NSW MP Gareth Ward should keep his salary and electorate office until a court determines whether he is guilty of sexual assault, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
The Kiama MP was suspended from parliament in March after being charged with with three counts of assault with an act of indecency, one count of sexual assault without consent and one count of common assault.
Police allege Ward indecently assaulted a 17-year-old boy in 2013, and sexually abused a 27-year-old man in September 2015.
The former minister for families, communities and disability services moved to the crossbench a year ago amid reports of a criminal investigation.
Ward denies the charges which remain before the courts.
His suspension from parliament came via a standing order regarding pending criminal trials, only used once before and more than a century earlier.
Suspended members are excluded from parliamentary precincts and prohibited from participating in the house or committees under a separate standing order.
The NSW standing committee on parliamentary privilege and ethics explored what options were available to stop Ward's pay and other entitlements, such as his South Coast electorate office and staff.
The committee found that would require new legislation and recommended against introducing such legislation in its final report, released on Thursday.
It also recommended potential changes to the standing order on the consequences for suspended members.
Technological developments could have implications for the order, which the committee found lacked clarity about what parliamentary activities suspended members should be able to engage in.
Committee chair Peter Sidgreaves said the inquiry had received independent legal advice and consulted with constitutional law experts.
"This inquiry referral raised significant and complex constitutional, legal and procedural issues, which are fundamental to our system of government and the roles of the courts," Mr Sidgreaves said.
He praised his parliamentary colleagues for their bipartisan and constructive contributions during the inquiry, balancing a number of significant considerations, including the ability of parliament to determine matters regarding its own operation and the required presumption of innocence for those facing trial in a criminal court.
"The Member for Kiama is as entitled to this presumption as any other person," Mr Sidgreaves said.
Australian Associated Press
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