Friday, February 09, 2007

Parliamentary committee to investigate licences and pokies

Peter Kavanagh will participate in a parliamentary committee to investigate the government's handling of lottery licences review. At Mr Kavanagh's insistence, the committee will also consider the Community Support Fund and the role of poker machines in poorer areas.

The full Herald Sun article announcing the formation of the committee follows.

Gaming chiefs face grilling
Written by Michael Warner
Published in the Herald Sun on 9 February 2007

THE controversial Tattersall's consultant David White will be among dozens of political figures and gaming chiefs hauled before a parliamentary pokies inquiry.

The inquiry will focus on the Government's handling of the poker machine and lottery licence review.

The Liberals yesterday joined forces with the minor parties in the Upper House to force the wide-ranging investigation.

It will have the power to subpoena individuals, documents and tape recordings -- including those believed to have been made in the Tattersall's boardroom.

But Premier Steve Bracks last night indicated he would use parliamentary rules to avoid appearing at the inquiry.

Mr White's relationship with the Premier and his role as a consultant to Tatts will be a central focus of the inquiry.

Others expected to be called include former Tatts chief Duncan Fischer, Tatts trustee and Melbourne Cricket Club president David Jones, state gaming authority chairman Ian Dunn, former gaming minister John Pandazopoulos, and former Kirner government treasurer Tony Sheehan.

Witnesses who refuse to attend could be charged with contempt of parliament and, in extreme circumstances, jailed.

They will be required to answer all questions without a lawyer. But because of its Upper House status, Lower House MPs -- including the Premier and Treasurer John Brumby -- can decline to appear.

The inquiry follows a series of Herald Sun reports on the role played by Mr White in Tatts' bid to renew its lucrative poker machine licence.

Mr White, president of the ALP agenda committee and a former Cain-Kirner government minister, was hired by Tatts to help extend its licence, which expires in 2012.

One internal Tatts document seen by the Herald Sun reveals how Mr White told company bosses that they could go straight to the top by handing a secret offer "written on a piece of paper" directly to the Premier.

Mr Bracks has since admitted to sharing a private dinner with Mr White. But he denies the pair ever discussed poker machines licences.

Mr White was removed by Tatts chief Dick McIllwain late last year.

The inquiry will also investigate reasons for repeated delays in the Government's lottery licence tender process.

Tatts and rival Greek gambling consortium Intralot have been shortlisted for a slice of the $1.2 billion-a-year lottery industry. But unexplained probity issues have forced the Government to delay making a decision.

A report compiled by solicitor-general Pamela Tate is believed to have found Intralot was denied natural justice in its dealings with the Victorian Commission for Gambling Regulation.

Liberal Upper House leader Philip Davis said the inquiry panel would be made up of two Government MPs, two Liberals, a National, a Green and the sole DLP member, Peter Kavanagh.

"The role played by senior Labor Party figures in the licensing process and their dealings with members of the Bracks Government raises serious concerns," Mr Davis said.

Revelations about Tatts' lobbying stem from a continuing Supreme Court battle between the four trustees and a group of former beneficiaries.

The inquiry will also examine the Community Support Fund and poker machines in poorer Victorian suburbs and regions.

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