MP Tim Wilson has not been found in contempt of the House of Representatives for his activities around the franking credits inquiry, though his actions may have fallen below the standard expected, says the Speaker of the House of Representatives.
Mr Wilson is the Char of the House of Representatives inquiry into the refundability of franking credits. He has been criticised for his conduct while the inquiry has been ongoing, including his Stop the Retirement Tax website.
Labor asked the Speaker to consider if the actions of Mr Wilson were improper interference with the inquiry amounting to contempt of the House. Labor has also been calling on Mr Wilson to resign as Chair of the Committee.
The Speaker told the House: “I do not believe that evidence has been presented to demonstrate that the Member for Goldstein’s [MP Tim Wilson] actions have prevented the Committee in a fundamental way from continuing to fulfil its basic responsibilities in relation to its inquiry work.”
The Speaker said he didn’t propose for a motion to go forward referring the matter to the Committee of Privileges and Members’ Interests.
However the Speaker did say that the actions of Mr Wilson “have not always conformed with what I see as the conventions usually observed by Chairs of House committees and the practice of House committees”, pointing to two matters.
The first was “having a private website ‘authorised by’, and with the badging of, the Chair of the Committee, which appeared to solicit submissions and attendees at public hearings from just one perspective”. This refers to Tim Wilson’s Stop the Retirement Tax website. Mr Wilson is continuing to use his Stop the Retirement Tax website to register attendees for public hearings of the franking credit inquiry, despite the official Parliamentary website for the inquiry saying that pre-registrations were not required.
The second matter, raised by the Speaker, was “apparently arranging for a public hearing of the Committee to coincide with the meeting of a group with an active interest in the Committee’s inquiry, including with the possible intention to engage in protest activity at the hearing”. This refers to the AGM of Wilson Asset Management (WAM). The Chairman of WAM is Geoff Wilson – a distant relation of Tim Wilson – who has been running a petition against Labor’s franking credit policy. Tim Wilson also has shareholdings in WAM entities.
The Speaker told the House: “Can I also say in relation to two other matters raised by the Manager of Opposition Business that the handing out of party political material or the display of signs by individual Members at hearings of parliamentary committees should not be tolerated by Chairs.”
The Speaker said he would consider matters further if more evidence was presented, “for example from members of the Committee itself”.