Interview with Barrie Cassidy
10 February 2013
Topics: Drugs in Sport, Organised crime, Customs corruption , Kevin Rudd video
BARRIE CASSIDY: Now to Sydney and our program guest, the Minister for Justice, Jason Clare.
Good morning Minister, welcome.
JASON CLARE: Good morning.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Minister, can you understand the frustrations across the codes, across all sports, when a report such as this casts a shadow over all of them?
JASON CLARE: Yes, Barrie, I can. I can understand why sports fans are frustrated. I love Offsiders as much as Insiders but we’ve got to make this point: there is a problem here. And people have been whispering about this in the shadows for years now, we’ve got to face up to this and fix it. This is the sort of thing, Barrie, that should have been done with the Tour de France 15 years ago.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Why then didn’t you, while doing this, be more specific about the information that’s out there so that people are not left confused?
JASON CLARE: Good question. The Crime Commission has legal limitations on the amount of information it can release. It can’t identify persons or organisations that it has criminal intelligence on but those people and those organisations can put their own hand up. And the NRL(National Rugby League) and the AFL (Australian Football League) have done that over the last few days.
BARRIE CASSIDY: So what you’re saying, then, is these allegations are limited to two codes: rugby league and Aussie Rules?
JASON CLARE: I’m not saying they’re limited to the NRL and the AFL but the report clearly says at page seven that it focused on two codes. Those two codes are the NRL and the AFL.
In the course of their investigation the Crime Commission also identified that the use of these drugs, the peptides and hormones, are also being used in other codes as well but most of the work was focused on the NRL and AFL.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Now the clubs can’t come out if they don’t know anything. As I understand it, the CEOs of both rugby league and Australian Rules have now been fully briefed?
JASON CLARE: That’s right. We’ve given the names of the clubs to both the NRL and the AFL. And the NRL and the AFL have asked for permission to tell the clubs that are affected by the investigation. The Crime Commission agrees and we’re taking action to allow both the NRL and the AFL to tell the clubs that are involved in this investigation. And then it’ll up to the clubs to put their hand up and say yes, we are one of the clubs that are affected by this investigation.
BARRIE CASSIDY: OK, how much information have these clubs been given? Are they being told precisely what the allegations are against them and the reach and depth of these allegations?
JASON CLARE: Well first step is that the NRL and AFL will tell the clubs they’re the subject of the investigation. Then it will be open to those clubs to one, put their hand up; but two, seek advice from the Crime Commission about the nature of the problem that they’ve got. They will be able to also talk to ASADA (Australian Sports Anti-Doping Authority). ASADA will come in and be able to assist them with the investigations that need to take place.
But they will also be able to draw on the support of the NRL’s Integrity Unit that they’re standing up and the AFL’s existing Integrity Unit.
BARRIE CASSIDY: OK, so we know how the media works. Over the next couple of days then they will approach all of these clubs individually and then you would expect, one at a time, they will come clean?
JASON CLARE: Well, I think sports fans out there want to know if their club is affected. The veil of suspicion is hanging over all clubs. The more information we can get out there the better. Silence is not going to be the solution here. And I encourage all clubs that are affected to put their hand up and work with the authorities to make sure that we get this out of the game. No-one wants cheats in football or any sport and this is a way to stamp it out.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And from their own point of view I would have thought the worst approach would be two or three weeks into a football season and suddenly a player is named and perhaps charged, six weeks later another player is name and charged. You would get this drip feed effect which would wreck their season.
JASON CLARE: The quicker this is done the better. And the Crime Commission has given the names of the individuals to the New South Wales Police and the Victorian Police to investigate. They’ve also given the names and the details to ASADA.
And, Barrie, I need to make this point, we’re not just talking about evidence that’s been collected through coercive hearings, we’re talking about documentary evidence that the Crime Commission has got, as well as the use of phone taps that corroborate all of the information they’ve got. And they’ve made the decision that this is so serious that it’s necessary to get that information out to the public.
And they’ve done that for a number of reasons. One, to prevent this from getting any worse than it already is. As Fran said, number two, is to put the frighteners into the organised criminals that are involved here as well. But thirdly, to encourage people to put their hand up. To put their hand up and tell the authorities if they’ve been involved in this or they know people and the early information is that that’s already happening.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Some people have come forward already?
JASON CLARE: That’s the preliminary advice to me.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And you mentioned phone tapping; so the Commission has been tapping the phones of footballers?
JASON CLARE: Well, the Australian Crime Commission has the powers of a standing royal commission, they’re the most powerful law enforcement body in the country and they can tap phones, they can force people to give information, collect documents, conduct searches and so forth. They’ve used all of the powers that they have available to them to investigate this.
And the reason is, as George said, this is not just about sport, this is about organised crime. And when organised crime infiltrates sport then you can have real problems.
BARRIE CASSIDY: So is that the kind of information they can pick up through phone tapping, that’s how you get these alleged involvement of footballers with organised crime?
JASON CLARE: Well, I’ve got to be careful about how much information I give you on the program other than to say that when you listen in to phone conversations you hear all sorts of things and the Crime Commission has found that the work it’s been doing has been very, very effective.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Well perhaps then you can talk in broader terms about how that works. What is it that organised crime is trying to do when they, I suppose, entrap these footballers?
JASON CLARE: Well, organised crime is involved throughout the supply chain here. They’re involved in importing the drugs. Where the raw materials come into the country they’re involved in front companies that run the compound pharmacies to make these drugs. They’re involved with working with the doctors who write the scripts for the individual players. They’re also involved with companies that have contracts with major sporting codes as well.
Ultimately, Barrie, it’s all about money. Criminals get involved in crime because you can make serious money out of it. And there is serious money to be made here in selling these products to professional sports people.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And are the footballers, then, do they find themselves compromised and they might be in a position where they could be coerced into match fixing?
JASON CLARE: That’s right. That’s why this is so serious. If there’s a link between an organised criminal and a player then they can find themselves in a very difficult situation where the risk of match fixing occurs.
This report identified one potential example of match fixing which is under investigation at the moment. But this is the point, look at what’s happening in Europe, look at what we’re seeing overseas. When that happens it undermines the integrity of sport. And sport is too important in Australia to let that happen and that’s why it’s important to get as much information out there as we can, and for the police and the doping authority to conduct the necessary investigations.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Again you mentioned one allegation of match fixing, that casts a shadow over all codes. Are you able to say which code is involved?
JASON CLARE: No, for the same reason that the Crime Commission can’t identify the names of the players or the names of the individual clubs, I can’t give you the name of the code affected, other than to say we’ve identified one example of that. And that’s sufficiently serious to say that more investigations in this area need to be done.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And yet at the same time I get this report that there was an unusual amount of money bet on one A-league game in Melbourne, close to $50 million. That seems to point the finger at soccer?
JASON CLARE: Well, my advice is that that’s not related to this investigation, but it is a good example of the risks that are involved here. When you link betting with sport, you have the potential risk here for the sport to be corrupted, and we’ve seen evidence of that overseas. It’s important that we don’t see that infiltrate into Australia.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Now this information that is going to the clubs or it’s open to the clubs to follow up on that and go to the Crime Commission for further information, will they be told if their team faces allegations of involvement with performance enhancing drugs, that is the whole team, will they be told?
JASON CLARE: You’re going there, I guess, to the section of the report that indicates that there are some cases where the whole team has been doped.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Yes.
JASON CLARE: And the Crime Commission …
BARRIE CASSIDY: More than one, as I understand it.
JASON CLARE: More than one. The Crime Commission’s work identified more than one example of that.
BARRIE CASSIDY: More than one …
JASON CLARE: If we go …
BARRIE CASSIDY: … in both codes? I’m sorry, just to be clear on that, more than one in both codes?
JASON CLARE: Again, you’re asking me a question Barrie, that I’ve got to be careful. I can’t reveal that information. But what I can say is that when the clubs are told that their club is one of the teams affected they’ll be able to sit down with the Crime Commission, the Crime Commission will give them as much information as they legally can.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And are they able to legally tell them or name the individuals within their club that are under suspicion?
JASON CLARE: No, I don’t think that that is the way the Crime Commission will operate. They’ll give that information they already have to the police and to the anti-doping authority to take the responsible action.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Because some clubs are saying there’s no suggestion of performance enhancing or the whole team effort at our club. But other clubs are going to be accused or that individuals within their clubs used illicit drugs and had these connections with organised crime, that will be clear to them, will it not?
JASON CLARE: Well I think it’ll be clear once they know their club is affected that this investigation has focused on them. That there are players or there are support staff who work for those clubs that have been identified through the investigation that have been involved with peptides, hormones, other drugs that are either illegal or that players cannot use.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And organised crime and those who bring these drugs or import these drugs illegally, are you able to then to go after them for supplying the material to the players?
JASON CLARE: Well, it’s illegal to import these drugs and so charges can be laid on that front. But there’s a gap in the law. It’s not illegal at the moment in Australia to supply some of these drugs to professional athletes. That’s a gap in the law and that’s why when the attorneys-general across the country meet in April I’ll be asking the Crime Commission to brief them about the gaps in the law this have been identified in this report and identify what laws need to be changed at a state and federal level.
BARRIE CASSIDY: A meeting in April, it could be a long time before you close that gap?
JASON CLARE: Well we need to do it as soon as we possibly can. The report has identified this gap, the gap in the law in supplying these drugs to athletes but there are other potential gaps as well. For example, the sports scientists that are involved in providing supplements to players don’t need to be registered at the moment.
The Crime Commission has identified a number of gaps here. We need to go through the entire report. And I’ve asked the Attorney-General’s department to go through the classified report, identify the gaps that exist in the law at a federal level and at a state level and present that to the states in April so we can identify what changes to the law need to be made.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Apart from organised crime, who are the real villains here? Are they the vulnerable players or are they administrators who demand excellence and then perhaps turn a blind eye either deliberately or negligently to what’s going on?
JASON CLARE: Well it’s two people. It’s the organised criminals and it’s the people that cheat and what the report has identified is that there’s a number of people involved there. It’s the doctors that are compliant and prescribing these drugs, it’s the compound pharmacies that are involved in manufacturing the drugs, it’s the anti-ageing clinics that are sometimes involved in this process as well. As well as some of the sport scientists, as well as other support staff that are involved in the clubs that are providing the drugs to the player.
So it’s a very complex web and that’s why the Crime Commission thought it so important to release this information.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Now, late last year there were allegations of corruption at Sydney Airport, alleged corruption by customs officials and baggage handlers. Is there any connection between what we’re now hearing in the sporting world and those allegations?
JASON CLARE: The answer to that, Barrie, is no, they’re different. But what happened at Sydney Airport last year, as I confirmed and announced, that a Customs officer had been arrested in December involved allegedly in the importation of illegal drugs into the country. And I said at the time that there’ll be more stings, that there’ll be more arrests and that there’ll be more reforms. And let me emphasise that point to you again, Barrie: there will be more arrests and there will be more reform.
Last year I put through the Parliament the first stage of reforms to Customs and that involved integrity testing, drug and alcohol testing, summary dismissal powers to get rid of people that are guilty of serious misconduct. They were recommendations from the New South Wales Royal Commission into the police force that Justice James Wood developed.
But more work needs to be done and this year I’ll roll out the next stage of reforms to customs, guided by Justice James Wood who heads up the Customs Reform Board. And I’m working with him now, he’s already identified a number of reforms that need to be developed there, to make sure that we fundamentally restructure and improve the culture of customs.
BARRIE CASSIDY: So you’re saying quite confidently there will be more arrests?
JASON CLARE: I’m very clear about that, Barrie.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And on organised crime more broadly. The specific laws to confiscate unexplained wealth you have that in mind. How does that concept work and what do you say to New South Wales who say they already have tough laws and they’re working well?
JASON CLARE: Well, we all know the stories, Barrie, of criminals who drive around in big cars and have big houses but don’t have any declared income. What unexplained wealth laws do is they give police more power to demand that an organised criminal give a legal explanation for how they’ve come by their wealth. It gives police the power to seize their car, seize the jet-ski, seize the cash, seize their houses.
The reason this is so important is because police on the front line in western Sydney that I’m talking to are telling me that it’s all about money. Money creates power in the criminal underworld and if you can take these assets off them then you can take away their power and shift the balance of power for police on the street.
Now the Commonwealth already has limited, unexplained wealth law powers, the states, some of the states have these powers. But a Commonwealth parliamentary committee recommended on a bipartisan basis, Labor and Liberal, that we need national unexplained wealth laws. I put this to the states last year and they rejected it.
I think that’s the wrong decision. And I’m going to prosecute the case for this again because I think there’s no downside. For the states they can continue to use their laws if they want to or they can use this national law. So ultimately it will mean more power for police, state and federal, and it will mean more assets are taken off criminals and more money distributed to the states.
BARRIE CASSIDY: And just finally, as Minister for Justice do you think Kevin Rudd has had justice in trying to get to the bottom of who leaked that video against him?
JASON CLARE: Well I’ve got every confidence in the Australian Federal Police. Kevin has asked for more information and for more work to be done by the Federal Police. They’ve indicated that they’re happy to do that. Kevin wants that to come to a conclusion and I’m certain that that will occur.
BARRIE CASSIDY: Minister, thanks for your time this morning, appreciate it.
JASON CLARE: Thanks, Barrie.
– ENDS –