Slipper's gone, but we're still paying for portrait

Peter Slipper
Peter Slipper Warren Lynam

HE NO longer holds the position of speaker, but taxpayers will still be left with a bill of as much as $30,000 for a portrait of Peter Slipper.

Mr Slipper quit as parliamentary speaker last week after crude text messages he sent his former staffer James Ashby, who is suing him for allaged sexual harassment, were released by the Federal Court.

It was revealed in Senate estimates this week a portrait of the Sunshine Coast MP was still being commissioned, continuing a century-long tradition.

Department of Parliamentary Services secretary Carol Mills told the hearing Mr Slipper was yet to decide on an artist, but said the standard commission was $30,000.

A portrait of former speaker Harry Jenkins was finished and could be unveiled later this year, the hearing was told.

Once complete the paintings become part of the Historic Memorials Collection, which is part of the Parliament House Art Collection.

Funding for the portraits is approved by the Historic Memorials Committee, which is chaired by the prime minister of the day and comprises five other senior MPs based on parliamentary office.

The Parliament of Australia website says the committee was established in 1911 with an original brief to act "as a committee of consultation and advice in reference to the expenditure of votes for Historic Memorials of Representative Men".

"The brief has evolved since that time to encompass the commissioning or purchase of official portraits of Governors-General, Prime Ministers, Presidents of the Senate, Speakers of the House of Representatives, Chief Justices of the High Court and other distinguished Australians," the website reads.

"Approximately 50 of the portraits are on display on the ground and first floors of Members' Hall, while many others are on long-term loan to institutions such as Old Parliament House, Government House and Admiralty House."

Mr Slipper, who was elected as a Liberal Party MP in 2010, now sits on the crossbenches.

Last week he voted with both sides, including helping the government pass legislation relating to the carbon tax.

His resignation came with a pay cut of about $143,000 per year, plus the loss of other allowances and additional staff.

Topics:  james ashby peter slipper portrait speaker

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