Mike Baird New NSW Premier; Elected Unopposed With Gladys Berejiklian As Deputy

3.30pm – The NSW Liberal Party has elected Mike Baird unopposed as its new leader. Gladys Berejiklian has been elected deputy leader, also unopposed.

Baird

Baird was sworn in as the 44th Premier of NSW at 6.17pm today, replacing Barry O’Farrell, who resigned yesterday after giving misleading evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

Baird, 44, has been the member for Manly since 2007. He is currently the Treasurer.

Baird is the son of Bruce Baird, who was the Liberal member for the federal electorate of Cook from 1998 until 2007, and the state member for Northcott from 1984 until 1995. Coincidentally, Bruce Baird became deputy leader of the Liberal Party in 1992, after Premier Nick Greiner was forced to resign following an ICAC investigation.

Berejiklian, 43, has been the member for Willoughby since 2003 and is currently the Minister for Transport.

The parliamentary Liberal Party met at 3pm. The meeting broke up at 3.25pm. Prior to the meeting, a number of candidates for the deputy leadership, including Anthony Roberts and Pru Goward, withdrew from the contest. Berejiklian, the preferred candidate of O’Farrell and the moderate wing of the party, accepted the deputy’s position.

Statement from Andrew Stoner, Deputy Premier of NSW, Leader of the Nationals, Minister for Trade and Investment, Minister for Regional Infrastructure and Services.

On behalf of the NSW Nationals Parliamentary Party, I welcome the election of Mike Baird as Leader of the NSW Liberal Parliamentary Party and Gladys Berejiklian as the Deputy Liberal Leader.

The Nationals fully support the incoming Premier and, together with the Liberals, are committed to providing strong, stable and responsible government for NSW.

As Treasurer for the past three years, Mike has helped secure increased funding for regional NSW, including a record $13 billion for regional infrastructure.

Since being elected in March 2011, the NSW Liberals and Nationals have worked tirelessly to turn this State around with NSW now creating more new jobs than any other State and new roads, rail lines and hospitals under construction.

We look forward to working with Premier-elect Baird to continue delivering for the people of NSW.


Barry O’Farrell Resigns After Handwritten Thank-You Note For Wine Is Tendered At ICAC

The Liberal Premier of New South Wales, Barry O’Farrell has resigned, after a handwritten thank-you note for a 1959 bottle of Grange was tendered at ICAC.

The thank-you note was handed to ICAC this morning by Nick Di Girolamo, the chief executive of Australian Water Holdings. Yesterday, O’Farrell denied receiving the gift or phoning Di Girolamo to thank him.

O'Farrell

Thank-you note

O’Farrell described his behaviour as a “massive failure of memory”.

A meeting of the parliamentary Liberal Party will take place after Easter to elect a replacement. Treasurer Mike Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian would seem to be the most likely candidates.

In a supreme irony, O’Farrell has become the highest profile and most senior casualty of the ICAC hearings into corruption relating to the business operations of the former Labor MP and minister, Eddie Obeid.

O’Farrell’s three years as Premier began when he was sworn in on March 28, 2011, following the election that reduced the scandal-wracked ALP to a rump of 20 seats in the 93-seat lower house. The Coalition secured a swing of 16.48% to win government from the ALP with 64.22% of the two-party-preferred vote.

O’Farrell’s Liberal predecessor, Nick Greiner, was also a casualty of an ICAC inquiry in 1992, resigning after four years as Premier. He was subsequently cleared of allegations against him.

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Statement from Barry O’Farrell.

I’ve been advised overnight that this morning at ICAC a thankyou note from me in relation to the bottle of wine will be presented.

I can’t explain whether — I can’t — I still can’t recall the receipt of a gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange. I can’t explain what happened to that bottle of wine. But I do accept there is a thankyou note signed by me, and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my action.

I want to say two things: firstly, that the evidence I gave to the Independent Commission against Corruption yesterday was evidence to the best of my knowledge. I believed it to be truthful, and as I said yesterday, it’s important that citizens deal with police, deal with the courts and deal with watchdogs like ICAC in a truthful fashion.

In no way did I seek to mislead, wilfully or otherwise, the Independent Commission against Corruption.

That would go against everything that I am.

But this has clearly been a significant memory fail on my part, albeit within weeks of coming to office, but I accept the consequences of my actions. And that is that as soon as I can organise a meeting with the parliamentary Liberal party for next week, I will be resigning from my position and enabling a new Liberal leader to be elected — someone who will then become the premier of NSW.

Whilst I’m sure you have questions, I don’t think this is the time for those questions to be dealt with. There will be other occasions for those questions to be dealt with. What’s important here is that again, I’m seeking to support the process of the Independent Commission against Corruption, a body that I have always supported throughout my career.

I’ve accepted that I have had a massive memory fail. I still can’t explain either the arrival of a gift that I have no recollection of, or its absence, which I certainly still can’t explain.

But I accept the consequences and in an orderly way a new Liberal leader will be elected to take on the position of premier of NSW.


NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell Denies Receiving $2979 Bottle Of Grange; Bruising Encounter With Media After ICAC Appearance

The New South Wales Liberal Premier, Barry O’Farrell, has denied receiving a $2979 bottle of Grange from Australian Water Holdings in what has been described as an attempt to butter him up over a public-private partnership proposal.

O'Farrell

Appearing at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), O’Farrell said he could not recall a phone call on April 20, 2011 to the then chief executive of Australian Water Holdings (AWH), Nick Di Girolamo. He denied receiving the wine or calling to thank Di Girolamo. [Read more...]


Abbott Government To Build Second Sydney Airport At Badgerys Creek

The federal government has announced that a second Sydney airport will be built at Badgerys Creek.

Abbott

Planning for the new airport is to start immediately, with construction beginning in 2016. The government says most of the cost will be met by a private sector operator.

The Prime Minister, Tony Abbott, and the Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development, Warren Truss, made the announcement at a press conference in Canberra this afternoon.

They said the initial construction phase is expected to generate around 4,000 jobs. The airport development should provide 35,000 jobs by 2035, increasing to 60,000 jobs over time. An increase of almost $24 billion in Australian gross domestic product (GDP) is predicted by 2060.

Abbott presented the decision as an infrastructure package for western Sydney and stressed that his focus was on “roads first, airport second”.

Abbott said the government was not proposing a curfew similar to the one that applies at Kingsford-Smith. This is likely to be a contentious issue for Liberal and Labor MPs in the new airport’s vicinity.

The decision to build at Badgerys Creek brings to an end a debate which began in the 1960s. The Hawke government acquired the land at Badgerys Creek in the 1980s.

  • Listen to Abbott and Truss (22m – transcript below)

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Media release from Tony Abbott, Prime Minister, and Warren Truss, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister for Infrastructure and Regional Development. [Read more...]


Brian Harradine, Long-Serving Independent Senator Expelled By ALP, Dies, 79

Brian Harradine, an influential independent senator from Tasmania, who was expelled by the ALP in 1975 following a long and bitter dispute in the aftermath of the 1950s Labor Split, has died at the age of 79.

Harradine was elected as an independent senator from Tasmania at the 1975 double dissolution election following the dismissal of the Whitlam Government. He was re-elected five times (1980, 1983, 1987, 1993 and 1999) and served for 30 years. He chose not to contest the 2004 election and left the Senate on June 30, 2005.

At various times, Harradine’s vote was a crucial balance of power factor in the Senate, especially between 1996 and 1999 when he was instrumental in supporting the Wik legislation and voting to privatise Telstra. He voted against the Howard government’s GST legislation in 1999.

A socially conservative Catholic, Harradine was an organiser with the Federated Clerks Union in the 1950s. He was Secretary of the Tasmanian Trades and Labour Council and a member of the Australian Council of Trade Unions executive from 1964 until 1976. He founded the Tasmanian division of the Shop Distributive and Allied Employees Association in 1967. [Read more...]


Liberals Clinging To Three Seats In WA Senate Election; Labor Thrashed As Greens Triumph And Palmer Surges

The Senate election re-run in Western Australia has resulted in swings against both major parties with the Liberals winning two seats and the ALP one. The Greens have significantly increased their vote and re-elected Scott Ludlam, whilst the Palmer United Party seems assured of winning a seat. The sixth position looks likely to be a contest between the Liberals and the ALP.

As counting continued late last night, the Liberal Party was assured of winning two of the six available seats on a primary vote of 33.71%, a fall of 5.49%. Senator David Johnston has been re-elected to a third term and Senator Michaelia Cash has been re-elected to a second term. [Read more...]


Interest Rates Remain On Hold As Reserve Bank Sees “Period Of Stability”

The Reserve Bank of Australia has left interest rates unchanged for the eighth consecutive month.

At its board meeting today, the RBA left the cash rate at 2.5%. The rate was last changed in August last year.

The Reserve’s Governor, Glenn Stevens, said rates were unlikely to change in the near future: “In the Board’s judgement, monetary policy is appropriately configured to foster sustainable growth in demand and inflation outcomes consistent with the target. On present indications, the most prudent course is likely to be a period of stability in interest rates.”

Statement from the Governor of the Reserve Bank of Australia, Glenn Stevens.

Statement by Glenn Stevens, Governor: Monetary Policy Decision

At its meeting today, the Board decided to leave the cash rate unchanged at 2.5 per cent.

Growth in the global economy was a bit below trend in 2013, but there are reasonable prospects of a pick-up this year. The United States economy, while affected by adverse weather, continues its expansion and the euro area has begun a recovery from recession, albeit a fragile one. Japan has recorded a significant pick-up in growth. China’s growth remains generally in line with policymakers’ objectives, though it may have slowed a little in early 2014. Commodity prices have declined from their peaks but in historical terms remain high. [Read more...]