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Travel report - Minister Marlene Kairouz, China, Hong Kong and Macau, December 2017

Minister's name The Hon Marlene Kairouz MP
Portfolios

Minister for Consumer Affairs, Gaming and Liquor Regulation

Minister for Local Government

Did the Minister’s spouse accompany the Minister in an official capacity? No
Accompanying ministerial staff Mr Michael de Bruyn
Countries visited China, Hong Kong and Macau
Date of travel 5 December 2017 – 11 December 2017
Number of official travel days (include day of departure and day of return) 7 days
Funding source (list department/s or agency) Department of Justice and Regulation
Air fares (including taxes and fees) $13,303.86
Accommodation (including taxes and fees) $6,924.40
Other expenses (including surface travel and travel allowances) $8,054.01
Travel cost for Minister and ministerial staff $28,282.27*

*The above costs are not final and complete. 

Purpose of travel

The purpose of the Minister’s travel was to engage with municipal governments in China to support a better understanding of council activities through both the Regional Cities Alliance and independent sister city relationships, and opportunities for mutual benefit at the local and state levels. The Minister visited the Xuzhou, Wuxi and Jiangsu People’s Governments, holding meetings with high ranking government officials and office holders.

In Hong Kong the Minister engaged with regulators in both the liquor and gaming portfolio areas to discuss both jurisdictional regulatory regimes as well as harm minimisation strategies used in the Hong Kong Special Administration Region.

The Minister also met with Australian Federal Police officers as well as a casino operator in Macau for confidential briefings on the risks of organised crime syndicates using Macau casinos to launder money from illegal activities and the challenges faced in regulation in both Macau and Hong Kong.

Local Government

Local governments play an important role in supporting Victoria’s international engagement priorities, including specific contributions to the Victoria-Jiangsu sister state relationship.

The Minister met with the Xuzhou Municipal People’s Government and Wuxi Municipal People’s Government, sister cities of Greater Dandenong and Frankston respectively; the Foreign Affairs Office of the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government, the Victorian Government’s key partner organisation with responsibility for the Regional Cities Alliance; and the Nanjing Municipal People’s Government, Jiangsu’s capital city. The travel also included broader cultural and technical visits to provide context around Chinese society and municipal operations.

These cities are all going through rapid transformations and infrastructure builds. At a municipal government level, long term strategic planning is central to this work as China rapidly modernises and grows.

The Minister was given a tour of the Wuxi Urban Planning Exhibition Centre and a briefing on the construction of the ‘new town’ (or city centre) for Wuxi, which will incorporate pharmaceutical and biotechnology industry and employment hubs, higher education facilities as well as precision manufacturing in electronics, new energy technologies and information technology.   

Whilst on a smaller scale, Victorian councils face their own infrastructure challenges with rapid population growth and development, especially municipalities that take in Melbourne’s fast growing outer suburbs.

Liquor and Gaming

The purpose of the Minister’s travel was to build on the recent Victorian Government commitment of $148 million over four years to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation to develop and continue initiatives to prevent, reduce and treat gambling harm in Victoria.

The Minister met with the Hong Kong Liquor Licencing Board, the Hong Kong Betting and Lotteries Commission (which included representatives from the Hong Kong Jockey Club), the Ping Wo Foundation (a responsible gambling body similar to the Victorian Responsible Gambling Foundation) as well as the Home Affairs Bureau. 

Both the importance of balancing a strong and vibrant nightlife and bar culture as well as strategies to minimise harm from alcohol abuse were discussed in the meeting with the Hong Kong Liquor Board. Hong Kong and Melbourne are both cities well known for their night-time economies and have had success in preventing the harm and social problems seen in other ’24 hour cities’.

Hong Kong currently does not require a licence for the sale of packaged liquor for off-site consumption. The Hong Kong Government has recently announced a number of measures to try and restrict the supply of alcohol to minors and increase public awareness to the harm that can be caused by alcohol abuse.

As Victoria continues its work in reviewing the Liquor Control Reform Act (LCRA) and the implementation of recommendations from the Royal Commission into Family Violence, discussions with international jurisdictions and sharing approaches to harm minimisation are critical.

Hong Kong published a ‘Report on the Study of Hong Kong People’s Participation in Gambling Activities in 2016’. The report found that the participation rate of people in Hong Kong in gambling activities has decreased, and that this trend may be linked to publicity and education efforts as well as measures in place to alleviate gambling problems. This report served as an important discussion point on the need to continuously build on strategies to reduce and treat gambling harm in Victoria. From these meetings, the Victorian Government built relationships which will assist with future knowledge exchanges with the Hong Kong Betting and Lotteries Commission and the Ping Wo foundation.

The Minister also travelled to Macau and met with a casino operator who demonstrated how Macau’s regulations are enforced and how they impact on casino operators and their visitors. The casino additionally took the Minister on a walking tour to show the back of house and how the day to day operations are managed.

In Macau the Minister also met with Australian Federal Police (AFP) officers who provided a confidential briefing on illicit gambling and offshore wagering that occurs in Macau and Hong Kong, and how it impacts on Victoria. The infiltration of casinos and other forms of gambling is a major concern and remains a significant challenge for the Macau and Hong Kong jurisdictions. This meeting provided valuable insight into what the Victorian Government can do to better assist the AFP and Victoria Police as well as adopt strategies in Victoria to prevent and identify the infiltration of organised crime in gambling in the state.

The Minister also met the Consul General to Hong Kong and Macau, Michaela Browning, for a discussion on the relationship between Hong Kong and Victoria and the importance of continued strong trade and business investment worth over $1 billion annually.

Representing the Victorian Government at the 2017 Hong Kong Business of Design Week

In Hong Kong, the Minister led Victoria’s 53-strong delegation, representing 40 design-focused organisations at the 2017 Hong Kong Business of Design Week. The Minister represented Victoria at the official handover to Melbourne as the partner city for the 2018 Design Week event.

The handover to Melbourne as the partner city for the 2018 Hong Kong Business of Design Week was a highlight of the travel. Partnering with Hong Kong Business of Design Week provides Victoria’s design sector access to potential new trade and investment partners and a platform to showcase their businesses, services and expertise.

Some of our leading and emerging designers attended this international event with the Minister, representing Victoria as Melbourne prepares to take centre stage as the official partner city for the 2018 event.

Benefits of travel to the State of Victoria

Local Government

  • Demonstrated local government portfolio support for the Regional Cities Alliance through diplomatic engagement with the Jiangsu Provincial People’s Government’s Foreign Affairs Office, as well as broader strengthening of the Victoria-Jiangsu sister state relationship
  • Demonstrated support for municipal level engagement within the Victoria-Jiangsu sister state relationship, through meetings with Greater Dandenong and Frankston’s sister cities (Xuzhou Municipal People’s Government and Wuxi Municipal People’s Government respectively)
  • Improved understanding of municipal operations and opportunities in Jiangsu, including the nature and benefits of sister city relationships
  • Enhanced understanding of the strengths and opportunities associated with Victoria’s China engagement, and how municipal activity can contribute to deliver mutual local benefit.

Liquor and Gaming

  • Engaged with the Hong Kong Government who have successfully implemented strategies to curb problem gambling and harm from alcohol abuse
  • Discussed strategies to promote a strong nightlife culture whilst giving proper regard for the harms that can be caused from alcohol abuse
  • Gained the understanding of the complexities of casino operations and strategies that casino operators use to comply with regulations
  • Improved understanding of illicit gambling and offshore wagering and how it impacts on Victoria.

Next steps/ follow up

  • Continued work with Victorian municipalities to better understand the opportunities and challenges faced in developing and delivering their international engagement priorities
  • Progress opportunities to support effective international engagement at the local government level, including where it connects with Victorian government priorities such as the sister state relationship between Victoria and Jiangsu
  • Continue to share information with bodies like the Hong Kong Jockey Club and the gambling regulator in Hong Kong to develop strategies to prevent illegal offshore wagering and infiltration of gambling by organised crime
  • Consider international approaches to harm minimisation as part of the ongoing policy work in the review of the LCRA currently underway by the Victorian Government.

 

 

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The department acknowledges Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander people as the Traditional Custodians of the land and acknowledges and pays respect to their Elders, past and present.