SA MP to face trial over allowance fraud claims

A former state Liberal MP turned independent is set to go to trial on deception charges after losing a bid to halt the case.

Mar 23, 2023, updated Mar 23, 2023
Fraser Ellis will face trial over alleged fraudulent claims of the country member accommodation allowances. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Fraser Ellis will face trial over alleged fraudulent claims of the country member accommodation allowances. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Fraser Ellis, who now sits on the crossbench in state parliament, is charged with 23 counts of making fraudulent claims for a parliamentary allowance.

The charges against him arose from an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Ellis is accused of making more than $18,000 in fraudulent claims for the country members’ accommodation allowance, between May 13, 2018 and June 12, 2020.

It’s alleged he claimed accommodation expenses for staying in Adelaide overnight to carry out his parliamentary duties when he was not actually staying in the city.

The charges prompted him to move to the crossbench in the SA House of Assembly, where he was elected as the Liberal member for Narungga in 2018.

He was returned for another four-year term at the March state election after contesting the seat as an independent.

In submissions to the South Australian Court of Appeal, Ellis argued the prosecution amounted to an abuse of process because the forms used to claim the allowance had been tabled in parliament and were subject to debate, which rendered them protected by privilege and unable to be tendered in court.

His appeal came after those same arguments were previously rejected by a magistrate.

It was generally considered that if all the documents were excluded from evidence, the case against Ellis was unlikely to proceed.

But in its unanimous judgment on Thursday, the appeal court ruled that while copies of the claim forms tabled in the parliament were covered by privilege, the key “unredacted copies of the date-stamped, hard copy claim forms” were not protected.

It said to rule otherwise would undermine the functions of the other arms of government.

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“The logic of the applicant’s argument would mean that any member of parliament who had dishonestly submitted false claim forms could manufacture protection from the risk of some future prosecution by routinely tabling the forms,” the appeal court said.

After an earlier court appearance, Ellis vowed to defend the allegations and said he was “innocent until proven guilty”.

“I’m certainly intending to clear my name in the fullness of time,” he told reporters.


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