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Marshall Govt in minority after MP's ICAC charge

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The Marshall Government has been plunged into minority after Liberal MP Fraser Ellis told Parliament at 2am that he had been charged for alleged offences resulting from the ICAC country members allowance investigation and was moving to the crossbench.

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Ellis said he informed Premier Steven Marshall yesterday that he would suspend his Liberal Party membership while he disputes the charges.

The move leaves the government with just 22 MPs on the floor of the House of Assembly, with 24 needed for a majority.

The charges come after Ellis last year repaid $42,130 in allowance claims he made while staying rent free with fellow MP Terry Stephens at his Norwood property.

The member for Narungga told the parliament at 2:13am this morning that he would be defending himself against the charges and not resigning from parliament.

“I’m completely innocent, and I will be vigorously defending these allegations to the full extent of my resources and the law,” Ellis said.

“I’ve never acted dishonestly, any error in a claim form completed by a relatively inexperienced member was simply that – an error.

“The allegations are contrary to who I am and what I stand for. I have great faith in the judicial system of this state, and I look forward to being exonerated by an impartial court, free of influence from other arms of government.”

ICAC is yet to make a public statement on the charges. Commissioner Ann Vanstone’s last update on the country members investigation in October cleared nine MPs – including two former ministers – of any misconduct, but left Ellis’s name off the exonerated list.

In September 2020, Vanstone said she had asked Ellis to voluntarily provide documents that “go to his incurring actual expenditure during nights he stayed in Adelaide” and “demonstrate a requirement that he be in Adelaide on the occasions when claims were made”.

Ellis said he intends to contest the next state election in 2022.

Labor Shadow Minister for Transport and Infrastructure questioned why the premier did not inform the public of the charges earlier.

“This plunges the government into a bit of a crisis,” Koutsantonis told InDaily.

“Why the premier didn’t tell anyone earlier, I think is scandalous.

“The moment he found out one of his MPs was charged, he should have put out a press release and told the public immediately that he has now got a minority government with only 22 votes on the floor of the house.

“The premier has got to explain… why he didn’t immediately come forward and explain to South Australians what the charges were, and why it was left to Fraser Ellis to voluntarily resign from the Liberal Party or why he wasn’t sacked.”

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