Emails from Vickie Chapman’s ministerial planning adviser show he understood the minister would “likely” declare a conflict of interest before she refused a port on Kangaroo Island.
Vickie Chapman’s ministerial adviser was prepared to delegate a decision on the port if she declared a conflict of interest
The email from Oliver Luckhurst-Smith to the Crown Solicitor’s Office was tabled in a parliamentary committee today
Ms Chapman last week denied she had a conflict of interest
An email chain from Oliver Luckhurst-Smith to the Crown Solicitor’s Office has been tabled in the committee looking into whether she should have made a decision about the port proposal.
The committee has previously heard Ms Chapman receives income from a property she owns on the island.
The home is across the road from a forest that would have been felled by Kangaroo Island Plantation Timber (KIPT) if the port went ahead.
Last week, Ms Chapman denied she had a conflict of interest and said she did not know the forest, across the road from her home, was under contract to KIPT.
The committee has also heard the Attorney-General’s department was prepared to delegate a decision on the port to Human Services Minister Michelle Lensink, if Ms Chapman declared she had a conflict of interest.
New evidence received by the committee shows Ms Chapman’s ministerial adviser requested the delegation letter be drafted.
After receiving a response from the Crown Solicitor’s office, Mr Luckhurst-Smith replied, again referencing conversations he had with the Attorney-General’s Chief of Staff, Jodeen Carney, and the Chief Executive of the Attorney-General’s Department, Caroline Mealor.
“From my conversation with Jodeen and Caroline yesterday I understand the plan is to have the recommendation and delegation instrument presented to the AG concurrently so that she can determine whether she has a conflict and can execute the delegation at the same time,” he said in the email.
Premier’s department looped in
Another email, written almost two weeks later, shows the Department of Premier and Cabinet (DPC) was also aware Ms Chapman was considering declaring a conflict of interest in the matter.
“I was wondering whether you know if the minister is going to delegate her decision-making powers to another minister or make the decision herself,” an email from a DPC adviser reads.
Last week, the committee heard Ms Chapman was asked to consider whether she had a conflict.
She came to the conclusion that she did not.
“It was raised with me that I needed to turn my mind to questions of conflict and I did,” she said.
“I do not consider that I have any conflict of interest.”
Ms Chapman did not add to those comments when she was asked about the email chain.
“All of these matters are before the committee and I have nothing further to add,” she said.
Committee member accused of having ‘bias’
Vickie Chapman’s lawyer, Frances Nelson QC, has written to the committee chair, Andrea Michaels, accusing Labor’s Tom Koutsantonis of having his own “apprehension of bias”.
Ms Nelson also sought to cast doubt on the committee’s final report, which is yet to be written.
“If the ultimate report of the select committee is to have any credibility, the Hon Tom Koutsantonis MP must recuse himself forthwith,” the letter read.
Ms Nelson then went on to outline 17 occasions where she believed Mr Koutsantonis showed “bias” during committee hearings, on social media and in media interviews.
Committee Chair Andrea Michaels told the ABC she has raised the matter with Mr Koutsantonis.
“The member concerned will consider the matter and deal with it,” she said.
Mr Koutsantonis said he believed it was ironic that the minister was now using a conflict of interest claim about the committee looking into whether she had a conflict of interest.
“Also, the irony is thick — the Deputy Premier is now attempting to use a conflict of interest argument. It is just staggering.”
He again called on the Attorney-General to resign.
“It is impossible to see that evidence and form any other point of view that she must now resign,” Mr Koutsantonis said.
The committee is expected to hear closing submissions on Friday.