In her first public statement since Friday, when InDaily revealed that she was at odds with Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Bruce Lander, Chapman says she has sought legal advice and is “satisfied” she did not breach the secrecy provisions of the law, which prohibits the publication of information that tends to suggest a person is the subject of an ICAC inquiry without the consent of the commissioner.
On Friday, Lander revealed he had told Chapman not to reference ICAC in a public statement she published the previous day – which referenced ICAC.
I am satisfied that no breach of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 has occurred
The revelation intensified Opposition questions about whether or not the Attorney-General breached the ICAC Act when she published her own statement, which was addressing “questions about Renewal SA executives that the Government has received”.
Media did not republish the Attorney’s statement at the time, on legal advice – despite her office telling various outlets it was suitable for publication.
The statement, which Lander subsequently authorised media to publish, said Chapman had “enquired of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption, Mr Bruce Lander QC, as to whether there is any further information that can be made available on this matter”.
“He confirmed that there is not,” it continued.
“The Commissioner at this stage will not be making a public statement on the matter.”
The following day, Lander told InDaily that he had “received a request to speak to the Attorney-General by telephone”.
“My recollection of the subsequent conversation is that any statement made by the Attorney would not include reference to the ICAC and that the Attorney would say publicly that neither she nor the government could comment,” Lander said in emailed comments.
“I told her that I would not be making a statement. After I became aware of the Attorney’s statement I requested my Chief Executive to communicate with the Attorney’s office in relation to my recollection of the conversation. I was not intending to make a statement but in light of the Attorney’s statement, I was of the view that I should state my position and authorise the publication of the Attorney’s public statement.”
Neither Chapman nor the Government responded to numerous requests for comment over the long weekend, despite Planning Minister Stephan Knoll specifically referring questions on the matter to the Attorney-General.
However, late today, she released a two-line statement, saying: “In response to recent reports in the media, I have taken legal advice and reviewed the statement and related events.”
“I am satisfied that no breach of the Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Act 2012 has occurred,” Chapman said.
It followed calls from Opposition Leader Peter Malinauskas that Chapman stand down pending an independent judicial review.
“We do not take this decision lightly [but] these events are somewhat extraordinary,” Malinauskas said.
“It is simply untenable to have a situation where the Attorney-General of the state has questions hanging over them about whether or not they have broken the law.”
He responded to the Attorney’s subsequent statement by saying: “Plainly Vickie Chapman is not able to offer an independent assessment of her own actions.”
“The total lack of information in the Attorney General’s statement only further demonstrates the need for an independent judicial inquiry,” he said.
InDaily asked Lander today whether he believed the Attorney had breached the ICAC Act, with a spokesperson responding that “the Commissioner is of the view that it is not appropriate for him to publicly offer a legal opinion as to whether any person has committed any offence”.
“He has never before offered such opinion publicly as that is not his role,” they said.
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