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New SA minister as Chapman stands aside

A new minister will be sworn in and a new deputy premier anointed in coming days after South Australia’s Attorney-General Vickie Chapman stepped aside amid an investigation into conflict of interest claims.

Ms Chapman was subject to a vote of no confidence in parliament last week after a committee found she had, on at least three occasions, misled the house over a rejected Kangaroo Island development.

Despite repeatedly maintaining she had done nothing wrong, Ms Chapman said she would stand aside to allow SA Ombudsman Wayne Lines to conduct an “independent” investigation into her rejection in August of the application to build a port on the island’s north coast.

“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,” she said in a statement on Monday.

“I welcome the independent ombudsman’s inquiry but it is important that I step aside to ensure there is no impediment to this process being undertaken.

“I do not wish in any way to compromise the ombudsman or his delegate to be able to undertake this inquiry.”

Premier Steven Marshall said he had “very reluctantly” accepted Ms Chapman’s decision to stand aside and had chosen former parliamentary speaker Josh Teague to take on the roles of attorney-general and planning minister.

Mr Teague will be sworn in on Tuesday.

Mr Marshall said a meeting of the House of Assembly Liberal Party room would then vote on a new deputy premier.

A meeting is scheduled for Monday next week, but the premier said it could well happen earlier.

Mr Marshall said while he did not want to pre-judge the ombudsman’s report, Ms Chapman continued to have his full support and he looked forward to her returning to cabinet.

“I’ve looked at all of the evidence presented to the select committee but it doesn’t move me one single solitary inch from the position that I’ve always had,” he said.

“I strongly support Vickie Chapman.”

On Thursday, MPs voted 23-22 in favour of a no-confidence motion against Ms Chapman.

It was the first time in SA political history a no-confidence motion against a sitting minister had passed in the state’s lower house.

The vote came after a parliamentary committee earlier that day tabled its report on her handling of the $40 million Kangaroo Island development application.

Ms Chapman’s family owns a rental property on the island near a timber plantation that would have been felled and trucked to the proposed Smith Bay deep-sea port.

She had told the committee she had no personal interest in any business or industry on the island.

But the committee found otherwise and recommended she be suspended from parliament for nine days and make a public apology for misleading statements about the application.

Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said there had been growing pressure within the Liberal Party for Ms Chapman to stand down, and accused Mr Marshall of showing “weak leadership” on the issue.

“This is how Steven Marshall reacts to every scandal engulfing his government, repeatedly refusing to act then finally getting dragged into doing something when it is way too late,” Mr Malinauskas said.

“However, this still isn’t enough. Vickie Chapman must resign from cabinet.”

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