A MONTH after a Federal Court judge cleared him of sexually harassing a former staffer, Peter Slipper is embroiled in yet another scandal, this time for allegedly misusing a government Cabcharge card.
The Australian Federal Police yesterday issued the former parliamentary speaker with a summons to face ACT Magistrates Court in relation to three offences of “dishonestly causing a risk of a loss to the Commonwealth”.
The AFP alleges that on three separate occasions in 2010 when he was a coalition MP, Mr Slipper used a taxpayer-funded hire car to visit half a dozen wineries and restaurants. The trips cost $1194.
Mr Slipper falsely filled in four Cabcharge dockets describing trips as “suburbs to suburbs” and “Parliament House to suburbs”, police allege. MPs can travel at government expense only if they are undertaking parliamentary, electorate or official business.
If convicted, Mr Slipper will be disqualified as an MP because the offences are punishable under the law of the Commonwealth by imprisonment for one year or longer, according to section 44 of the constitution. The maximum penalty is five years’ jail.
The constitution states that if an MP is disqualified, they are entitled to a refund of their superannuation contributions without interest, but to no other benefit, meaning Mr Slipper won’t receive his yearly retirement pension of about $157,000 for the rest of his life, Fairfax reports.
If Mr Slipper is disqualified from parliament this could place Julia Gillard’s minority government under pressure, but it is unlikely it would fall. Labor currently sits on 76 votes to the Coalition’s 74.
It comes after a Federal Court judge threw out a sexual harassment case against him brought by former staffer James Ashby.
Mr Ashby claimed he had received “unwelcome sexual advances, unwelcome sexual comments and unwelcome suggestions of a sexual nature” while working as Mr Slipper’s aide and media adviser in early 2012. Mr Slipper stood aside from the speakership last April after sexually explicit text messages he had sent were published.
In a scathing judgment last month, Justice Steven Rares dismissed the claims, finding it was a “planned political attack” and an “abuse of process”. It is understood Mr Ashby will continue to pursue his sexual harassment case, taking the matter to the Fair Work Commission.
Mr Slipper will appear in ACT Magistrates Court on March 25 where he will be formally charged.