After she and Premier Steven Marshall both insisted she would not be resigning after an historic vote of no confidence against her last week, the position changed over the weekend.
In a statement released at 5am today, the Premier and Chapman said she would stand aside as Deputy Premier and from her ministerial roles until the Ombudsman’s report into her conduct is received.
State Ombudsman Wayne Lines confirmed on Friday he would investigate matters raised against Chapman in a parliamentary inquiry probing her decision to veto a major port project on her native Kangaroo Island.
Lines told InDaily: “I have received a referral from the Committee in line with Finding 11 of its report.”
That finding asked the Ombudsman to investigate “any matter relevant to whether or not the Attorney-General had a conflict of interest in determining the [port] application [and] any breach of the Ministerial Code of Conduct”.
It also, however, asks him to investigate “the role that any other public officer undertook relevant to the Attorney-General’s decision, including the role and responsibility of the Premier, Chief Executives and other public officers, including Crown Law Officers”.
Lines said that under the Ombudsman Act “I am required to investigate and report back”.
Chapman said today “I have advised the Premier that I will be stepping aside as Attorney-General and Minister for Planning and Local Government pending the outcome of the Ombudsman’s inquiry”.
“I will advise the House of Assembly party room that I will be standing down as the Deputy Leader,” she said.
“As the Ombudsman reports to the Attorney-General, it is entirely appropriate to step aside for the duration of the inquiry. This is the precedent set by former Attorney-General (Michael) Atkinson.
“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.
“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.”
Marshall said Chapman advised him late yesterday that she would be “stepping aside”.
“I reluctantly accept the advice and respect the decision the Attorney-General has made,” he said.
“I look forward to the conclusion of the inquiry and welcoming her back into Cabinet soon. The Attorney-General has been my deputy for nearly nine years and I thank her for her hard work, dedication and unwavering support.”
Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas said today the Premier had shown “weak leadership” on the issue.
“First, he refused to act in the face of overwhelming evidence against Vickie Chapman,” he said.
“Then, he lost complete control of the Parliament, which led to an historic no confidence motion against her.
“Now, he has so little control over his own party, Chapman has been forced to stand down in a bid to avoid a partyroom revolt.”
InDaily reported on Friday the view of several Liberal insiders that Chapman was bleeding support within the party-room, with the matter likely to be brought to a head at – if not before – the next joint party-room meeting before parliament resumes on November 30.
more to come
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