from Canberra standing by. Let’s go to a couple more calls. David is in Geelong. David.
DAVID (CALLER): G’day. My confidence in politicians is down somewhere around the S-bend but I do share the concerns of Wilke and Rebecca Sharkie and my confidence in politicians would be restored if the two reps for the local parties had any idea to what extent they are in the pocket of the gambling industry. That is, what is the exact level of donation their party receives from for example Crown Casino.
KENNEDY: Peter Khalil, what has the Labor Party taken from gambling outlets, specifically Crown Casino.
KHALIL: I specifically don’t take any donations from Crown or any other gambling outlets or pokies or anything like that.
KENNEDY: The ALP?
KHALIL: The ALP does and I think several parties get money from Crown – I think a couple of hundred grand into the election coffers. I know your caller has a very low opinion of politicians and I understand the cynicism. People don’t really trust pollies anymore. There’s a real distrust there. All I can say to you is that whoever donates money, whichever organisation or individual, whether it’s a dollar or a million dollars, has to obey the law. That’s the first thing. The second thing is that this idea if companies or individuals donate to parties that suddenly they have this amazing influence is a bit of a myth actually, because I know that many of my colleagues on different sides of politics across all the parties and minor parties and independents, you go into politics for similar reasons. You might have different ideas about what direction the country should take, but you actually go into it thinking that you can make Australian society better, the country a better place.
KENNEDY: Peter Khalil I’m not sure that people would fiercely argue against that individual approach. But why do we have donations if there is no influence?
KHALIL: We have worked really hard to do donations reform. We dragged the Coalition Government kicking and screaming, dragging their heels on this. We unilaterally banned foreign donations, as a party. The Government then had to be dragged kicking and screaming into doing it almost a year and a half later than our party. We’ve called for donations reform rights across the board and this Government has been unwilling to do so. There needs to be reform. But if you’re saying there should be no donations, then we should be looking at public funding of politics. That’s an option that people put on the table.
KENNEDY: Dr Katie Allen, do you know how much money Crown Casino donates to the Liberal Party?
ALLEN: Look I don’t know the exact amount but-
KENNEDY: Couple of hundred thousand dollars?
ALLEN: I don’t know the answer so I’m not going to make up an answer. What I will say is that I’m a doctor, I’m a paediatrician. And I understand having just entered into politics – I only became a member of the Liberal Party three years ago – there is a common view that politicians are all rotten. I have to say that I agree with Peter. I can’t believe I’m agreeing with Peter all afternoon!
KHALIL: Not on policy!
KENNEDY: This is not why we’ve invited you on the program!
ALLEN: You should get different politicians together. What I would say is that there is a sense that there is a massive amount of influence that can happen behind closed doors. The one thing I’ve been struck about since being a parliamentarian is that there is nowhere to hide. This place is the most transparent place in the entire world as far as I can see. Everyone knows what everyone is doing, there’s no-where to hide, and the one thing about our democracy which is wonderful is that everyone needs to vote. And that is one of the most essential aspects of our democracy. I think there’s only three countries in the world where that happens. Unlike the American political system. And often Australians think about politics and think about the American system. That place, having lived there, is much more a place that some people say, not me, that it’s run by lobbyists. So therefore the influence of pay for access, the influence that lobbyists have is an order of magnitude greater than Australia. And I’m not saying that lobbyists don’t have influence because of course they do.
KENNEDY: Can I just say that I don’t speak for the crossbench but I feel I should point out that that’s the criticism. That Liberal and Labor agree on this issue with regards to Crown Casino and donations. If it’s only a million dollars over four years.
KHALIL: We don’t agree on donations Paul, sorry. It’s just not true.
ALLEN: No, what we agree on is that we don’t think that… that it is as rotten as people are the listener is saying.
KHALIL: We banned donations from tobacco companies from an ethical point of view, as the Labor Party. We banned donations from any foreign sources.
KENNEDY: If it’s only a million dollars over four years for both major parties, why don’t both major parties ban donations from gambling outlets?
KHALIL: As I said, I don’t take any donations from gambling outlets.
KENNEDY: Would you like to see the ALP do so?
KHALIL: Let’s have a discussion about funding politics in this country, and your caller raises this issue. If he thinks that more trust will come to politicians. We have talked about this before. Taxpayer funded campaigns. So we don’t take donations.
KENNEDY: Are you saying that you need the money from Crown and other gambling outlets?
ALLEN: Hang on, I think it’s worth saying that to run a campaign actually does cost money. You have to supply material. I think it is a discussion to be had and there is actually a committee that is looking at electoral reform and I think one of the suggestions that has gone to the committee for discussion is exactly that point. Do we want to have taxpayer-funded campaigns? I certainly think that is something worth thinking about. What has happened in Victoria is that there has been some electoral reform and changes to the rules. What I would point out though is that I think it’s a bit of an uneven playing field with regard to the unions being exempt from that.
KENNEDY: Okay we are going to have to leave it there, you’ve both had a good say on this. We’ve got some calls as well. We might get to those a little later in the program. But Peter Khalil and Dr Katie Allen, we do appreciate your time and taking those calls and answering our questions.
ALLEN: Thank you so much Paul.
KHALIL: Thanks Paul.