Child sex abuse accused WA MP James Hayward to be investigated by parliamentary committee over bail variation

A parliamentary investigation will be launched into whether a WA politician accused of child sex offences misrepresented parliamentary procedures to a court when applying to have his bail varied.

James Hayward, a former Nationals MP and member of the Legislative Council, has pleaded not guilty to five charges relating to the alleged abuse of an eight-year-old girl.

Last month he told a court he would have to resign from a parliamentary committee considering the regulation of cannabis and hemp if he could not attend a conference in Queensland. 

As a result, two of his bail conditions were varied.

At the time, Leader of the House Sue Ellery questioned in parliament whether that amounted to a misrepresentation of parliament’s procedures.

However, on Tuesday Mr Hayward stood by his actions in a statement to the ABC, saying he would continue to respect the parliamentary process and had acted in accordance with advice he had received.

James Hayward sits in parliament wearing a mask
Mr Hayward says he believed he acted in good faith and had respected the parliamentary process.(ABC News: James Carmody)

When WA Parliament sat on Tuesday, President of the Legislative Council Alanna Clohesy said the matter would be referred to the Procedures and Privileges Committee for further investigation.

“This matter demonstrates the particular difficulties of a member of this house facing serious charges in the courts,” she said.

“On balance, I am of the view that the conduct as alleged is of such gravity that it requires investigation.”

Travel never enforced on committee members, says Ellery

The week after Mr Hayward’s bail was varied, Ms Ellery raised the issue in parliament.

“It is not the case that inability to attend a particular committee trip deems any member unable to fulfil their duties,” she said

“There are no standing orders, conventions or practices that enforce travel on any member of a committee.”

WA Education Minister Sue Ellery
Sue Ellery says it wasn’t necessary for Mr Hayward to attend the cannabis forum.(ABC News: James Carmody)

Ms Ellery told parliament it was a “serious matter” to “misrepresent to a court the practices and rules of the Legislative Council”.

“The question arises: how did the court hear the false claim about what would happen to Hon James Hayward if he was unable to attend a conference in Queensland as a committee member?” she asked.

“What information did Hon James Hayward provide to the court? 

“Did Hon James Hayward provide that false information to the court; and, if he did, does that constitute a contempt of the Council?”

Branding material printed on the front of a window on a building
The committee will investigate whether Mr Hayward misled the court. (ABC South West: Jacquie Lynch)

The Procedures and Privileges Committee is chaired by Ms Clohesy, who sits alongside two other Labor MPs, as well as Nationals MP Martin Aldridge and Liberal MP Tjorn Sibma.

In a statement to the ABC, Mr Hayward stood by his actions.

“I have and will continue to respect the parliamentary process and will cooperate with the PPC as required,” he said.

“I believe I have acted in good faith and have acted according to the advice I received. 

“Out of respect for the process, I will not be making further comments.”

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