Slipper faces court
Former speaker Peter Slipper has appeared before ACT magistrate's court to enter a not guilty plea over charges of misusing Commonwealth Cabcharge vouchers.PT3M5S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-2k2u9 620 349 May 23, 2013
Former speaker Peter Slipper will stand trial in December over claims he defrauded the Commonwealth.
Mr Slipper made his first appearance in the ACT Magistrates Court on Thursday to answer the allegations.
He was formally charged by Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker for three counts of dishonestly using Cabcharge cards in 2010.
Peter Slipper arrives at the ACT Magistrates Court in Canberra. Photo: Andrew Meares
Mr Slipper is accused of using the vouchers to visit wineries and restaurants in the Canberra region, amassing a travel bill worth about $1000.
Speaking outside court, Mr Slipper said he strongly maintained his innocence and would vigorously fight the charges.
"This matter should be looked at in perspective, what we're talking about is whether a sum of $964 expended was within or outside entitlement," he said.
Security clears a path for Mr Slipper outside the Magistrates Court. Photo: Alex Ellinghausen
"That's a matter that is usually handled administratively between the member and Department of Finance, instead this matter has been set down for a seven-day trial.
"I regret that I have not been given the equivalence of treatment given to other members and senators."
Mr Slipper also found the time during his short statement to fire a broadside at his former Coalition colleague and Opposition Leader Tony Abbott, who was in court for another matter.
"I had intended to make a more comprehensive statement today, but on legal advice, that I'm paying for, unlike Tony Abbott who is receiving pro bono assistance from [a legal firm], I'm not able to say anything further."
Police say Mr Slipper claimed the journeys as parliamentary entitlements by falsifying information on the cards to disguise the true nature of the outings.
Peter Russo, the former Liberal Party member's lawyer, last month entered pleas of not guilty on behalf of his absent client.
Mr Slipper, who resigned from his position as speaker last year, maintained those pleas on Thursday.
The case management hearing was told the Commonwealth prosecution had completed its brief of evidence against the Member for Fisher and was ready to go to trial.
Ms Walker set the hearing to start on December 2.
The court heard the matter was expected to take seven days and 38 witnesses – seven police and 31 civilian - would be called.