A parliamentary committee has recommended the House of Assembly find South Australia’s Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman “guilty of contempt” for wilfully misleading parliament and for having a conflict of interest in a planning decision.
- Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman has denied having a conflict of interest over a decision to knock back a timber port on Kangaroo Island as Planning Minister
- A parliamentary committee found that she acted in a position of conflict of interest both actual and perceived
- Ms Chapman is expected to face a vote of no confidence in the House of Assembly this afternoon
The committee has recommended Ms Chapman be suspended from parliament for nine days and issue a “public and unreserved apology for her conduct”.
The inquiry, moved by Labor and supported by former Liberal MPs on the crossbench, examined Ms Chapman’s decision as Planning Minister to block the development of a timber port on her native Kangaroo Island.
The committee found that she acted in a position of conflict of interest both actual and perceived in rejecting the port — which in the committee’s view is a breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct.
The inquiry found Ms Chapman owned property impacted by the proposed port and had a pecuniary interest in the island’s tourism industry, which also stood to be potentially impacted.
The committee’s chairwoman, Labor MP Andrea Michaels, said the “overwhelming evidence before the committee” was that Ms Chapman knowingly misled parliament on three occasions when asked about the development.
The findings were agreed by Ms Michaels, fellow Labor committee member Tom Koutsantonis and Liberal-turned-independent MP Sam Duluk.
However the two Liberal MPs on the committee, Matt Cowdrey and Peter Treloar, dissented from the findings, disagreeing the Attorney-General had a conflict or misled the parliament.
The committee found that the Attorney-General did have “a pecuniary interest in an industry associated with or potentially impacted by the proposed wharf”, namely the tourism industry, and that she owned property “impacted by … the proposed port”.
The committee also found that a statement made by the Attorney-General regarding her property interests near or impacted by KIPT forests or the proposed port, was false, and that the Attorney-General knew at the time that the statement was false and intended to mislead the House.
The inquiry also makes one broader recommendation — that having the Planning Minister as the single decision-maker in respect of major developments “is not desirable”, and that a separate parliamentary committee should consider changing the law in this regard.
The inquiry’s findings were pre-emptively rejected by Ms Chapman, with her lawyer Frances Nelson QC submitting that the inquiry was “hasty, inchoate (and) incomplete” and “tainted … by apprehensions of bias”.
But Ms Michaels rejected that accusation.
“It must be stated that blatant denialism of objective evidence and plain truth does the Attorney-General no favour,” she said.
Ms Chapman is expected to face a vote of no confidence in the House of Assembly this afternoon.
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