South Australian backbencher Fraser Ellis' shock resignation from the Liberal Party as he fights 23 fraud charges has left the state government in a minority.
The Liberal government now holds only 23 seats in the 47 seat parliament, less than the 24 seats required for a majority.
Mr Ellis told parliament just after 2am on Friday during a marathon late-night sitting, that he has been charged and has suspended his membership of the party while he is under investigation.
"I'd like to take this rather unconventional time to inform the house that yesterday I was charged with alleged offences arising from the recent ICAC investigation into the country members allowance.
"I am completely innocent and I will be vigorously defending these allegations to the full extent of my resources and the law," he said.
The state's Independent Commissioner Against Corruption Ann Vanstone has confirmed that Mr Ellis has been charged with 23 counts of deception over his country MP travel claims.
"I would not ordinarily name a person charged as a result of an investigation by me but in light of Mr Ellis's statement in Parliament this morning, it is appropriate that I do so on this occasion," Ms Vanstone said in a statement.
The ICAC will allege that Mr Ellis made 78 fraudulent claims for the country members accommodation allowance, totalling more than $18,000, between 13 May 2018 and 12 June 2020
It's alleged he made claims for accommodation expenses for staying in Adelaide overnight to carry out his parliamentary duties, when he was not actually staying in the city.
Mr Ellis told parliament the allegations against him did not amount to proof, and that issues with his travel claims were inadvertent.
"I have never acted dishonestly, any error in a claim form completed by a relatively inexperienced member was exactly that, an error," he said.
The member for Narungga says he will sit on the crossbench while he fights the charges.
The opposition leader Peter Malinauskas says the Marshall government is in crisis and questioned why Mr Ellis had made the admissions during the night.
Mr Ellis is the fifth MP to fall foul of the expenses scandal after Stephan Knoll and Tim Whetstone resigned as Ministers, Terry Stephens resigned as President of the Legislative Council and Adrian Pederick resigned as the Government Whip.
MPs have also had to repay tens of thousands of dollars in wrongly claimed allowances.
ICAC is continuing its investigation into alleged travel rorts by other MPs.
Mr Ellis has been served a summons to appear in the Adelaide Magistrates Court on 31 March 2021.
Australian Associated Press