Member for Toohey Peter Russo. Picture: AAP/Jono Searle
Member for Toohey Peter Russo. Picture: AAP/Jono Searle

Under-fire MP makes second apology in a week

LABOR MP Peter Russo has revealed he appeared in court on a Legal Aid matter last year after earlier telling Parliament he had not done any work for the body since his election.

In his second apology for the week, Toohey MP Mr Russo apologised unreservedly to the House for the statement he made in October while dealing with questions around whether he should declare a conflict of interest on matters concerning Legal Aid.

The questions arose due to his role as chair of State Parliament's legal affairs committee and because the law firm he owns is a major provider to Legal Aid.

Member for Toohey Peter Russo. Picture: AAP/Jono Searle
Member for Toohey Peter Russo. Picture: AAP/Jono Searle

During a spirited defence at the time, Mr Russo said he had met all requirements under standing orders and added: "I have not represented any clients who qualify for Legal Aid funding since I became a member of parliament."

Mr Russo yesterday said he wished to correct the record.

"On the 15th of October 2019 I stated that whilst I performed Legal Aid work in the past I had not represented any clients who qualified for Legal Aid work since I became a member of Parliament," he said.

"At the time of this statement I believed it to be correct.

"However, recently in the course of working through other matters I became aware that in late 2018, due to an unexpected and unforeseen staffing issue, I instructed in court for part of a day on a Legal Aid funded matter until one of the employed solicitors was able to attend. I unreservedly apologise to the House for this omission."

Clerk Neil Laurie. Picture: Annette Dew
Clerk Neil Laurie. Picture: Annette Dew

Clerk Neil Laurie advised that while Mr Russo did not have to list Legal Aid on his register of members' interests, Parliament's rules required him to declare a conflict whenever matters concerning the state-funded statutory authority came before his powerful committee, which he was appointed to in February.

On Tuesday, Mr Russo apologised for another October incident in which his open mic broadcast him calling an unnamed female MP a "f--kwit".


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