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Marshall: Parliamentary privilege “not a blanket shield” to delay criminal probe

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Premier Steven Marshall has broken his silence on revelations the ICAC is conducting a criminal investigation into unnamed MPs, saying parliamentary privilege cannot be used as a “blanket shield” to frustrate the inquiry.

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InDaily revealed on Monday that former Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander was undertaking an – as yet unfinished – criminal probe into more than one MP over the Country Members Allowance scandal.

“We’re investigating corruption, and corruption is criminal conduct,” said Lander, whose seven-year term finished yesterday.

Lander had earlier revealed some MPs and their staff had invoked parliamentary privilege to block the release of key documents relating to the investigation, with parliament to vote on whether they should be released next week.

Marshall this afternoon fronted media for the first time since Monday’s revelation, making his strongest statement yet on the question of using parliamentary privilege to block the release of allowance documents.

“I’ll make it very clear and I’ll continue to make the point… I do respect parliamentary privilege [but] it shouldn’t be used as a blanket shield to slow down, impede or delay an inquiry,” he said.

However, he ruled out directing any MPs to release documents, saying it was a “really difficult” situation.

“It would be completely inappropriate for me to be going to each of the members and trying to direct them as part of that inquiry,” he said.

“The [ICAC] Act has certain provisions around confidentiality [so] I don’t know the members that the former ICAC Commissioner was referring to… but it would be completely inappropriate for me to be making inquiries or interfering in an inquiry which is underway.

“My position is if there’s a vote in the parliament, I’ll be listening to the wording very carefully …

“We’d need to see what’s actually put forward, and by whom… and we’ll consider all those things [but] I’m just making it really clear to everyone in SA that you can’t use [privilege] as an excuse to slow down an inquiry.”

He reiterated that he expected “every member of parliament to comply with the ICAC Act”.

The Liberal party-room will attend a meeting in the Adelaide Hills tomorrow before parliament resumes next week.

Lander’s successor Ann Vanstone formally began her role today as the new ICAC.

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