Australia

WA Nationals MP on child sex abuse charges

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Western Australian state Nationals MP and former federal party vice-president James Hayward could be dumped from the party after being charged with child sexual abuse offences.

Mr Hayward, who was elected to WA’s parliament earlier this year, faces multiple charges relating to an eight-year-old girl, including persistent sexual conduct.

The 52-year-old faced Perth Magistrates Court on Thursday and was not required to enter a plea. He was granted bail to reappear on December 13.

Opposition Leader Mia Davies said she was shocked and distressed to learn of the allegations shortly before boarding a flight from Carnarvon earlier in the day.

She moved immediately to stand down Mr Hayward from his shadow local government, water and regional cities portfolios.

“They are serious allegations and the charges that have been brought are very distressing,” Ms Davies said.

“James has been in and around our party for some time. He’s a colleague. You work very closely with people in this environment, so needless to say it’s come as a shock to everybody that knows him.”

Mr Hayward, who was elected to represent the south-west region in the Legislative Council at the March election, has been absent from parliament this week.

He previously worked as a local councillor in Bunbury and a television journalist and served as the WA Nationals’ state president.

WA Nationals MPs will meet to discuss Mr Hayward’s position as party secretary and the organisational arm will consider whether to strip his membership.

It is open to Mr Hayward to remain a member of parliament while the matter is determined by the courts.

Ms Davies declined to say whether she thought Mr Hayward should quit parliament.

“We are treating it with great seriousness and urgency and I don’t want to pre-empt those decisions,” she said.

Police Minister Paul Papalia labelled the allegations disturbing but declined to comment further while it was before the courts.

Mr Hayward was one of three MPs earlier this year who voted against a government bill to prevent people from picketing within 150 metres of facilities that provide abortion services.

The WA Nationals assumed opposition status after Labor’s blowout victory in the March election left the Liberals with two lower house seats.

Under their opposition alliance, the Nationals and Liberals hold a combined 16 seats in the 95-seat parliament.

The West Australian newspaper reported earlier this year that Mr Hayward’s television production company, Fiery Productions, had gone into liquidation over an alleged $440,000 tax debt.

Individuals convicted of persistent sexual conduct in WA face a maximum prison term of 20 years.

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-AAP



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