‘I’m not playing that game’: Chapman won’t rule out by-election

Former Deputy Premier Vickie Chapman will not rule out forcing a by-election by quitting parliament in the wake of her party’s landslide election rout – but has also left the door open to serve on the Opposition frontbench.

Apr 06, 2022, updated Apr 06, 2022
Vickie Chapman giving evidence to last year's inquiry into her decision to veto a Kangaroo Island port proposal. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Vickie Chapman giving evidence to last year's inquiry into her decision to veto a Kangaroo Island port proposal. Photo: Tony Lewis / InDaily

Chapman stood down as deputy Liberal leader last year after a parliamentary inquiry found she had both real and perceived conflicts of interest when she rejected a $40 million timber port proposal on her native Kangaroo Island – with the matter now under investigation by the Ombudsman.

She also lost a vote of no confidence after being found to have misled parliament – believed to be the first time a minister has lost such a vote in the lower house in South Australian political history.

As Attorney-General, Chapman led the charge on a suite of social policy, including last year’s termination of pregnancy Bill that enraged many conservative Liberal members – and put her at loggerheads with then-Environment Minister David Speirs, who led the parliamentary push against the legislation.

With Speirs widely expected to lead the Liberal Party when the party-room meets, insiders have suggested Chapman would be unlikely to remain in parliament under his leadership.

Asked today whether she had flagged a by-election if Speirs is elected leader, Chapman told InDaily: “I’m not commenting on anything in relation to the leadership – I think they’re all matters I’ll discuss in the party-room.”

She did, however, clarify that “I’m not standing for any of the [leadership] positions” thrown open after the party’s election defeat, with outgoing Premier Steven Marshall quitting the leadership and her replacement as deputy, Dan van Holst Pellekaan, losing his seat.

However, Chapman was less definitive about whether she would put her hand up for a frontbench role.

“I haven’t been asked and that’s not being considered at this point – so we’ll see,” she said.

“I’ll do whatever I can to support those that are elected.”

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She repeatedly declined to commit to serving her full four-year term in her safe eastern suburbs seat of Bragg, saying: “I’m not playing that game, ruling things in or out.”

Marshall has publicly committed both before and after the election to serve out his four-year term in neighbouring Dunstan. Chapman was the only other member of the Liberal party-room to attend last week’s declaration of the poll in the former Premier’s seat.

Asked to comment on her relationship with Speirs, which several party colleagues have described as fractious, Chapman said: “I won’t make any comment on the leadership, or in relation to what I might do.”

“You can ask me one hundred ways – I’m not going to comment on that,” she said.

While Speirs is yet to publicly declare his hand, he is widely expected to stand for the leadership, with only backbench MP for Mackillop Nick McBride confirming himself for the ballot at this stage.

Various moderate-aligned MPs, including Vincent Tarzia, Tim Whetstone and John Gardner have been linked to a tilt at the deputy’s role, while Josh Teague – Chapman’s ministerial replacement – has consistently declined to confirm whether he will run for either position.

The party’s next leader is expected to usher in several fresh faces to the shadow cabinet, with Marshall making way and van Holst Pellekaan, Transport Minister Corey Wingard and Child Protection Minister Rachel Sanderson losing their seats.

Former Health Minister Stephen Wade and Skills Minister David Pisoni have not responded to inquiries about whether they intend to serve on the Opposition frontbench.

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