Has Minister Speirs breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct?

In Parliament, Questions

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS (15:05): I seek leave to make a brief explanation before addressing a question on the topic of the Ministerial Code of Conduct to the Treasurer on behalf of the Premier.

Leave granted.

The Hon. T.A. FRANKS: Earlier today, it was revealed that Minister David Speirs is facing two code of conduct complaints resulting from his behaviour and comment on morning radio with David Bevan last week on the ABC. During this conversation with broadcaster David Bevan, the minister publicly disparaged and attempted to discredit the work, independence and qualifications of well-known and respected South Australian scientist Peri Coleman.

During the interview, the minister stated, ‘some of the activists involved in this space describe themselves as independent scientists, I’m not sure what their qualifications are.’ He went on to say that, ‘It’s in Peri Coleman’s interest to be extremely worried because she is the self-proclaimed independent scientist.’ The minister then on two occasions dismissed Ms Coleman’s scientific analysis as ‘anecdotal evidence’. Part 2.3 of the Ministerial Code of Conduct states that:

In the discharge of his or her public duties, a Minister shall not dishonestly or wantonly and recklessly attack the reputation of any other person.

Ms Coleman runs her consulting agency as a small business. An attack on her credibility in such a manner by a powerful minister puts her business at existential risk. Her business and her livelihood rely on her scientific acuity, her integrity and reputation, all of which this minister has recklessly and falsely disparaged on ABC public radio.

Complaints have been sent accordingly to the minister. Indeed, I am one of the complainants. The complaints were made late yesterday, but they were preceded by a collective of 10 environmental organisations making a public statement also calling on the minister to apologise for these comments. Apparently they were given zero consideration or investigation, given that the comments put to the Premier today were dismissed by the Premier, with him saying he did not believe that his minister had breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

I will note that on two other occasions I have raised in this chamber, and in writing, potential breaches of the Ministerial Code of Conduct by Minister Speirs, which have both been dismissed by the government without any indication of how they were investigated or what consideration was actually given to them. My question to the Treasurer for the Premier is: how can this government continue to claim that a minister has not breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct when it doesn’t even appear that the Premier investigates the complaints?

The Hon. R.I. LUCAS (Treasurer) (15:08): Unsurprisingly, I have every confidence in my Premier to properly give due consideration to any complaint about a breach of a code of conduct, and I have absolute confidence that he would have given due consideration to all allegations or complaints that were made to him. Ultimately, they are his decisions as the Leader of the Government, the Premier, but whatever decisions he has made in relation to this issue, I am 100 per cent supportive of and behind.