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state political reporter Stacey Lee

Vickie Chapman's lawyer tells inquiry there's no 'reliable evidence' to support conflict of interest claim

SA Attorney-General and Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman's conduct has been the subject of a parliamentary inquiry. (ABC News)

South Australia's Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman has hit back at claims of a conflict of interest, saying any adverse report against her is of "no value".

In a 54-page submission to the committee looking into Ms Chapman's conduct, her lawyer, Frances Nelson QC, took aim at Labor MP Tom Koutsantonis.

"Any adverse report is of no value, tainted as it is with the refusal of the Honourable Member for West Torrens to recuse himself in circumstances where he has exhibited prejudgement, and at least a reasonable apprehension of bias if not actual bias," the submission read.

Ms Nelson goes on to say Ms Chapman, who is also the state's Attorney-General, "has not misled parliament" and "has not breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct".

Yesterday, the lawyer leading the parliamentary inquiry told the committee it would be open to find Ms Chapman had a conflict of interest and misled parliament.

Rachael Gray QC recommended Ms Chapman be referred to the ombudsman for "not just perceived conflict, but actual conflict".

But Ms Nelson rejected the claim, saying "there is no reliable evidence" to support it.

"An adverse report in relation to this hasty, inchoate, incomplete inquiry, tainted as it is by apprehensions of bias, would not reflect well on the Honourable Members," the submission read.

Counsel assisting the inquiry Rachael Gray QC recommended Ms Chapman be referred to the ombudsman.  (ABC News: Stacey Lee)

On Monday, a parliamentary committee ruled Ms Chapman had misled state parliament and should be referred to the state's ombudsman for a conflict of interest after she rejected a port off Kangaroo Island.

The committee heard Ms Chapman owned land across the road from a forest which would have been felled if the port went ahead.

Premier stands firm with his deputy

Premier Steven Marshall has continued to provide his deputy with steadfast support.

"I'm 100 per cent behind Vickie Chapman — she made the right decision, it's exactly the same decision that I would have made," Mr Marshall said. 

Mr Marshall also repeated his criticisms of the parliamentary committee and its processes.

"It was a kangaroo court and I don't think there was any evidence that would sway my decision whatsoever," he said. 

"This concept that [Ms Chapman] was conflicted because she once lived on Kangaroo Island [and] she has got property down the western end is just … it's ridiculous, quite frankly.

"I mean, the reality is we've all known that for a long period of time and the Attorney-General, acting as the Planning Minister… makes hundreds, if not thousands of planning decisions every year and I think she is doing an excellent job."

SA Premier Steven Marshall has supported Ms Chapman throughout the inquiry. (ABC News: Isadora Bogle)

So, what happens next?

Now that final submissions have been received, the committee will prepare a report for the parliament, but it is likely two reports will be written.

One will come from the two Labor MPs on the committee, Andrea Michaels and Tom Koutsantonis.

The second will come from the committee's two Liberals, Peter Treloar and Matt Cowdrey.

The committee's fifth member, Independent MP Sam Duluk, will be the decision-maker as to which report will be considered the "majority report".

If nothing happens from there, the opposition will likely move a motion of no confidence in the Deputy Premier, but even then it is hard to predict what happens next.

Professor John Williams from the University of Adelaide said it would be very different if a motion of no confidence was passed regarding the premier.

"If there's a no-confidence motion in the premier, that would also be taken to be a no-confidence in the government, and they should resign," he said.

"That's the convention… But does that convention apply to ministers?

"This is where it gets a little bit hazy.

"Some would say that the convention does apply to ministers, they should resign, [but] it's debatable, because we don't have a lot of examples."

Frances Nelson QC is representing Vickie Chapman during the parliamenarty inquiry.  (ABC: Lincoln Rothall)

Professor Williams said the parliament could call on the state's governor to act, but that would be an extreme move and would likely go full-circle.

"You'd hope we would never get to the situation where the governor's being brought in these circumstances," he said.

"Ministers are appointed by the governor under the South Australian Constitution, but they're appointed on the advice of the premier.

'If the House [of Assembly] was to request that the governor withdraw an appointment, the governor would seek the advice of the premier.

"That's how responsible government works."

Professor Williams said there are a few different options available to the parliament if it wanted to take action.

"Something's got to give," he said.

"If the house believed it's being ignored because of the intervention of the premier then the house can take a number of steps.

"It could do nothing and say, 'Well, that's the end of the matter.' It could censure the premier or the minister, it could then escalate or refuse to participate in the portfolio of the minister, not dealing with their legislation." 

But he said that last option would be "counterproductive".

The final option would be for the House of Assembly to move a motion of no confidence in the premier.

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