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 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.
- Listen to Barry O’Farrell’s resignation statement (3m)
- Listen to Opposition Leader John Robertson and Linda Burney (12m)
- Listen to NSW Greens MP John Kaye (3m)
- Listen to Prime Minister Tony Abbott (2m)
- Watch Abbott (2m)
- Full list of current political leaders in Australia
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.