ADAM LANGENBERG | POLITICAL REPORTER
A LIBERAL backbencher has delivered a tirade at Labor for accepting the “vote of a child pornographer” after he was quizzed about when he knew Mt Gambier MP Troy Bell had been charged by police. Labor MP Gail Gago yesterday asked Liberal backbencher Andrew McLachlan whether he still supported Mr Bell after he was charged with stealing more than $2 million of taxpayers money. Mr Bell has vowed to fight the charges, and will continue to sit in Parliament as an independent MP until next year’s election.
In a passionate speech, Mr McLachlan told the Upper House it was “a bit rich” for Ms Gago to ask questions about Mr Bell, given that it continued to rely on the vote of former police minister Bernard Finnigan after he was charged with child pornography offences. “I sat in this chamber for three-and-a-half years and, in the time Bernie Finnigan was in this chamber, they relied on his vote. They relied on his vote for every one of their successes,” Mr McLachlan said. “Every vote, every piece of legislation they got through is tainted by a child pornographer.”
Mr Finnigan was charged in 2011, but remained in Parliament for almost four years, before quitting in 2015 when he was found guilty of obtaining access to child pornography. Mr McLachlan said he hadn’t known about Mr Bell’s charges until he read about it “in the public domain” but stressed he was presumed innocent until proven guilty. On Tuesday, Lower House MP Jennifer Rankine asked Mr Bell whether he had updated his interest register to disclose “benefits that are the subject of proceedings against him by the Director of Public Prosecutions”.
Mr Bell said: “I do find it a little bit distressing, the level that this member will go to, to paint me in a bad light. This matter is before the courts.”