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Australia Labor calls for senior Liberal MP Terry Stephens to stand aside amid push for police probe

08:40  30 june  2020
08:40  30 june  2020 Source:   abc.net.au

Embattled MP Terry Stephens lists companies at Adelaide address, despite rural residence claim

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Labor is demanding the President of South Australia's Legislative Council Terry Stephens stand aside, while it calls for a police investigation into the use of accommodation expenses by country MPs.

Mr Stephens has referred himself to the state's tax commissioner, after an ABC investigation revealed he has not paid land tax on an Adelaide property that he insists is not his primary residence.

In South Australia, only primary residences and land which meets a limited range of other criteria are exempt from the tax.

The ABC investigation has also raised questions as to whether Mr Stephens has used an apartment he owned in Victor Harbor to claim tens of thousands of dollars in Country Members Accommodation Allowance.

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Online videos, reviews and advertisements suggest the apartment was offered as a holiday rental as early as 2017, and was sold in April last year with a tenant.

Yesterday, Mr Stephens insisted he had moved from that apartment to another in the same building in 2017.

But the ABC has confirmed he remained on the electoral roll at the first apartment until its sale in 2019.

Mr Stephens maintains he has done nothing wrong, and insists he has followed the rules in claiming the allowance.

But the Shadow Attorney-General, Kyam Maher, said Labor has referred the matter to the anti-corruption branch of the South Australian police force.

"The public has a right to full transparency when it comes to their money," Mr Maher said.

"Terry Stephens cannot remain as Upper House President while there are unanswered questions about this matter.

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"He must stand aside pending a full investigation."

Parliament yesterday released an annual breakdown of Country Members Accommodation Allowance payments for 2018-19 and 2019-20.

But Mr Maher said Labor would move a resolution in Parliament, requiring the release of all paperwork detailing individual claims dating back to 2010.

"The public must have confidence in the Parliament and its parliamentarians," he said.

Premier dismisses Labor calls

Premier Steven Marshall said he was standing by Mr Stephens and dismissed Labor's calls for him to order the senior MP to release expense details over the past decade.

"I think this is really an issue that Terry Stephens is going to have to work out," Mr Marshall said.

"It's just not something the Government presides over, it's something the Parliament presides over and I think individual members can answer those questions."

Mr Marshall said it was also for Mr Stephens to explain why land tax had not been levied on his Adelaide property.

"Terry Stephens maintains that he has done nothing wrong," the Premier said.

"He's referring his own documents to the Commissioner for Taxation in South Australia and I certainly haven't been provided with any information that suggests he's done the wrong thing.

"But can I just say this — we have very, very strict rules regarding allowances in the South Australian Parliament and I expect all members to be doing the right thing, whether they're a Liberal or not."

Barilaro slams ‘gutless’ Liberals over Eden-Monaro loss .
NSW Deputy Nationals leader John Barilaro has come out swinging against his Liberal colleagues, accusing some of them of being “gutless” and failing to take responsibility for the Eden-Monaro by-election loss. Labor candidate Kristy McBain has claimed victory over her Liberal counterpart Fiona Kotvojs in the hotly contested Eden-Monaro by-election.The Liberals have not conceded, with fewer than 700 votes separating the major parties.In the runup to the election, Mr Barilaro had praised Labor’s Kristy McBain and did not rule out one day running for the seat himself.

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