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AUSTRALIA: Dominic Perrottet Questioned About Suspended MP Gareth Ward’s Pay

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#AceDailyNews – New South Wales Premier Dominic Perrottet says the government is now not intending to bring forward legislation to remove the pay and entitlements of suspended MP Gareth Ward.

Man stands NSW parliament speaking at the dispatch box
Gareth Ward has been the subject of questioning at budget estimates.(ABC Illawarra)none

The parliament voted in March to suspend the Member for Kiama after he was charged with sexual offences, with some of the allegations involving a 17-year-old boy.

Mr Ward says he is innocent of the charges and has refused the Premier’s request to resign.

When moving the suspension, Deputy Premier Paul Toole suggested the government was also considering further action.

“I can also foreshadow that the government will take any available action to suspend the salary and other entitlements of the member for the period of his suspension.”

In a budget estimates hearing today, Labor MPs quizzed the Premier over his contact with Mr Ward.

Mr Perrottet said he had texted him at the time he was charged and had had no other contact.

Dominic Perrottet
Dominic Perrottet says Mr Ward is entitled to attend community events.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)none

Labor MP Penny Sharpe asked if the government was continuing to look at making a law to strip Mr Ward of his pay and entitlements.

“There had been public statements that suggested the government was going to bring forward legislation in relation to this matter — that’s not happening, is that right?”

“Not that I am aware of,” Mr Perrottet said.

The Premier said the matter had now been referred to a parliamentary privileges committee.

Presumption of innocence

Ms Sharpe also asked if Mr Ward was still being paid and maintained access to his electorate office and all of his staff.

“I’ll take that on notice, but I think so, he is an elected member of parliament,” Mr Perrottet said.

“The Member for Kiama should be afforded the presumption of innocence.

“But in respect of being in public office, I think there are certain duties that we have to entail in our roles that I think need to be looked at.

“I know the Department of Education or the Minister for Education acted in relation to attendance at schools, and I think that is appropriate in these circumstances.”

Mr Perrottet said he would take on notice whether there should be an interim bar on Mr Ward’s working-with-children check.

Gareth Ward stands outside Bomaderry High School.
Gareth Ward has been banned from visiting schools in his electorate while charges against him are pending.(ABC Illawarra: Justin Huntsdale)none

The Kiama MP recently shared images on social media of his continued community duties including attending events and handing out awards.

Ms Sharpe asked the Premier if he was frustrated that Mr Ward was “continuing on” with the exception of being in the parliament.

“I mean he is out on social media, he has been doing street stalls, he has been giving out awards?” Ms Sharpe said.

“Yeah,” Mr Perrottet said.

“Do you believe this is appropriate?” she said.

“I think he is entitled to do that as a member of parliament,” he said.

“And you are going to wait for this committee to see what else can occur?” she said.

“Well, he is a democratically elected member of parliament and he is entitled to the presumption of innocence,” he said.

“Look, I thought it would be better in the circumstances for both Mr Ward personally and in relation to the parliament [that] he should consider his position, but ultimately we are in a democratically elected place.

“Now, in relation to the areas where he should be entitled to attend events and certain locations, we have obviously made a point with relation to education and schools because that is within our ambit with the Department of Education, but I will look into those other matters.”

The Premier also told the hearing he was not aware of any formal complaints made against Mr Ward.

ABC News

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