Slipper's lawyer questions public interest in fraud case
UPDATE: Peter Slipper's lawyer has today questioned the public interest in pursuing fraud charges against the embattled Sunshine Coast MP and former Speaker.
Mr Slipper will front court in late March on three allegations of fraud relating to Cab charge entitlements.
His lawyer appeared on his behalf in Canberra Magistrates Court on Friday morning.
While Mr Slipper has not been formally charged yet, a lengthy investigation into his use of parliamentarians' entitlements by the Australian Federal Police led to allegations of the charges by the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions last month.
Various reports have said the charges related to day trips Mr Slipper went on around the Australian Capital Territory to wineries, with travel believed to be paid for by the taxpayer.
After the brief hearing in Canberra this morning, Mr Slipper's lawyer Peter Russo said he thought it was suspicious and unusual that such a case had been taken directly to court, rather than followed up out of the public eye.
"It's a bit unusual that such a matter has been progressed to this stage through the court system," Mr Russo said.
"It's also a bit difficult to determine what the specific public interest would be in pursuing this matter in this manner."
Mr Russo said Mr Slipper maintained his innocence of the charges.
The case comes just months after the former Speaker of the House of Representatives beat charges of sexual harassment his former employee James Ashby laid against him, in a case which the judge Justice Steven Rares said revealed a political conspiracy against Mr Slipper.
Mr Russo asked the Court for an adjournment of the case to Monday March 25, to which the Commonwealth DPP agreed.
Peter Slipper facing his day in court
MEMBER for Fisher Peter Slipper faces a Canberra court today where he will be formally charged with three counts of fraud.
The former LNP representative and ex-Speaker of the House of Representatives is alleged to have knowingly filled out false details on a series of Cabcharge vouchers relating to travel on three separate days in 2010 to hide from the Department of Finance and Administration the true nature of the expense incurred.
Court documents show it will be alleged today that Mr Slipper had been repeatedly requested since 2006 by Parliamentary and Ministerial Services to use his Cabcharge card electronically because vouchers posed accountability and administration problems.
Despite that correspondence it will be alleged that on January 20, 2010, he used Cabcharge vouchers to pay the $337 cost to travel from Canberra to a number of wineries, a purpose not covered by his entitlements.
The Australian Federal Police have alleged he filled in and signed four Cabcharge dockets showing false information in each as to where the "trips" started and ended including false details for the amounts of the fares.
The AFP will allege he wrote dockets for trips from Parliament House to suburbs $87; from suburbs to Parliament House $80; from suburbs to suburbs $75; and from suburbs to suburbs $95.
It is alleged the details were false and Mr Slipper knew them to be so.
"He deliberately did not fill in the actual details of the trip and deliberately did not fill in the actual fare for the trip of $337,'' court documents say.
"His intention in doing so was to hide from the Department of Finance and Administration the fact that he had used the Cabcharge card when he knew he was not entitled to do so.
"He believed that the Department of Finance and Administration would not find out that he had improperly used the card and he believed that the department would pay for the fares.''
Mr Slipper will also face similar charges for allegedly using the same method to hide trips to wineries on April 19 and June 27 on both occasions disguising the true nature of the journeys by falsely filling in Cabcharge vouchers he had been told not to use.
The court appearance comes two and a half years after the Sunshine Coast Daily first raised questions about the Member of Parliament's extravagant use of his parliamentary expenses and drew attention to the large amounts of taxpayers' money he used on taxis and limo hire.