Peter Slipper’s legal counsel has told an ACT court he should not be made to stand trial for allegedly abusing his parliamentary privilege.
A court has been told it can’t rule on whether former speaker Peter Slipper was wrong to use taxpayer-funded cab charges to tour wineries, because it’s up to parliament to decide if he breached his entitlements.
The ACT Supreme Court is considering whether to grant a permanent stay of proceedings in the case of Mr Slipper, who is facing three criminal charges of dishonestly causing a loss to the Commonwealth.
The former speaker has pleaded not guilty to the charges, which relate to the use of taxi vouchers to pay for trips to wineries near Canberra in 2010 before he became speaker.
Prosecutors argue Mr Slipper’s travel on the three days in question was for personal, not parliamentary, purposes.
But his counsel, Kylie Weston-Scheuber, argued the definition of parliamentary business was “quite broad” in the Parliamentary Privileges Act and it wasn’t the role of the court to impose its interpretation in this case.
“It’s for parliament and parliament alone to define what its business is,” she told the court on Wednesday.
Ms Weston-Scheuber also claimed the case was an abuse of process because parliamentary privilege meant her client would not be able to present a proper defence.
She said breaches of parliamentary privilege weren’t usually dealt with by the courts and no exceptions should be made in the case of Mr Slipper.
“At least, there is no other precedent that I am aware of,” she said.
Mr Slipper’s previous bid to delay his hearing was rejected by the ACT Magistrate’s Court in December, but an appeal was lodged in the Supreme Court.
Tom Howe, QC, for the Commonwealth Director of Public Prosecutions, said it was “self-evidently far fetched” to suggest the parliament didn’t intend for the courts to deal with cases like this when it designed the privileges act.
“Rather they are doing the very thing that the legislature … contemplated and anticipated,” he said.
The definitions of parliamentary business in relation to car travel were “very tight”, he added.
Mr Slipper lost his bid for re-election in the Queensland seat of Fisher at the September election.
He did not attend the hearing, which is continuing.
The judge has reserved his decision to a date yet to be set.