Legislative Assembly for the ACT: 1997 Week 14 Hansard (9 December) . . Page.. 4747..
MR OSBORNE (3.51): Mr Speaker, I rise to make a short statement on the Burbidge report into the VITAB-ACTTAB relationship. I must say that I am pleased with the work of Mr Burbidge and his staff in producing this report. I believe that it has vindicated my decision to push for an inquiry into this matter, as it finally answers some very important questions. It also raises some extremely serious issues, some of which, I believe, are now best answered by the police.
So, Mr Speaker, what did Mr Burbidge find? He found a criminal conspiracy to defraud ACTTAB and, by extension, the people of the ACT. There was never any intention to encourage big Asian punters to bet on Australian races. The operation was set up to pocket money that should have been paid in Australian taxes. Let me put that another way, Mr Speaker. Mr Burbidge found that VITAB was a front for an illegal SP betting operation. It was a scam, a fraud, a con, from day one.
Mr Moore: And we got stung.
MR OSBORNE: And we got stung, as Mr Moore interjects. Mr Burbidge found that the fraud was continued when the VITAB promoters pursued, and won, $3.3m in compensation from ACTTAB for ending the deal. Mr Speaker, he recommends that the ACT seek to recover that money from the crooks who stole it. He found that the fraud lay in concealing the true identity of the actual promoters of VITAB. They did that, quite simply, because the real promoters had criminal records - some of whom, he noted, would not meet "the most leniently applied probity checking". Among those promoters, Mr Speaker, was a Mr Alan Tripp - and I will quote again - "whose record in relation to gambling offences spans two decades and several Australian States". Another was Mr Tripp's brother-in-law, Peter Bartholomew, who has multiple convictions for gaming-related offences dating back to 1982.
He found that Mr Tripp's illegal betting shop, the Numbawan Betting Shop - surprise, surprise! - shared the same address in Vanuatu as VITAB. He found that the former chief executive of ACTTAB, Mr Neck, had, in effect, acted as a promoter of VITAB, disregarding his duty of care to the organisation which employed him, and thus to the people of the ACT. He found that Mr Neck had an "extraordinary" relationship with the promoters of VITAB, in effect, conspiring with the promoters to ensure that the venture went ahead at all costs. Mr Burbidge says that Mr Neck was either blinded by his enthusiasm for the project or "astonishingly inept".
Mr Burbidge also found that no probity check of the VITAB promoters was ever undertaken by ACTTAB prior to the signing of the agreement. He also found that the lawyers retained to review the draft heads of agreement, Macphillamy Cummins and Gibson, acted incompetently. Failing getting our money back from the VITAB people, Mr Burbidge recommends that we have a go at getting it back from the legal people who were hired to protect our interests. I believe this point to be quite important, Mr Speaker.