Doctor and activist


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Category: Government

Mutual Obligation and ‘Noblesse Oblige’

18 March 2021

‘Mutual Obligation’ is the new buzz word for unemployed people.  If they are to get ‘welfare’ they have to be trying to get a job.   An index of this is to make a lot of job applications, that surely must be the bane of every employer in the land, with an obligation of job seekers to apply for 20 jobs a month and about 8 job seekers for every vacancy.

‘Noblesse Oblige’  is a French term dating from when English royalty spoke French after the Norman conquest (of 1066)  and refers to the benevolent, honourable behaviour considered to be the responsibility of persons of high birth or rank.  The term is so quaint and medieval that is often used ironically. But these days with the growing gap between rich and poor, and the lack of sanction on poor behaviour by the empowered class, it may be that old fashioned ethics is all that remains to help poorer people. And they are in short supply.

If there were mutual obligation, a government would be obliged to give its citizens a decent life.  In the 1950 and 1960s it was considered a government responsibility to get everyone a job and governments fell if the unemployment rate was over 1%.  In the 1980s when I worked at Sydney Water, it ran employment programmes for ex-prisoners, people who had been unemployed for more than 3 months, and people with disability.  The employment was for a 6 month term, and my job was to check that applicants were physically able to do the job.  There was a programme to separate sewage and rainwater in inner city areas and a pipe replacement programme.  Both of these programmes were simply canned.  The Apprentice School, which had about 180 apprentices including plumbers, electricians and carpenters was closed.   Sydney Water’s staff went from 17,000 to less than 3,000, and all the wages saved were simply turned into ‘dividends’ from the State Owned Enterprise’.  A tax in short.  Contractors were used, and mains repaired when they burst.  The government had out-sourced the work and outsourced the responsibility for employment.  The latter was less obvious. 

The Global market place that was created in 1944 to lessen the chance of wars allowed countries that produced things cheaper due to cheaper labour costs to prosper, and multinational corporations moved their factories.  The Americans call it ‘off-shoring’.  But our governments have acted as if none of this exists. An abstract entity, ‘The Economy’ is now responsible for job creation and unemployed people are responsible for getting them.  The government has outsourced job seeking to private corporations, and as we know, their duty is to make as much money for their shareholders as possible.  So if it is better to churn many people through short-term jobs to get a commission every time someone starts, hey that is the way to go.  So it is about how the rules are written.  If the old CES (Commonwealth Employment Service) clerks could find someone a job they did.  No one complained that they did not try to place people, and there was no incentive for them to do anything other than to try to place people in the best way possible.

I work with the Workers Compensation insurer, iCare, whose remit seems to be to minimise the cost of claims by saving on both claims managers and payments to injured people, and they are still paid a bonus if the ‘customer’ (i.e. patient) gets back to work, so there is pressure to force them back.  The CTP insurers are always in a total conflict of interest position. They get the premiums and every dollar they avoid paying out goes to their bottom lines.  The idea that a private market will fix things is complete nonsense.

Now we have revelations of gaming the system in the privatised job placement agencies.  The whole dismantling of the public system relies on the assumption that people will not work without incentive payments and private is always better than public.  I was in the public sector for many years as a salaried doctor and then in Sydney Water.  My experience was that the public sector did its job quite well and thought about better ways to act, undistracted by incentive schemes that would distort resource and time allocation.  The Dept. of Public Works built most of this state; Sydney Water built Warragamba Dam.

Privatised rorting is now a major industry draining resources from CTP insurance, Aged Care, the NDIS and now job search. This is not to mention over-priced private monopolies in toll roads, transport, land titles office or oligopolies gaming electricity supplies.

Will there ever be a government that rebuilds the public sector to put an end to this?  Will Labor just roll over as Liberal Lite as they did to get an extra $3.50 on ‘JobSeeker’?

But the key issue is that everyone has the right to decent life, and if the government cannot provide jobs, it should provide income support.  Noblesse Oblige.  As one of my more insightful friends said, ‘There is no shortage of work. Everyone I know can think of things that need doing. It is not a shortage of work, it is an unwillingness to pay’.

Watch this video re the privatised employment agencies.

https://nsfuw.com/?secure_token=8fb90d8862532ccff17c55370720566372b28b851af78200f9c4a13b9171c28e&t=GZ1ZJT09R&utm_campaign=Expose_predatory_job_agencies&utm_content=30518&utm_medium=email&utm_source=blast
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Porter’s Defamation Case Against the ABC

17 March 2021

Many were surprised when Attorney-General Christian Porter sued the ABC, using the very defamation law that he has criticised as favouring the plaintiff.

What will happen? Will it go ahead?  Will he win?  And what will be the effect?

I do not pretend to be an expert on defamation law, but I did run a live radio programme that called tobacco executives mass murderers most weeks for 14 years and I gave some thought to avoiding being sued.  The advice was basically that if you spoke about a class of people, it was OK, but if an individual was identifiable you were in much more danger.

Defamation was defined merely as likely to lower the opinion of someone in the opinion of their peers, so was relatively easy to prove.

The defences were that it was true, or that it was in the public interest, or it was ‘fair comment’ on a known situation.  (There was also ‘qualified privilege’ if the allegation was made to a closed body entrusted with maintaining standards, such as a complaint to a Medical regulatory body).

But after the lawyers had given this rather bleak advice, they said that main question was whether it would actually be in the interests of tobacco companies to sue a little-known doctor speaking on a little-heard community radio station.  They could send him broke, but the issue would get a lot of publicity and how many people they killed would compete with how callous they were to stuff up the life of a little truth-teller.  So I was to be careful, but not fearful.

Porter has raised the stakes in that if the ABC wants to run the truth defence, it has to prove it, which is hard with Katherine Thornton dead and the Police saying that without even a sworn testimony there was no hope of proving the case.  If the story is not true, then arguably it is not in the public interest to discuss it, and since the ABC raised the issue, it is hardly fair comment on an existing discussion. Most people did not know which individual it referred to, but some did.

I am unsure to what extent comment will be shut down by the fact that it in sub judice, but I think if it is not a jury trial, judges are supposedly uninfluenced by the media, and you can comment  on civil but not criminal matters.  There is no doubt that everyone in the pub or tea room will have an opinion.  If the ABC settles without running the case, Porter will claim a big victory.  If the ABC fights and loses, he will also claim a big victory, but the damage done to him in the process is likely to be terminal.  Most people are likely to continue to believe the story and he is likely to look like a privileged pratt using a bad law.  This is not good when both he and his party have to face the voters.

Also, if the ABC loses, it will have a large budget blow, a loss of prestige and probably a budget cut from a vengeful government.  But the process may have damaged the government enough to turn the next election and Labor may then restore the funding. 

If you look at the tide of history, this issue is one that’s time has come. The coverage and discussion of the issue will make this a watershed moment where high legal costs are merely an investment in hastening a major social reform, though we cannot reasonably expect the ABC’s lawyers to see it that way.

Crikey looks at the strength of Porter’s team and case.

www.crikey.com.au/2021/03/16/christia-porter-defamation-trial-of-the-century/?fbclid=IwAR1_dcbIg1jexXl3TUkooK73YSy9yEIlKjTJ6CvMuE68BSqqZtKENo-TbvU

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Ex-Solicitor-General Calls for Inquiry into Porter’s Rape Allegation

14 March 2021

The former Solicitor-General, Justin Gleeson has made the case as to why there needs to be an investigation into Katherine Thornton’s rape allegation against Attorney-General, Christian Porter.

The mechanism for this would be that Morrison should ask the Solicitor-General for advice as to the situation.  This Morrison has so far declined to do. 

Interestingly, Justin Gleeson was highly respected Solicitor-General who resigned in 2016 after a very public argument with the then Attorney-General George Brandis, when Brandis wanted all referrals to the Solicitor-General to go through his office.  Gleeson felt that this was restricting his freedom to give advice and effectively politicising his office.  Prior to Brandis’ restriction he had made a statement about the legality of refugee legislation. (Guardian 24/10/16)  The Prime Minister not asking the Solicitor-General now and the Solicitor-General not making a statement does sound like the same issue.  Brandis, like Porter, was also accused of making poor appointments (of political party hacks) to judicial bodies. 

In terms of the reasons for having an inquiry into the rape allegation, this opinion is as good as it gets.  At least as an ex-Solicitor-General, Gleeson can speak publicly.

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-09/christian-porter-historical-rape-allegation-gleeson/13229880

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iCare Doesn’t Know and Doesn’t Pay Underpaid workers

7 March 2121

The incompetence of Perottet’s iCare never ceases to amaze.

It underpaid injured workers but was not sure how many. It was initially 240,000. Then it changed its to estimate to 52,000 people underpaid up to $80 million. Then possibly as little as $5 million. In March it is 23,000 and $20 million. They don’t actually know. After 18 months 25 have actually been compensated!!!
This is all treated as some of ‘management error’ as if this makes it OK. These are a lot of abstract words, but few concrete ones. The idea of abstract words is that the concepts can be discussed better. But mostly management words are so general as to be meaningless, and principally serve to make everything non-specific and also euphemistic. No one says, ‘They did not know or care and their incompetence led to immense suffering for the families who were underpaid’. It becomes, ’There was a lack of management understanding and focus and some workers may have been paid less than their entitlement’.
Naturally no one will be punished.
All I know is that even the routine service takes about 3 weeks to get anything done. I had a patient doubly incontinent after a spinal injury. It takes up to 10 working days to get a claim approved, then up to 10 working days for them to approve an MRI and a specialist consultation. This is normal. When they delay things it is worse, and sometimes they refuse to pay at all.
www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/scathing-icare-review-finds-a-need-for-cultural-change-20210301-p576tq.html

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Scathing PWC Report Finds Perottet’s iCare Incompetent

6 March 2021

A 100 Page report by consulting from international PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers ) found weakness in performance and governance, and the Board did not hold management to account. 

We might also consider that the Minister, Dominic Perottet did not hold the Board accountable, and appears to show no interest at all in the injured people for whom the whole scheme supposedly exists. We might note that no doctors or patients appear to have been interviewed either- Hey, it’s all about money you know!  One could ask why PWC did a report when Justice McDougall was simultaneously doing one that it coming out in April?  Perhaps he is a lawyer and does not know enough about money.

The bottom line is that it was run from the top by people who only knew about money with little input about its proper function from the people at the coal face, who presumably should have some knowledge of the people that they are supposedly helping.  (I say that with reservation, as the case managers that I deal with have high turnover, little insight and seem to assume that a large percentage of their cases are fraudulent, the doctors are hell-bent on inventing pathologies to over-treat and they have to follow elaborate protocols designed to ensure that no one could under any circumstances get one cent more than was absolutely necessary).

So we digest the Management-speak of this report and await the McDougall report which had terms of reference that allowed little input from patients or doctors, held no hearings and seemed to exist principally to take the heat off the Minister from last August until its April release.

It seems that there has been a generic concept since the 1980s that managers know best, that other degrees and knowledge from lesser beings or lesser ranks and incomes are not of value or to be listened to.  It has come unstuck in so many situations that its time that some little boy (or girl) points out that ‘The Emperors have no Clothes’.  Then we can go back to an older time, where people had appropriate training, worked their way up, knew their jobs, were promoted on merit and had small salary increments reflecting their incremental status rise.  But I suppose that this would rely on people having permanent jobs and depower the whole new managerial class and their symbiotic consultants and reduce the workplace ‘flexibility’ that allows the obscene salaries at the top and insecurity at the bottom. 

If Anglo society does not want to fall to more realistic societies in Germany and Asia, there needs to be a large rethink of the Harvard 1980s management nonsense that is the foundation of these sort of debacles.

www.smh.com.au/national/nsw/scathing-icare-review-finds-a-need-for-cultural-change-20210301-p576tq.html

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Insurance for Farmers with Coal Seam Gas

6 March 2021

I have minimal faith in insurers. Many years ago, one of my friends was killed falling down a crevasse hiking on a NZ glacier. A meticulous person, he had checked his AMP insurance before he left- the only exemptions were scuba diving and private flying. The company told his widow with her 6 month old baby that it was a dangerous sport and he was not covered and the broker he checked with had no right to say that he was covered. They offered her half. She was of substance, hung on and they settled on the steps of the Supreme Court rather than go on with their unwinnable case.Another friend had his house burn down, and was only given the depreciated value rather than the replacement, which was about half; small print as usual- do you feel like fighting Goliath?An acquaintance, who was a merchant banker with a lot of money got a nasty brain tumour and needed expensive chemotherapy. The gap between his Top Cover health insurance and what the bills were was so great that he left St Vincent’s Hospital and readmitted himself to Westmead as a Medicare patient. (Sadly the medical outcome was as expected).Every day I see people injured in Workers Comp or motor vehicle accidents have their treatments denied by insurers on grounds that could only be called spurious. In my practice’s statistics IAG (NRMA) refuse a higher percentage of treatments than any other insurer.It is, of course, impossible to say that fracking for Coal Seam Gas is safe. It involves breaking the rock strata to let the gas come up. Presumably these fractures will also let the water move to a lower level and be less available to the surface. And chemicals are pumped in so that the water may not be fit to drink, and there is no natural mechanism to purify it. Now unsurprisingly the insurers do not want to cover the farmers. For once I am on their side. Fracking is simply not safe. The gas companies will get their gas and move on-the farmers may have land that is useless, or at best less productive than it was before. Because of the nature of the law, farmers only own the surface of the land- mining rights are a separate thing, which is why the government can give companies the right to do what they like below the surface. The government needs to stop this- it should not be left up to the farmers. What a neat piece of nonsense that they are now supposedly protected from Public Liability claims- it might protect them if they are defendants, but it is far more likely that they will be plaintiffs!

www.abc.net.au/news/2021-03-05/big-on-spin-light-on-detail-as-gas-industry-touts-new-insurance/13216226?fbclid=IwAR26XpOCZk9aqusgrEukN44T-esmX-OhNFe4sgj4X7A9-Drtt9_3V-L6SxY

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JobKeeper becomes an Unaudited Subsidy to Big Business

6 March 2021

It seems that while JobKeeeper did help employees, some businesses did not actually need it, but got it anyway.  Now it is ‘moral issue’ that they give it back- that is to say it is voluntary.  If they have already taken it as executive bonuses or shareholder dividends it is probably not refundable.

The welfare recipients who had spent money and were accused retrospectively of Robodebt could not repay it either, but were hounded till the end.  All that will happen to the big end of town is a few days of newspaper articles.   

It is surely a reasonable principle that if taxpayers’ money is given away there should be monitoring of where it goes. If it was too hard to set up a monitoring system quickly, the obvious solution would be to make a regulation that it had to be used for purpose and would be checked and there would be prosecutions if it were misused. This would have allowed follow up, a few prosecutions and majority compliance.  This government seems incapable of any sensible management of anything, unless you think that deliberately handing money to mates is an unwritten policy.

Now even small businesses are annoyed.

www.smh.com.au/politics/federal/pretty-close-to-theft-small-business-slams-big-corporate-jobkeeper-profits-20210304-p577sn.html

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Subsidies for Inequality

5 March 2021

As a child our family moved to Port Kembla, and we lived on Hill 60, just above the rocks where a lot of people have drowned recently.

I went to Port Kembla Infant’s School, which was overcrowded but interesting.  Half the kids there came from the migrant hostel in the old WW2 army camp where ‘displaced Persons’ (as WW2 refugee families were called) lived.  These kids arrived in kindergarten without a word of English. This was taken as normal by the teachers, who just plugged on. The kids from the hostel were called ‘Hostels’, but it was a descriptor rather than a pejorative.  By the time we got to 2nd class in our 4th year (Kindergarten, Transition, 1st Class, 2nd Class) there was no difference between Aussie borns and Hostels.  There were 46 in my 2nd class and girls filled the top 6 places.  There was minimal racism in kids leaving this school.   

There was no anti-discrimination legislation or bureaucracy in the 1950s but all the parents had jobs in the steelworks or associated industries and the Housing Commission was building suburbs full of affordable housing as fast as it could.  If you had a go, you got a go. The ABC Radio had an awkward segment before the news called ‘Learn English with us’ where some somewhat stilted practical speech exercises lasted about 2 minutes.  I used to wonder how the new migrants all tuned in for this little segment if they could not understand the rest.  But the intention was there.

In 1966 there was a movement demanding ‘State Aid for Church Schools’ on the basis that they had paid their tax, and now they had left the state system they were paying twice.  The government wanted to win the election, and this was seen as critical for the Catholic vote. The Democratic Labor Party, which had split from the ALP were the champions of this and still represented a significant threat to the ALP as they preferenced the Libs.  State Aid came in.

Some time later there was a lot of emphasis on ESL (English as a Second Language) classes at TAFE, which were held during school hours.  Their target was migrant women and their objective was to encourage English speaking to allow the women both to meet each other and to participate in society more easily.  John Howard defunded the programme; ‘user pays’ was the new paradigm.

I now live in Sydney in a relatively central affluent suburb. Each morning 8 private school buses start near my door ferrying students to 8 private schools.  No public transport needed- the school takes care of it all.  Others students in private school uniforms catch subsidised public transport to the schools of their parents’ choice.  But the cost of ‘choice’ is ‘residualisation’.  Schools where there are a lot of ethnic students suffer from ‘white flight’, and so have concentrated social disadvantage and a lack of native role models. One school I visited in Western Sydney had had a stabbing in the playground about 25 years ago.  The school photos in the foyer had no white face for the last 20 years. That was as far back as the photos went.

When we wonder if the Cabinet have any idea how the poorer folk live, my opinion is that they do not.  These social dynamics have now been going for long enough that it is possible to be old enough to be in Cabinet and have no idea how the other half live.  Some think that people without jobs have ‘wasted their opportunities’ or have alcohol or gambling problems.  Add a little self-ri ghteous religion, ‘the poor are always with us’, a touch of arrogance and a peer group that thinks the same, and you have policies that are increasingly dismantling the fair go and equity that should be at the heart of our culture.  It may be that you cannot make all people equal, but you can give all children equality of opportunity, and all adults enough to live on. We have to change direction and do just that.

Here, at the risk of being repetitive, is an article on Christian Porter.

www.themandarin.com.au/150633-christian-porter-the-unshakeable-belief-of-a-white-man-born-to-rule/?fbclid=IwAR2PbktE5jzTIgIjcL4orzdW1TO8ax03VpOBCFDTzDbRUepQnigaB1WG24Q

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Christian Porter’s Rape Explanation

3 March 2021

I just watched Attorney-General Christian Porter out himself as the Cabinet Minister accused of rape. He was live on ABC News Channel 24 at 3pm (but 8 minutes delayed, so they played the newsflash of NSW Sports Minister resigning after his property dealings were referred to ICAC).

I had deduced that Porter was the minister, as there had been a 4 Corners about him in November and his birthday made him the exact age that the alleged victim said her rapist was. We knew what he would say, as the media said that he was not going to resign, so as a debater I was as interested in his rhetoric as its contents.

He started by saying he was very sorry for the family of the alleged rape victim for their loss. He said that he had heard rumours of the allegation since November but he was unaware what was alleged. He denies the allegation completely, but was concerned about the effect on his colleagues.

He was also concerned that the journalists were trying him by media and were not following due process. He said that they had flowed due process when a previous Opposition Leader was accused of sexual harassment, clearly implying that the media were giving him a worse time. (There was no mention that one was alleged sexual harassment, the other alleged rape and suicide).

He said that he, unlike the media, was following due process.He in his professional life had been a prosecutor and had always tried to stand up for the victims and protect them.

He is now working hard but may now be removed by an accusation. If he were to resign it would mean ‘no rule of law’ and that an unsubstantiated media accusation would be enough to force Ministers to resign, so he will not stand down and set a bad precedent.

(Presumably the alternative is that no one stands down until ‘proper process’ has them convicted, which will very convenient for sports rorts and other current government activities).

He is taking a 2 week break on his doctor’s orders, and his friends are standing by him.

He expanded on the story somewhat during the questioning. There were 4 people in the debating team, 3 men and one woman. They went to her room and she showed him how to iron a shirt as none of them had ever ironed a shirt. He may have told her that ‘she would make a good wife one day’. He may have gone to dinner but he absolutely denied that he demanded oral sex or raped her. It did not happen. He pleaded with the media to ‘imagine for a second that it is not true’. Their faces were not shown on TV, but it seems from their voices that they found this hard to imagine.

He had had no contact with that person since January 1988, for 33 years, so he could not remember details, but she was a ‘bright, happy person’.

He cannot explain the story and he cannot test the evidence, so he does not favour an inquiry as he will be ‘asked to disprove something that did not happen’. Others may decide to have an inquiry. He wonders at ‘conspiracy theories everywhere’.

He spoke to the Prime Minister on Wednesday, presumably 8 days ago, not yesterday, and believes that he has the Prime Minister’s support.

My bet is that there will be a delay, then an inquiry, and then he will resign to save the government from embarrassment, but not be charged with anything. I could be wrong. Certainly the ‘Me Too’ movement has changed the paradigm in the entertainment industry and now even in Australian politics. But we are still nowhere near the old standard when Barry O’Farrell resigned as NSW Premier when he did not remember receiving a bottle of wine from a dodgy donor, or the Dutch Cabinet all resigned recently over a situation like Robodebt.

If Porter limps along, he will be lead in the Liberals’ saddlebag for a while. The election is a year away, so many will forget, but some will not, and a negative impression of the government grows stronger. These impressions eventually coalesce onto a ’gut feeling’ that the government has to go and the government becomes doomed. Usually the Canberra bubble of both politicians and their journalists are the last to realise.

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Federal Police to Investigate Crown Casino

27 February 2021

Former Supreme Court judge Patricia Bergin has made a referral to the Australian Federal Police following her inquiry into Crown Casino.

Bergin, whose inquiry found Crown Resorts unfit to hold a casino licence in New South Wales, made the referral at least three weeks ago.

While the AFP has declined to name the subject of its inquiry, a spokesperson said: “The AFP has received a report from Commissioner Bergin resulting from the Inquiry under the Casino Control Act 1992 (NSW). That report relates to potential telecommunications offences. While this report is investigated, it would not be appropriate to comment any further.”

Justice Bergin, who ran the 18-month independent inquiry that spectacularly halted the opening of the centrepiece high-roller floors in James Packer’s $2.2 billion Barangaroo development in Sydney, declined to comment.

The Saturday Paper can also reveal that the Australian Securities and Investments Commission is actively looking at current and former board appointees of Crown Resorts in relation to potential breaches of  “care and diligence” requirements.

It is understood the corporate watchdog is aware of a number of “serious matters” raised in the Bergin report, which cut into the commission’s federal jurisdiction.

Crown Resorts and its current and former directors are now under scrutiny from inquiries and investigations in every Australian jurisdiction in which the company operates.

On Monday, Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews announced a royal commission into the suitability of Crown Melbourne Limited to hold its casino licence in that state. With more than 16,000 staff, Crown Melbourne is the largest private employer in Victoria.

That inquiry, led by Raymond Finkelstein, QC, will also examine the appropriateness of the parent company, Crown Resorts, and has been asked to report with recommendations by August 1.

That announcement came after the Gaming and Wagering Commission of 

Western Australia announced on February 17 an independent inquiry at the direction of the state’s minister for Racing, Gaming and Liquor, Paul Papalia. It will have the same powers as a royal commission.

Crown only operates two casinos in Australia – at Melbourne’s Southbank and Perth’s Burwood – and had hoped to open a third in Sydney before Bergin’s inquiry. It is now up to the independent regulator in NSW to make a final decision about the fate of the company’s licence in that state.

There is nothing in the state legislation that insists the second casino licence in Sydney has to go to Crown.

In theory, at least, any suitable operator can be awarded permission to launch or run another casino in the city.

While the AFP did not name the specific telecommunications offence it is investigating under Commonwealth law, most of these relate to using a carriage service such as phone or internet connection to make threats, harass or menace others.

In her 800-page public inquiry report, Bergin uncovered a culture of cavalier decision-making at Crown Resorts, with company failures that resulted in the arrest of its own employees in China. She pointed to systems that should have identified money laundering involving criminal elements attached to junkets, but did not.

Junkets, in the gambling world, are third-party outfits that specialise in bringing high-net-worth individuals to casinos.

The junket owners typically take fees from casinos on a commission basis and also share the risk of losses made by their clients. Often, they also provide lines of credit to their clients.

As such, they are responsible for collecting their own debts and in some markets have turned to organised crime to achieve these ends. It was these close associations that spelled trouble for Crown.

Although Covid-19 has largely rendered junkets moot in Australia – their clients are mostly non-residents who have flown in for leisure and big bets – the WA regulator on Wednesday issued directions to Crown banning them from hosting junkets in Perth.

The mandate also stops Crown Perth from participating in “table games activity with patrons who are non-residents of Australia with whom Crown Perth has an arrangement to pay the patron a commission, or provide transport, accommodation, food, drink or entertainment, based on the patron’s turnover or otherwise calculated by reference to such play”.

Justice Bergin’s public report raised serious questions about the conduct of billionaire tycoon James Packer, whose private investment vehicle CPH remains the largest shareholder in Crown.

Packer resigned as chair of the publicly traded Crown in August 2015 but remained a director until December that year. Even after he left the company, however, his influence was repeatedly demonstrated in discussions he had with serving Crown directors who remained loyal to him, according to Bergin’s report.

At times, confidential information relating to business strategy and accounts was not only shared with Packer but also developed at his instruction.

Bergin also noted that confidential information was provided to Packer by John Alexander, who was Crown’s executive chairman; Ken Barton, chief financial officer; Barry Felstead, then chief executive of Australian Resorts; and Todd Nisbet, in his capacity as Crown’s executive vice-president of strategy and development.

Barton provided financial reports to Packer “on an almost daily basis”, Bergin noted, from the time the magnate executed a secret controlling shareholder protocol.

In late November 2018, Packer emailed Barton with curt instructions: “I know Mike has spoken to you about preparing a downside plan for me. I don’t believe your FYF [financial year forecast] and am sick of always missing budgets and being unlucky in VIP.”

Of that exchange, Bergin said in her report: “Mr Packer was issuing an instruction to Mr Barton to not only specially prepare that information, but also to do so in accordance with the conservative parameters he had specifically identified.”

These conversations occasionally became terse. On March 1, 2019, Packer again emailed Barton.

“Ken I think all of you have had your heads in the sand this year. We never meet our plans and I’m sick of it,” he wrote. “Make sure for your own sake that we achieve the FY 20 plan.”

The inquiry found the “language employed by Mr Packer reflects aggressive expectation and entitlement and properly characterises Mr Packer’s communications as instructions, not mere requests for information or the giving of  ‘advice’ ”.

A far more serious exchange, which occurred in late 2015 as the billionaire contemplated privatising Crown Resorts, was partly suppressed by the Bergin inquiry, but nevertheless received special attention in the final public report.

Packer, attempting to raise capital from private equity firms for the buyback of Crown, had discussions with one such company in particular but, when it came time to commit, a businessman attached to the investment firm told Packer he could summon only $400 million.

“On 25 November 2015 in response to the advice that he had received from the firm, Mr Packer wrote an email containing a serious threat to one of the businessmen in the firm,” the Bergin report says.

“Mr Packer accepted that his conduct in making the threat was ‘shameful’ and ‘disgraceful’. He also accepted that the communications were ‘totally unsuitable for a director of a public company as a close associate of a licensee of a casino’.

“Mr Packer accepted that he understood that at the time of this conduct, he had obligations to Crown to act ethically and with the highest standards of integrity. He said that at the time that he wrote the email he had ‘clearly forgotten’ he had an obligation to Crown not to engage in conduct likely to bring discredit upon Crown.”

Packer made it clear during public testimony before the inquiry that he was experiencing a medical episode at the time relating to subsequently diagnosed bipolar disorder, for which he is now receiving treatment.

The Saturday Paper is not suggesting these emails are involved in the report referred by Justice Bergin to the AFP.

Former Howard government minister Helen Coonan is one of the few remaining directors at Crown, taking on the role of executive chairman on February 15 with an annual salary package worth $2.5 million.

One-time AFL boss Andrew Demetriou, Crown’s former chief executive Ken Barton and Packer right-hand man Michael Johnston have all resigned from the company. So, too, has Guy Jalland and advertising heavyweight Harold Mitchell. Company secretary and general counsel Mary Manos has also stepped down. Non-executive director John Poynton terminated a consultancy with Packer’s company CPH in the wake of the report’s findings, in a bid to sever the last link between Packer and Crown.

In a statement to the market last Monday, Coonan said she “welcomes the announcement from the Victorian Government” to hold a royal commission.

“It provides an opportunity to detail the reforms and changes to our business to deliver the highest standards of governance and compliance, and an organisational culture that meets community expectations,” she said.

With more than 16,000 staff, Crown Melbourne is the largest private employer in Victoria.

The outcome of the AFP investigation could determine whether its subject is banned from being a company director for acting in a manner that affects the reputation of a company or adversely affects shareholders. Given some of the Commonwealth telecommunications offences carry maximum penalties with jail time up to three years, this would also factor into ASIC’s decision-making about the appropriateness of a person being a company director in the future.

More broadly, ASIC can ban directors who fail their duties under section 180 of the Corporations Act, although such cases are notoriously difficult to stack up because a court must be persuaded such behaviour was detrimental to shareholders.

On February 18, Crown Resorts Limited released its half-year results, which were severely affected by Covid-19 restrictions and a “number of regulatory investigations”.

Statutory revenue was down 62 per cent to $581 million, while earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation fell almost 100 per cent to just $4.4 million.

But, as ever in gambling, Crown is still hoping for a big win.

“Crown will work cooperatively with regulators as it seeks to restore public and regulatory confidence in its operations,” it said in the investor presentation.

“The [Bergin] Inquiry Report outlines a pathway towards suitability to allow Crown to give effect to the Restricted Gaming Licence.

“All gaming areas [at Barangaroo] are complete and ready for opening, subject to the receipt of all regulatory approvals.”

This article was first published in the print edition of The Saturday Paper on Feb 27, 2021 as “Exclusive: Crown report referred to the Federal Police”.

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