By Michelle Grattan, University of Canberra
Former Speaker Peter Slipper has been found guilty of dishonestly misusing his parliamentary entitlements in charging the taxpayer his travel to various wineries around Canberra.
Slipper took three trips between January and June 2010 using Cabcharges worth about $950.
ACT Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker said today she was satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Slipper “was dishonest in completing the Cabcharge vouchers on each of the three days”.
The prosecution argued during the case Slipper was not on official business. Counsel for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, Lionel Robberds, QC said Slipper was acting “in a personal capacity, he was having a good time on these trips, which had nothing to do with parliamentary business”.
Slipper’s lawyer, Kylie Weston-Scheuber, said there was no legal definition of what was parliamentary business – it was up to the MP.
Slipper asked for manual processing, for several vouchers to be used instead of one to break up the bills, and gave vague destinations. Walker said there was not one day on which the vouchers reflected the travel undertaken. The only reason he would fill out the vouchers incorrectly was to misrepresent what he was doing, she said.
Slipper had earlier tried to get the case dismissed, including on mental health grounds, citing depression.
In 2011 Slipper defected from the Coalition to become Speaker under the minority Gillard government, improving its numbers. In April 2012, under fire over both entitlements and sexual harassment allegations from a staffer, James Ashby, he stood aside from the Speakership. A few months later he quit the post, after sexist messages he sent surfaced in the Ashby civil court case and a motion of no confidence in him was moved (though narrowly defeated) in parliament.
He has complained that other MPs have been allowed to repay entitlements wrongly claimed but he was charged. He told Fairfax Media last October: “What is breathtaking is that I am before a court … despite a number of attempts on my part to resolve the matter administratively. Yet others are able to write cheques for much more in repayment, and in their cases the matter’s closed and no questions asked.”
He said he thought he had been targeted by the Coalition for accepting the Speakership.
Sentencing is set for September 22. The offence can bring a jail term.
Michelle Grattan does not work for, consult to, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has no relevant affiliations.