Page 79 - Week 01 - Tuesday, 14 February 2006

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I am concerned at the fact that we have such a small list of minor offences. If someone is convicted of an offence and the penalty is more than 12 months imprisonment that person will be precluded for five years. My concern is that there are very serious offences such as murder, racketeering and fraud, and after five years an offender certainly would not automatically be precluded from a position of importance at a casino—for example, an owner, a licensee, or an employee.

So these amendments are important. The public expects us to ensure that casinos are squeaky clean to the maximum extent possible. This five-year provision is simply not enough. I do not think many people would feel comfortable if someone who had been convicted of a serious offence was able, after just a few years, to be seriously involved with casinos. For those reasons I think these are important amendments. I commend Mr Stefaniak on moving these amendments, which I will be supporting.

DR FOSKEY (Molonglo) (5.23): I support these amendments which will change the time that a person is barred from being an owner of a casino if he or she has a criminal record for fraud, dishonesty, an incidence of bankruptcy, or other serious criminal offences have been committed. The bill proposes a bar of five years, and these amendments are proposing to increase that period to 10 years. There might be cases where 10 years could seem like a long time. However, the role of casinos historically and currently in supporting and disguising criminal behaviour is clearly understood. In placing limits on the ownership of these businesses it seems reasonable to err on the side of caution.

I make it clear that I do not want to imply that all casino owners support and disguise criminal behaviour; I just point out their potential for so doing. There certainly have been a number of cases. It is important to note that under this bill the minister or the commission can still declare such a person as being eligible to be an owner if they believe it is in the public interest. So I cannot see any problem with extending the period to 10 years, given the fact that the minister can override any decision if there are extenuating circumstances.

MR QUINLAN (Molonglo—Treasurer, Minister for Economic Development and Business, Minister for Tourism, Minister for Sport and Recreation, and Minister for Racing and Gaming) (5.25): I am shocked. In every debate that refers to a penalty, either tangentially or directly, I expect Mr Stefaniak to attempt to double it or make it harsher. If this bill had contained a 10-year provision I have no doubt he would have wanted to increase it to 15 or 20 years. But I do not forgive Dr Foskey.

Mr Seselja: For certain types of criminals.

MR QUINLAN: The point is that they might be former criminals. The government is happy with the legislation as it has been presented. Despite Dr Foskey’s cogent argument, the government will not be changing it. As I said earlier, there are sufficient provisions in this bill to protect casino operators. I really do not think we need to follow that path. I concede today that members of the ACT Liberal Party are harder than I am. That will be borne out in spades over the next few years. We have in this house a very right-wing Liberal Party, which I think will repetitively manifest itself.

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