South Australian Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman has resigned and stood aside as Attorney-General and minister while the state ombudsman conducts an investigation into a potential conflict of interest regarding her refusal of a port on Kangaroo Island, ABC News reported.
This comes on the back of the South Australian Parliament passing a vote of no confidence against Chapman last week after finding she had a real and perceived conflict of interest which the committee saw as a breach of the ministerial code of conduct.
Although moved by Labor, the committee inquiry was also supported by crossbench liberal MPs and investigated Chapman’s decision to block the development of the timber port when she was Minister for Planning.
The Kangaroo Island (KI) port was to be a woodchip export facility at Smith Bay.
According to Infrastructure Magazine, the facility would include a fully-piled jetty around 650 metres long and export up to 730,000 tonnes of timber products per year.
Chapman turned down the application for the port, citing the potential long-term and irreversible impacts on the environment and local business.
“This was a difficult decision and one I have not made lightly,” she said.
However, the parliamentary committee found that Chapman owned property on the island which would be impacted by the construction of the port and that she had a financial interest in the island’s tourism industry, which was also likely to be affected by the development.
Committee chairwoman, Labor MP Andrea Michaels, said that there was “overwhelming evidence” that Chapman had misled the parliament several times when questioned about the development, reported ABC.
Chapman denied any conflict of interest. “I maintain that I have made the right decision in respect of the KI seaport proposal and that I had no conflict of interest, actual or perceived,” Ms Chapman told The Advertiser on Monday.”
Meanwhile, Premier Steven Marshall said that Chapman has his full support.
“I do not believe for one second that there has been any breach of the ministerial code of conduct, he said.
However, following the vote of no confidence and allegations of misleading the parliament, Chapman now faces an independent inquiry by the ombudsman.
According to an ABC report on Monday, Premier Marshall said that his now-former deputy decided she could not carry on as Attorney-General while under investigation by the ombudsman because it is a position she oversees.
Marshall said that Heysen MP Josh Teague would take over Chapman’s role as Attorney-General, adding that before entering parliament in 2018, Teague had an extremely successful legal career.
“It was a reasonably easy decision to make,” Mr Marshall said.
With Chapman also resigning as deputy premier, Liberal Party MPs will meet over the next few days to select a new candidate for that role.
Marshall said that if Chapman is cleared, he would welcome her back as a minister.