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Vic MP speaks out against firearm offences -

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ELEANOR HALL: To Victoria now where in another threat to the stability of the State Government, a Nationals MP faces firearms offences in New South Wales.

But the member for Mildura, Peter Crisp, denies he's done anything wrong.

Stephanie Corsetti reports from Mildura.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: The trouble began last month, when three firearms, a small generator and a chainsaw were stolen from a New South Wales farming property belonging to the Member for Mildura, Peter Crisp.

The Victorian MP reported the theft to New South Wales police. They responded by charging him with nine offences, including not preventing the theft of a firearm and not keeping firearms safely. They're charges Mr Crisp rejects.

PETER CRISP: I've always held the appropriate firearm licenses in NSW and in Victoria, and at all times the firearms have been properly registered. And this is my first experience with the law with firearms other than normal routine work.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: In the finely balanced Victorian Parliament, the behaviour of parliamentarians has become a significant factor.

This is not the Victorian Coalition Government's first legal headache. Prosecutors dropped dishonesty charges against the Frankston MP Geoff Shaw last year. The one-time Liberal MP, Mr Shaw now sits as an independent member of parliament and holds the balance of power.

Public opinion is more crucial ever in this election year.

Dr Nick Economou is a senior lecturer in politics at Monash University

NICK ECONOMOU: We know that voters place a very high value on stability and functionalism in government. And given that the Napthine Government has really struggled with the Geoff Shaw matter, for someone else to suddenly be the source of a potential legal constitutional problem, I think just adds to the general sense that this Government is struggling to manage its own affairs.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Mr Crisp says he's aware the community will make judgements about the case before it goes to court

PETER CRISP: In all the debate about the matter I have to remember the judge will have the last say. And meanwhile - and I know with this in mind - that the court of public opinion will take its course long before the judicial court does.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: He says there were ongoing negotiations with police this year, and the charges were laid earlier this month.

PETER CRISP: I should not run my defence case anywhere else but in court. And most people don't have the opportunity to come on radio and talk about matters that are before the court, however I am a public person and there's interest in this.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Dr Economou says although the Coalition relies on all of its National Party colleagues to hold onto power, it's unlikely these events will trigger a constitutional crisis or a by-election.

NICK ECONOMOU: To lose a seat would be very difficult for the Government because of the very close numbers.

The ability to call a by-election is actually is the hands of the Speaker, and given that it would be in very close proximity to the beginning of the processes for dissolving the legislative assembly, as part of the fixed parliamentary terms that we have in Victoria, there could be a case - because we've had precedence for this - the speaker holding over the position and just saying, look we won't have a by-election because the position will be filled at the next general election.

STEPHANIE CORSETTI: Victoria's Premier Denis Napthine says the matter is before the courts and it would be inappropriate to comment. The case will be heard in the Wentworth Local Court next week.

ELEANOR HALL: Stephanie Corsetti reporting from Mildura.