South Australia’s state parliament has fallen into a minority government after Liberal MP Fraser Ellis revealed he had been charged after a probe by the state’s anti-corruption body.
At the end of a late-night parliamentary sitting, Ellis told parliament that he had been charged with offences from an investigation by the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption (ICAC).
“Yesterday, I was charged with alleged offences arising from the recent ICAC investigation into the Country Members’ Accommodation Allowance,” Ellis said.”I am completely innocent, and I will be vigorously defending these allegations to the full extent of my resources and the law.”
Ellis said he would suspend his Liberal membership and move to the crossbench while he defends himself. This leaves the Liberal government with just 23 out of the 47 lower house seats.
The member for Narungga is one of several MPs investigated by ICAC over their use of Country Members’ Accommodation Allowance.
Last year, Ellis repaid AU$42,130 in claims he made under the scheme, which gives financial assistance to members of parliament whose place of residence is greater than 75 kilometres away from the Adelaide post office.
He said the claim was due to an error in the claim form made by an inexperienced staff member and maintained his innocence.
“I’ve never acted dishonestly,” Ellis told Parliament. “Any error in a claim form completed by a relatively inexperienced member was simply that, an error.”
“These were the result of genuine errors by a new member for which I’ve already apologised.”
He also told parliament he had informed South Australian Premier Steven Marshall about charges on Thursday.
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said it was a “stunning revelation” and criticised Marshall for not addressing the issue earlier when he had the chance.