Illustration: Rocco Fazzari
THE former parliamentary speaker Peter Slipper has been summonsed to face court for alleged breaches of federal criminal laws, further destabilising Julia Gillard's minority government in an election year.
The Australian Federal Police have not confirmed what the summons is about, but it is understood it relates to Mr Slipper's alleged misuse of travel entitlements and that the alleged offences carry a maximum five-year jail term.
The Queensland MP is due to appear in the Canberra Magistrates Court on February 15, where he can expect to be formally charged. The police statement said it was ''in relation to three offences of Dishonestly Causing a Risk of a Loss to the Commonwealth''.
If a federal MP is found guilty of a criminal offence that carries a jail term of one year or more, they are disqualified from Parliament. If Mr Slipper was to leave in such circumstances, the government's slim majority would come under pressure on contentious pieces of legislation.
Labor would have 76 votes to the Coalition's 74 if the Greens' Adam Bandt and independents Craig Thomson, Andrew Wilkie, Rob Oakeshott and Tony Windsor are counted with Labor and Bob Katter, Tony Crook and Peter Slipper's replacement are counted with the opposition.
Fairfax Media understands that even if found guilty Mr Slipper is unlikely to face the maximum penalty and his trips relate to three hire car journeys in 2010, amounting to about $900, beyond the allowed Canberra region.
Mr Slipper stood aside as Speaker last April following accusations by his staffer James Ashby that he had misused taxi dockets, as well as separate claims he had sexually harassed Mr Ashby. Last month, the Federal Court threw out Mr Ashby's sexual harassment claim.
Correction: The original version of this story referred to the offences being related to Comcar trips in 2010, rather than hire car trips.