Vickie Chapman makes a libel threat to stop a parliamentary inquiry

South Australia’s deputy prime minister, Vickie Chapman, has threatened to sue an opponent for defamation to stop a parliamentary inquiry into whether she has a conflict of interest.

Mrs Chapman issued a letter from a lawyer to Labor frontman Tom Koutsantonis on Friday, the penultimate day of a fifteen-length parliamentary inquiry into whether she had a conflict of interest over a blockade of a timber port on her native Kangaroo Island.

The inquiry heard several public officials and even Mrs Chapman’s own adviser prepared for the possibility that she would recuse herself from the decision as Minister of Planning, but did not, as she thought no conflict existed.

It is understood that her legal letter includes a claim for apology and damages for what Ms Chapman claims are slanderous comments made in a series of tweets posted while Mr Koutsantonis was a member of the committee examining her conduct.

“It is already past time for the matter to be removed from this Kangaroo court to a competent court,” Ms. Chapman said in a statement.

The statement assumed that Mr Chapman intends to use the threat against Mr Koutsantonis to try to stop the results of the inquiry, which are due to be handed over to parliament next Thursday.

Opposition MP Tom Koutsantonis confirmed that he had received correspondence from Mrs Chapman’s lawyers.(ABC News: Nick Harmsen)

Earlier this year, Ms Chapman adopted a different approach – arguing that a parliamentary inquiry into explosive claims by former Labor MP Annabel Digance should continue, even after Ms Digance was accused by police of blackmail.

Ultimately, Labor and the transbench blocked that investigation of proceedings.

Mr Koutsantonis has indicated he will try to defend his statements.

Public officials, a councilor, a Crown lawyer discussed a possible conflict

On Friday, in the most recent hearing of the parliamentary committee, several officials and Mrs Chapman’s own planning adviser all confirmed that they were discussing the possibility that the Attorney General has a conflict.

Ministerial Adviser Oliver Luckhurst-Smith told the committee that he had emailed the Crown Solicitor’s office, asking for a document to be prepared that would allow Ms. Chapman to delegate her decision to another minister.

“I had public knowledge of the lawyer’s connection to the island and as a result felt it would be worth providing her with the opportunity to consider whether or not her connection to the island was worth considering a dispute,” he said.

Mr Luckhurst-Smith told the committee he had discussed whether his minister should delegate the decision-making with the most senior bureaucrat in the Attorney General’s Department, Caroline Mealor.

Ms. Mealor told the commission that the question of conflict has been considered, but ultimately the question of whether to declare such is up to Ms. Chapman.

“I was content that it was something she lived for and when she came back a minute saying I turned my mind to it, there was no conflict, there would be no delegation, I thought my task was done,” she said.

Crown lawyer Rina Reina confirmed she had drafted a document if Chapman needed to delegate the decision to another minister.

But she told the committee that she had not advised the deputy prime minister on conflicts, and that other discussions between the couple were legally privileged and confidential.

“That doesn’t mean the issue of conflict hasn’t been discussed, so if there has been a discussion, then I am not allowed to disclose that discussion,” she said.


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