Games / News and Technology / Sport / Technology · March 1, 2021 0

General Vickie Chapman denies conflict of interest in Kangaroo Island port inquiry

South Australia’s Attorney-General has told a parliamentary committee she received rental income from a property that would have been affected by a major port development which she subsequently blocked.

Key points:
South Australian Attorney-General Vickie Chapman denied approval for a timber port on Kangaroo Island

Ms Chapman owns a house next to a plantation owned by the port’s proponents

At a parliamentary inquiry into the decision, Ms Chapman repeatedly claimed she had no conflict of interest

The committee is examining whether Vickie Chapman acted properly when she, as Planning Minister, rejected a proposal to build a timber export port at Smith Bay, on Kangaroo Island, in August.

Ms Chapman told the committee she owns a house at Gum Valley, which was rented to a local family.

But she denied knowing that an adjacent plantation was under contract to Kangaroo Island Plantation Timbers, nor that concerns about increased truck traffic past the property played any role in her decision to deny the company’s development application..

“Nothing’s happening there that I’ve seen … I haven’t noticed any activity in there or [had any] contract. Nobody’s told me that,” she said.

However, committee members pointed out the assessment report into the development showed haulage routes passing her family property and going to the neighbouring block.

“I would indicate to you that that was of no detriment to me,” Ms Chapman said.

An aerial photo of a house next to a forest
The house owned by Vickie Chapman, bottom, is next to a timber plantation on Kangaroo Island.(ABC News)
Questions over conflict of interest
Counsel Assisting the committee, Rachael Gray QC, said Ms Chapman had an obligation to identify and report both perceived and actual conflicts of interest before she made decisions about the application.

“Do you accept that the fact you were being asked to make a decision on a proposal that had haulage rates within 1 to 2 kilometres of property you owned could create a perception of conflict of interest?” Dr Gray asked.

“Well, I don’t,” Ms Chapman said.

“If it did, somebody would have written to me saying, ‘Look, this is the situation’.”

A woman with long brown hair and a black jacket sits at a desk with a microphone and paperwork. Her hand is resting on her face
Senior counsel assisting the committee Rachael Gray QC listens during the hearing.(ABC News: Haidarr Jones)
However, Dr Gray said the minister was responsible for identifying a potential conflict, not the proponents of the project.

“The obligation to identify a conflict: Do you accept that that’s your obligation, not that of the proposed developer?” she said.

Ms Chapman responded: “I’ve indicated that I don’t agree that I had a conflict or a perceived conflict. I’ve just pointed out that, if there was, somebody else who thought I did, I thought I would have heard from them.”

The Attorney-General also told the committee the proximity of haulage routes and potential for increased truck traffic would not have influenced her decision.