The federal government has confirmed it had an agreement with Crown Casinos to fast-track short stay visa applications for Chinese visitors.
The revelation of the deal between Crown and the Department of Home Affairs has fuelled mounting pressure for a parliamentary inquiry into the company’s dealings.
Crown has been the subject of a Channel Nine investigation that made a series of allegations about attempts to attract Chinese gamblers to its Australian casinos.
The Department of Home Affairs confirmed it has “stakeholder arrangements” with several large international organisations for the quick processing of short-stay visas, but insisted there was no special treatment given to applicants.
“The arrangement with Crown Casinos was put in place in 2003. The arrangement was last affirmed by the Minister in June 2011 and ceased in 2016,” a spokesperson for the department said.
“There is no reduced vetting in certain locations or for certain applicants. Our offices in China are well aware of the risks that may be present in their caseloads and they scrutinise and manage applications accordingly.
“There is no discretion to waive legislative checks or requirements and the department has no evidence that this has occurred.”
Former Australian Border Force chief Roman Quaedvlieg told Channel Nine that two federal ministers and a backbencher lobbied his agency to make it easier for Chinese gamblers to enter Australia on private jets.
Mr Quaedvlieg was sacked last year after an investigation found he helped his girlfriend try to secure a job within his department at Sydney Airport.
Calls for parliamentary inquiry into Crown
Independent MP and gambling critic Andrew Wilkie this week called for a parliamentary inquiry into the allegations raised by Channel Nine, a push supported by crossbench senator Jacqui Lambie and the Greens.
Deputy Opposition leader Richard Marles said Labor would not rule out supporting an inquiry, but demanded an explanation from Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton.
Labor was in power in 2011 when the visa arrangement with Crown was last affirmed.
“There are a number of serious allegations in what’s been broadcast over the last couple of days and whether there’s an inquiry or not, what we need to hear from is the Minister for Home Affairs and he needs to be explaining exactly what’s happened here,” Mr Marles said.
Mr Dutton is in London at a meeting of the Five Eyes intelligence partners.
On Monday, Attorney-General Christian Porter said he had not seen Channel Nine’s story but expected to be briefed on the matter “shortly”.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison told Parliament it was a “serious topic” that dealt with “the integrity not only of our gaming industry, but of issues that go to law enforcement and border protection in this country”.
“Everyone is required to abide by Australian law, and that includes casino operators, public officials, and all visitors to our country,” he said.
Crown issued a statement on Monday saying it took its legal and regulatory responsibilities “very seriously”.
“Crown has a comprehensive anti-money laundering and counter-terrorism financing program which is subject to regulatory supervision by AUSTRAC,” it said.
“As referred to above, Crown takes its regulatory obligations very seriously and works closely with all of its regulatory agencies, including law enforcement, both state and federal.
“Crown has a robust process for vetting junket operators with whom it deals and undertakes regular ongoing reviews of these operators in the light of new or additional information that comes to its attention.”