The inquiry was to have the same powers of a royal commission, including the ability to compel parties to give evidence and produce documents.
However, as revealed by the SMH and The Age’s CBD column on January 30, Melco took the regulator to the NSW Supreme Court last week to challenge its right to demand nine documents covered by legal privilege.
On Tuesday Justice Christine Adamson ruled in Melco’s favour, meaning ILGA will not be able to access to the documents.
The case hinged on how a section of the Royal Commission Act, relating to witnesses not being able to use legal privilege to excuse themselves from giving evidence or producing documents, applied in the Casino Control Act.
Melco’s legal team, led by Steven Finch, SC, argued the casino legislation failed to clearly express that its intention was to abrogate what was a fundamental common law right.
Justice Adamson ruled that the court “ought not be left to guess” about what powers were intended to be given to a commissioner appointed to run an ILGA inquiry.
“If parliament intended that… it was obliged to make its intention clear,” she said. But instead, the wording of the casino legislation meant there was “substantial risk that the full implications” of the law would go unnoticed as it passed through parliament.
Justice Adamson said it was not for the court to “to enable parliament to avoid confronting the inevitably controversial question whether, in inquiries held by [ILGA]…, it is desirable to abrogate fundamental privileges and rights of witnesses and persons required to produce documents”.
The NSW Attorney General, Mark Speakman, has been contacted for comment.
Melco last week tore up its deal with Mr Packer for the transfer of the second 10 per cent tranche of Crown shares, worth $880 million, saying it needed to focus on its core Asian businesses which are being negatively affected by the coronavirus outbreak.
Melco said it did not intend to increase its stake in Crown above the 10 per cent which it had already bought from Mr Packer and would no longer seek seats on Crown’s board.
Business reporter at The Age and Sydney Morning Herald.