Cosy Deals and Undue Influence: Transparency International Australia on ABC’s Four Corners

23rd May 2019

By Transparency International Australia

Transparency International Australia’s CEO Serena Lillywhite was featured on ABC’s Four Corners ‘Packer’s Crown Casino Gamble: A tale of big money, lobbying and political influence.’

The investigative news program reported that billionaire James Packer and then-NSW premier Barry O’Farrell failed to disclose a lunch at the home of radio presenter Allan Jones where they discussed a proposal to build a casino on land that was meant to be a public park. The Barangaroo building, now Sydney’s tallest, sits beside Sydney Harbour, on land that was designated public space. It’s gambling rooms are yet to open after Crown lost its casino licence in NSW due to reported money laundering and criminal links. 

Lillywhite, told Four Corners her concerns about the lack of transparency and accountability when major deals are negotiated behind closed doors. 

“I think it really reeks of very cosy relationships, and potentially undue influence between the private sector, influential broadcasters and also the government.” 

Lillywhite spoke about how Barangaroo had been a shocking breach of the public’s trust by successive premiers on both sides of government. It’s alarming that such a massive a casino and hotel development could be built with rushed consideration, poor transparency and no proper competitive public tender, she said. 

“When you have meetings behind closed doors around large-scale developments like this, then the public really never gets to know what’s being discussed, what deals maybe are being offered, whether or not preferential treatment is going to be granted, and whether in fact, there [is] advice given as to how to potentially side-step due process and broad transparency and accountability.” 

Read more here: The private lunch to pitch Crown casino that James Packer and then-premier Barry O’Farrell failed to mention. 

Packer’s Gamble, reported by Sean Nicholls, went to air on Monday 31st May.