South Australian Deputy Premier and Attorney-General Vickie Chapman has been in hot water this week over accusations of a conflict of interest and misleading state parliament.
Ms Chapman, who has occupied the positions of Deputy Premier and Attorney-General since March 2018, faced criticism after rejecting plans for a port development off Kangaroo Island. In a parliamentary committee it was heard that Ms Chapman owned land near the proposed development spot. If approved, a forest near Ms Chapman’s land would be felled. She had the power to reject the plans due to her position as Planning Minister.
The Labor Party, backed by former Liberal MPs, moved to initiate an inquiry into Ms Chapman’s decision regarding the port to determine whether she had acted in a conflict of interest.
Counsel assisting the inquiry Dr Rachael Gray QC said Ms Chapman should have reasonably had “some doubt” regarding the conflict, with Dr Gray asserting that she “should have at least reported it to the Premier”.
“The Premier, pursuant to the ministerial code of conduct, has a responsibility to address any failure to disclose a conflict of interest,” Dr Gray explained.
Committee chairwoman Labor MP Andrea Michaels claimed the “overwhelming evidence before the committee” suggested Ms Chapman had knowingly misled parliament on several occasions. The committee also determined that the Deputy Premier had breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
The parliamentary committee has now recommended Ms Chapman be found “guilty of contempt” by the state’s House of Assembly.
Ms Chapman refutes the allegations and is supported by Premier Steven Marshall.
“I’m 100 per cent behind Vickie Chapman—she made the right decision, it’s exactly the same decision that I would have made,” Mr Marshall said.
“[The parliamentary committee] was a kangaroo court and I don’t think there was any evidence that would sway my decision whatsoever.”
Pursuant to committee’s findings, it is expected the House of Assembly will return a ‘no confidence’ vote with regards to Ms Chapman later today.
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