MUNGO MACCALLUM. Gambling stench hits nostrils.

Aug 5, 2019

Shock, horror – there is a suspicion that Australia’s biggest and most profitable casinos may not be squeaky clean. And by the way, there have been reports that the pope is a catholic and that two plus two makes four.

Gambling graft and crime – the link is inescapable, proverbial.  As natural as the connection between faith, hope, and charity, as inevitable as death and taxes.

And when gambling becomes an industry, the corruption becomes organized. And so it has occurred.

Most of the time we accept this as a fact of life and don’t worry too much about it. After all, the victims have made their own choice – if they want to piss away their money to crooks, they have the right to do so. And while gambling reaps huge profits, it also provides swag of tax revenue, taxes we would have to pay if it did not exist.

But when the corruption goes over the top, even the most cynical realise that something has to be done. If criminal syndicates are welcomed into the country and avoiding Australian law through the connivance of  public officials and elected representatives, the government has to act. Except that it doesn’t.

Last week’s investigations by the Nine network produced  credible allegations that politicians, including two ministers,  were involved in fast tracking highly dubious characters past normal customs proceedings and directly to Crown casino, where they were supplied with anything they might want, including sex and drugs.

But when the Greens and crossbenchers demanded a public inquiry the attorney general, Christian Porter, with the support of a supine Labor Party, knocked them back with an ineffective alternative that would shield the politicians and their staffers from scrutiny.

This looks horribly like a stitch up – an escalation of the corruption it  was supposed to prevent. It not just fails the smell test – it stinks to high heaven. And fact that both major parties have received lavish donations from Crown, and that at least two former ministers, the Liberals’  Helen Coonan and Labor’s Mark Arbib, have been given well-paid sinecures by the company, only compounds the stench.

Of course, if there was legislative oversight, much of this could have been avoided: a properly resourced federal integrity commission would have already  been on the case. But it appears  there is little chance of one in the foreseeable future.

The coalition has reluctantly foreshadowed a version that would have more loopholes in it than Morrison’s code of ministerial conduct, and although Labor has promised something more robust, the events of last week have made that pledge seem extremely dubious.

And now it is probably already too little and too late. Trust in the system has been weakened to breaking point. This latest betrayal could easily make it terminal.

So back to the bipartisan blather about the need for national security, border protection and the rest of  the bullshit masquerading as policy. The politicians on both sides seem determined to destroy the foundations of the system of government in the pretence of saving it.




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