Parliament Censures Former Minister Bruce Billson for Undeclared Payments

Bruce Billson talks to 7.30

Former Liberal minister Bruce Billson has been censured by Parliament for undeclared payments while he was still a sitting MP.

The retired member for the Victorian seat of Dunkley announced in March 2016 he was taking a job as Franchise Council of Australia (FCA) executive director, but he did not notify the Parliament’s register of interests that he had begun receiving a $75,000 salary in the job, months before he was due to retire from his seat.

He also admitted to receiving an undeclared payment from a “friend” through his personal consultancy business while still a member of Parliament.

A parliamentary inquiry into Mr Billson’s failure to list the FCA salary on the compulsory register of members’ interests handed down its final report on Monday, recommending that he be censured.

On Tuesday, Liberal MP Ross Vasta — who chaired the privileges committee investigation — moved the motion censuring Mr Billson.

“I move that the House censure the former member for Dunkley, Mr Bruce Billson, for failing to discharge his obligations as a Member to the House in taking up paid employment for services to represent the interests of an organisation while he was a Member of the House, and failing to fulfil his responsibilities as a member by appropriately declaring his personal and pecuniary interests, in respect of this paid employment, in accordance with the resolutions and standing orders of the House,” Mr Vasta said.

Labor MP Pat Conroy seconded the motion and said it was a serious course of action for Parliament.

“Ultimately when we leave this place our highest and most remaining asset is our reputation and this motion goes to that,” he told the House.

“It’s very rare for a motion of censure to originate from a recommendation of the privileges committee and to be adopted by the House.”

The privileges committee stopped short of finding that Mr Billson’s conduct amounted to a contempt of Parliament, which can lead to potential penalties of six months in prison or a $5,000 fine.

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