Aussie ex-MP guilty of tax-funded wine tours28th July, 2014 by Neal Baker
Former Australian MP and parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper has been found guilty of misusing taxpayer funds for private visits to various Canberra wineries.
Chief magistrate Lorraine Walker ruled on Monday (28 July) on three charges relating to the misuse of about $1000 (£550) in tax-funded taxi vouchers on three occasions in 2010, reports news.co.au.
He is to be sentenced on September 22, where he could face up to one year in prison or $10,000 (£5,500) in fines.
The judge told the court she had found Slipper had used multiple receipts and purposefully filed them in a dishonest and obstructive way, using descriptions in his expenses such as “parliament to suburbs” and “suburbs to suburbs”.
It is reported that those journeys included short visits to wineries that were consistent with the length of time a wine tasting might take, and at least one long visit that indicated he may have enjoyed a private lunch on tax-payers’ money.
She said an analysis of the vouchers showed several in no way reflected his actual movements on the days in question.
“There could only have been one reason,” she said. “… He was not travelling within entitlements and he knew he was not traveling within entitlements.”
The taxi vouchers are funded by the tax-payer and are to be used only for travel related to parliamentary or governmental business.
Slipper last week faced a four-day trail during which his defence team had argued that he had been negligent rather than purposefully dishonest.
News.co.au reports that Mr Slipper stepped down as the independent speaker in 2012 after lewd text messages he sent describing the female anatomy became public.
Mr Slipper left the Liberal National Party in order to become an independent to fulfil the prominent role of parliamentary speaker offered by former prime minister Julia Gillard in 2011.
Mr Slipper, who the court was told is suffering a major depressive illness, was present for the verdict and each day of last week’s hearing.
He earlier lost two bids to have the charges against him dismissed on the grounds of his mental health after it was revealed that last year he had twice attempted suicide.