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NSW Government seeks advice on cancellation of MP Gareth Ward’s salary after suspension of Parliament

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Kiama MP ‘extremely disappointed’ over parliament being suspended until charges are resolved

A defiant Gareth Ward has vowed to continue to represent the people of Kiama after his suspension from parliament, as the NSW government seeks advice on how to cut the embattled former minister’s salary and benefits.

The MP from Kiama was suspended from parliament on Thursday, until the charges against him are resolved. Ward was charged by police earlier this week for the alleged sexual abuse of a 17-year-old boy and a man.

Ward, who moved to court last year after revealing he was the subject of a criminal investigation, denied the allegations and indicated he will fight the charges.

On Thursday, caretaker Prime Minister Paul Toole told parliament the government would not move to oust the former Liberal minister to safeguard the pending criminal trial.

The suspension motion was supported by the opposition.

Ward, who has not been in Parliament this week, issued a statement using his constituents’ email after the suspension. He said that he was “extremely disappointed”, vowing to continue to represent the people of his constituency.

“The effect of the decision is that I cannot speak or vote in parliament,” he said.

Related: The NSW government will take action to suspend, not expel, MP Gareth Ward from parliament

“However, I will continue to represent and lobby my local community as your democratically elected Member of Parliament. Although this is a challenging time for me personally, I have important work to do and I intend to move forward.”

The government has sought legal advice on whether another MP or a Parliamentary Clerk could represent Ward’s constituency in the interim to ensure voters are not denied services.

Toole said the decision to suspend Ward was the “strongest action” available to the government given that the chamber was unable to rule on his guilt or innocence, saying it was a job for the courts.

He said the government was not moving to stop paying members because it did not have that power, but was looking at other options.

Toole reminded all members of the House not to discuss the charges or accusations against Ward to avoid a mistrial.

“The most significant of these risks is the possibility that alleged victims may be deprived of their day in court,” Toole told Parliament.

Opposition Leader Chris Minns has confirmed that Labor is seeking advice on alternative options, including whether the member could be expelled, suspension of Ward’s salary and whether it is appropriate for him to be deprived of access to his elected office through of a referral to the privileges committee.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said Tuesday when the charges were first filed that while Ward was entitled to the presumption of innocence, he should fight the charges as a private citizen and seek to remove the member. of parliament if he did not resign. .

Ward has been granted conditional bail and will appear in the local court in Port Kembla in May.

In Australia, the Lifeline crisis support service is 13 11 14. If you or someone you know is affected by sexual assault, family or domestic violence, call 1800RESPECT on 1800 737 732 or visit www.1800RESPECT.org .au. In an emergency, call 000. You can find international helplines at www.befrienders.org.

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