21st July, 2014 by Neal Baker
A dishonesty case brought against a former Australian parliamentary speaker is heating up after he admitted paying for trips to wineries with taxpayer-funded taxi vouchers.
An Australian courtroom like the one in which ex-MP Peter Slipper is stranding trial
Former Australian MP Peter Slipper is accused of misusing about $900 worth of ‘cabcharge’ vouchers for private day-trips to several Australian wineries four years ago.
He faces up to one year in prison or $10,000 (£5,500) in fines if convicted.
And with this latest admission, the case now rests on whether he knew his actions could cause a financial loss to the government and whether he acted dishonestly, the Daily Mail Australia reports.
Former MP Peter Slipper
Slipper is a former Queensland Nationals and Liberal MP who later sat an Independent. He who served in parliament for two decades, but failed to retain the seat of Fisher at the 2013 election.
The two drivers who escorted Slipper to various wineries gave evidence on the first day of his week-long trial on Monday.
Hire car driver Gary Green told the court he drove Slipper and another male around several wineries for four-and-a-half hours on January 20, 2010.
As the day wore on he noticed Slipper was affected by alcohol and was “flushed in the face.” He said, “I could smell intoxicating liquor through the car.”
On all three of his trips Slipper used tax-funded vouchers to split up the fares, reportedly using descriptions in his expenses such as “parliament to suburbs” and “suburbs to suburbs”.
The prosecution alleges Slipper knew he was breaking the rules, that he was attempting to cover it up, and that his actions could cause a financial loss to the state.
However, the defence argues Slipper’s intentions were clean.
This argument comes after a bid to get the charges dropped under the Mental Health Act was rejected in the public interest.
The court was told that the former speaker had spiralled into despair as a result of criminal allegations and last year he had twice attempted to take his own life.
The trial continues.