Ex-speaker Peter Slipper used funds for wineries

Last updated 14:45 21/07/2014
Slipper
Fairfax Australia

HEADING TO COURT: Peter Slipper.

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Australia's former parliamentary Speaker Peter Slipper has admitted using Commonwealth funds to visit wineries outside of Canberra, but denies he behaved dishonestly.

After months of delays, Slipper's six-day trial began today in the ACT Magistrates Court, where he walked past media in silence, his eyes shielded by dark sunglasses.

In a statement, Slipper admitted to using Commonwealth CabCharge vouchers to visit wineries in 2010.

"Much of the conduct in this case is not in dispute," defence lawyer Suzan Gencay told the court.

In dispute was whether Slipper's actions resulted in financial loss, whether he believed they would cause substantial loss and whether there was any evidence of dishonesty, she said.

Slipper is charged with misusing more than A$900 (NZ$971) worth of CabCharge vouchers on three occasions in the first half of 2010.

If convicted, he faces up to a year in prison and fines that could total A$10,000.

The prosecution alleges Slipper manually filled out multiple vouchers for single journeys to hide the non-parliamentary nature of the trips.

It is alleged he was accompanied by a male on some of the trips and his wife on at least one occasion.

MPs and senators are only allowed to use government funds to pay for official or parliamentary travel.

In June, Slipper's lawyers argued the charges should be dismissed under the Mental Health Act due to his state of mind.

The court was told his life had spiralled into one of despair as a result of criminal allegations and in 2013 he had twice attempted suicide.

Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker ruled the trial should go ahead for the sake of public interest.

Slipper also failed to secure a stay in proceedings by way of parliamentary privilege.

Eight witnesses will take the stand during the trial and evidence from a further 27 will be submitted.

Slipper is a former Queensland Nationals and Liberal MP who served in parliament for two decades but failed to retain the seat of Fisher at the 2013 election.

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- AAP

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