The Marshall Government was plunged into minority last Friday morning after Liberal MP Fraser Ellis made a shock announcement he had been charged for alleged offences resulting from the ICAC country members allowance investigation.
Ellis said he informed Premier Steven Marshall the day prior that he would suspend his Liberal Party membership and sit on the crossbench while he disputes the charges.
The move left the government with just 22 MPs on the floor of the House of Assembly, with 24 needed for a majority.
The charges came after Ellis last year repaid $42,130 in allowance claims he made while staying rent free with fellow MP Terry Stephens at his Norwood property.
It will be alleged Ellis made 78 fraudulent claims – totalling more than $18,000 – for the allowance between May 13, 2018, and June 12, 2020.
The member for Narungga told parliament he would be defending himself against the charges and not resigning from parliament.
“I’m completely innocent, and will be vigorously defending these allegations to the full extent of my resources and the law,” Ellis said.
“I’ve never acted dishonestly, any error in a claim form completed by a relatively inexperienced member was simply that – an error.
“The allegations are contrary to who I am and what I stand for. I have great faith in the judicial system of this state, and I look forward to being exonerated by an impartial court, free of influence from other arms of government.”
Commissioner Ann Vanstone QC released a statement on the charges.
“I would not ordinarily name a person charged as a result on (sic) an investigation by me,” Vanstone said.
“But in light of Mr Ellis’s statement in Parliament this morning, it is appropriate that I do so on this occasion.”
She added that her investigation into other members continues.
Vanstone’s last update on the country members investigation in October cleared nine MPs – including two former ministers – of any misconduct, but left Ellis’s name off the exonerated list.
In September 2020, Vanstone said she had asked Ellis to voluntarily provide documents that “go to his incurring actual expenditure during nights he stayed in Adelaide” and “demonstrate a requirement he be in Adelaide on the occasions when claims were made.”
Ellis said he intends to contest the next state election in 2022.
Parliament is next due to sit on March 2.