The Barangaroo development is due to open in 2019. Photo: Peter Braig Billionaire James Packer. Photo: Glenn Hunt
Measures put in place to combat organised crime and corruption at James Packer’s proposed Sydney casino will stay secret for at least three weeks after the NSW government baulked at the independent arbiter’s finding that they should be made public.
Instead, the question of whether to release the details has been referred to a parliamentary committee that will meet behind closed doors after the government indicated it would block their immediate release.
Greens MP John Kaye, who has been pushing for the public release of the information, said the situation was farcical.
“The Parliament has set up a secret committee to look at secret documents,” he said.
“The public is being kept in the dark about critical anti-corruption and organised crime penetration measures at the casino. Neither the public nor the Parliament can have an informed debate about the adequacy of these measures without knowing what they are”.
Labor’s leader in the upper house, Luke Foley, said the opposition supported the release of the documents.
“The opposition has a bias in favour of public release of all relevant casino documents,” he said. “When the expert arbiter recommends release, that confirms our view.”
Contracts struck between Mr Packer’s company, Crown Resorts, and the NSW gambling regulator were made public last month after the billionaire was awarded a licence to operate a VIP-only casino at Barangaroo from November 2019.
However, significant parts of one document, the “VIP gaming management agreement”, were censored by the Independent Liquor and Gaming Authority at Crown’s request.
The NSW upper house was provided with the uncensored version of the agreement after a motion by Dr Kaye, but privilege was claimed over its release. This meant MPs were allowed to see it but could not disclose its contents.
The privilege claim was referred by Dr Kaye to the Parliament-appointed independent arbiter, Keith Mason, QC, whose report said many of the censored details should be made public.
Mr Mason’s report, tabled in Parliament on Wednesday, revealed that the censored parts of the agreement related to an agreement between Crown and the gambling regulator about preventing organised crime infiltration and corruption at the casino.
Dr Kaye was preparing to move for the public release of the censored details in Parliament on Thursday.
But he referred the matter to the privileges committee after being told by the government it had the numbers to block their immediate release.
The privileges committee, which is controlled by government MPs, will hold discussions in private before releasing a report by November 11.
Dr Kaye said Mr Mason’s report was “unequivocal” in its finding that important sections of the agreement should not be redacted.
A spokeswoman for the leader of the government in the upper house, Duncan Gay, said it was his view that “where a matter of privilege is contested, the most appropriate forum for this to be resolved is in the parliamentary privileges committee”.
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