Former House Speaker Peter Slipper tried to repay the Commonwealth after allegations emerged he had misused his parliamentary travel entitlements, but was told he couldn't because the matter had been referred to police, a court has heard.
Slipper is fighting accusations he dishonestly used government-issued Cabcharge vouchers to fund three trips to Canberra-region wineries in 2010, before he was Speaker.
Following lengthy delays and two attempts by Slipper to have the case dismissed, a week-long hearing is now under way in the ACT Magistrates Court.
On Monday the court heard Slipper admitted he used about $1000 worth of vouchers to pay for the hire car trips to wineries, including Clonakilla and Poachers Pantry.
However, the former Queensland MP, who pleaded not guilty to three charges brought against him, maintains he did not act dishonestly.
Finance Department assistant secretary Greg Miles told the court from the witness box on Tuesday that Slipper's government-issued Cabcharge card allowed him to travel at Commonwealth expense at times.
Mr Miles said MPs were not usually required to provide details of travel they claimed as parliamentary business.
Slipper's defence lawyer Kylie Weston-Scheuber referred to several government documents to argue the definitions of what constituted parliamentary business were unclear.
The court heard there was a process for the Finance Department to recoup funds from politicians if they were found to have claimed outside of their entitlements.
Mr Miles said Mr Slipper had offered to repay funds related to the three trips in question in June 2012, but was told by senior bureaucrats in the Finance Department that it wouldn't be proper to discuss the matter as it had been referred to the AFP.
Chief Magistrate Lorraine Walker did not allow a line of questioning from Dr Weston-Scheuber which concerned payments made by Prime Minister Tony Abbott after it emerged in 2013 that he had claimed expenses to travel to the weddings of two colleagues, including Mr Slipper, while he was Leader of the House of Representatives.
Mr Abbott had later repaid the funds.
Ms Walker said the questioning was not relevant as Mr Abbott's matter had surfaced several years after Slipper's alleged offences, so could not have had any bearing on his state of mind at the time.
The court had heard the initial investigation into Slipper's travel entitlements was prompted by allegations brought by former political staffer James Ashby about car trips in 2012.
In his evidence, Detective Sergeant Michael Turner, a federal agent with the AFP, told the court he had recommended the scope of an investigation into Slipper's alleged misuse of his travel entitlements be widened to cover a period of more than two years.
His said his decision was prompted by Mr Ashby's claims, as well as Finance Department documents released under Freedom of Information laws and related media reports about the allegations.
Detective Sergeant Turner said his recommendation had been endorsed by senior police, including AFP Assistant Commissioner Ramzi Jabbour and Deputy Commissioner Andrew Colvin
He said he did not have any discussions with members of the government about the investigation, and was not aware of other senior police having such conversations.
The hearing continues.