A Crikey subscriber recently claimed we’ve been giving colorful former WA Liberal Senator and powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne an easy run so we’ve dug up a couple of skeletons from his past and riled the bloke such that he’s fired off a feisty response defending his conviction for travel rorts.
Crichton-Browne escapes jail term
By Damon Kitney and AAP
Former Liberal Party powerbroker Noel Crichton-Browne yesterday escaped a jail sentence but was fined $8,000 after pleading guilty in the ACT Magistrates Court to two charges of rorting his parliamentary travel entitlements.
The 54-year-old former senator, who was expelled from the WA Liberal Party in late 1995 after making lewd comments to a female journalist, was given a $4,000 fine for each charge flowing from two 1996 trips to resorts at Broome and Norfolk Island.
Crichton-Browne admitted to defrauding the Commonwealth by claiming the $4,500 worth of travel in his wife’s name despite travelling to the resorts with another woman, Ms Lisa Anne Campbell.
The charge carries a maximum penalty of two years in jail and a $13,200 fine, however the magistrate, Mr Michael Somes, rejected calls by the public prosecutor, Mr Grant Lalor, for a jail sentence to be imposed.
He accepted submissions by Crichton-Browne’s defence counsel that the former senator was under great stress after his expulsion from the WA Liberal Party and the breakdown of his marriage. But he said the imposition of a penalty was essential to serve as a deterrent to other potential travel rorters.
The charges were laid against Crichton-Browne after a Federal Liberal backbencher, Mr Eoin Cameron, wrote to the Australian Federal Police asking them to investigate alleged travel irregularities by Crichton-Browne when he was a senator.
The allegations were also raised in Federal Parliament in June 1996 by another WA Liberal, Senator Sue Knowles.
NCB responds to rattle of the skeleton
To the extent that someone who has not been in the Senate for six years is of interest to your readers and that you are reduced to republishing archival newspaper articles, I take the opportunity to provide a response which contains facts well known to those who took an informed interest in the matter at the time.
As was well known to many people, not least the Minister responsible for parliamentarians entitlements, I had been separated from my wife for some years prior to my retirement from the Senate. During that period I had not exercised my entitlement to appoint another nominee for the purpose of official travel.
I deliberately chose not to follow the course of my colleagues who not having a spouse or a partner, appoint a family member as their nominee, or as in the case of Senator Knowles, appoint a friend for tax-payer funded official travel.
Equally, at the time of my retirement from the Senate, I left several thousand dollars in my overseas travel account.
By contrast, Crikey recently claimed that the former member for Stirling Mr Eoin Cameron, used to have his spouse travel from Perth to Canberra twelve times a year at an annual cost to the revenue of $25,000, as was his entitlement.
Within weeks of my retirement from the Senate I was accompanied by a partner on two trips, one for electorate business and the other on parliamentary business. My sin was not to write a two line letter to the Minister for Administrative Services advising him of the name of my nominee.
As the Minister Mr David Jull informed the court, he was well aware that I was separated from my spouse and that had I informed him of the name of a new nominee, in accordance with parliamentarians travel entitlements, that nominee would have been approved.
I gather from the article that both Cameron and Knowles claimed credit. I was struck by Knowles’ recent letter to her colleagues and published on Crikey that after seventeen years in the Senate, she was only able to garner three votes out of twenty six for an insignificant and inconsequential backbench parliamentarian friendship group; this in spite of the fact that she had spent $40,000 of tax-payers funds in anticipation that one of those who voted against her, would as she put it, have reciprocated.
Perhaps it says something about the decent and honourable people with whom I have had dealings that over one hundred of them including previous parliamentary colleagues from both sides of politics and from within different factions of the Liberal Party, gave written references to the court in my matter and a number flew from Perth to Canberra to give oral evidence.
The politicisation of the Australian Federal Police and the selective application of the law are quite another matter.
Yours sincerely, Noel Crichton