20/04/2021 - 14:00

Act with integrity: Crown commission chair

20/04/2021 - 14:00

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The Perth Casino Royal Commission chair has urged the parties involved to be respectful, courteous and to act with integrity as the commission held its second hearing today.

Act with integrity: Crown commission chair
Royal Commissioner Neville Owen at the opening of the Perth Casino Royal Commission. Photo: Nic Ellis, The West Australian

The chair of the Perth Casino Royal Commission tasked with deciding the casino should retain its licence has urged the parties involved to be respectful, courteous and to act with integrity as the commission held its second hearing today.

Commissioners Neville Owen, Lindy Jenkins, and Colin Murphy sat this morning to consider applications for leave to appear in the proceedings of the Royal Commission, which is being held to review the state’s regulatory framework and the functions of the Gaming and Wagering Commission in the wake of a damning report by independent commissioner Patricia Bergen, which accused Crown of laundering money through subsidiaries’ bank accounts at its Perth and Melbourne operations. 

In considering the applications, the commissioners assessed whether the person had a special interest in the terms of reference, the potential for the person to be subject to an adverse finding, and the ability of the person to assist the commission in the inquiry.

Among those granted leave to appear was the state’s chief casino officer Michael Connolly, who stood aside in February following the release of the NSW report into Crown amid enquiries about his friendship with Crown staff, including hosting boating trips.

The application was lodged by Pragma lawyers senior associate Nicholas Malone, who Mr Connolly has engaged to act on his behalf.

Mr Connolly’s leave to appear was limited to the regulatory framework issues.

The Commission also received an application from Crown executive chair Helen Coonan, as well as non-executive directors Jane Halton, Antonia Culsanis, Nigel Morrison and John Hallright. 

The requests for leave to appear, lodged by Melbourne-based law firm Arnold Bloch Leibler, were granted in both the regulatory framework and the suitability issues of the Commission.

The Gaming and Wagering Commission of Western Australia was granted leave to appear in both the regulatory and suitability issues alongside a suite of crown’s company’s, including Crown Resorts Limited, Burswood Limited, Burswood Nominees Limited, and Burswood Resort Management Limited.

The Department of Local Government, Sport and Cultural Industries’ leave to appear was limited to the regulatory framework issues only.

Each of those parties are expected to be called when the substantive public hearings get underway in the coming weeks, hearings Mr Owen indicated were likely to occur simultaneously.

Mr Owen directed legal practitioners representing the parties affected by the proceedings ato act in accordance with their professional obligations and to remember that their paramount duty was the public interest in the administration of justice.

“This is an administrative inquiry, it is not a judicial proceeding,” he said.

“Nonetheless, it is important to bear in mind that this Royal Commission is an instrument of the administration of the justice system in its broadest context. 

“Legal practitioners acting for parties will represent the interest of their clients, and they will do so with a view to the best interests of their clients. We would expect no less.

“But they will also do so in accordance with their professional obligations and bearing in mind that, as officers of the courts, their paramount duty is the public interest in the administration of justice.

“Those obligations and the public interest demands that everyone involved in these proceedings acts respectfully, courteously and with integrity in their dealings with the commissioners, commission officers, witnesses and each other.

“Again, we would expect no less.”

An interim report is set to be delivered by June 30, with findings and recommendations to be released by November 14.

The Royal Commission, which is the first to be held in WA in two decades, is anticipated to cost the state about $5 million.

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