Barry O'Farrell
Barry O'Farrell Trevor Veale

Barry O'Farrell defeated by a bottle of wine

HE BATTLED bikies, took on unions and brought in tougher sentencing for violent thugs but in the end, it was an undeclared bottle of wine that defeated NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell.

On what should have been one of the best days of his career - the Federal Coalition had finally announced Sydney's second airport would be built at Badgery's Ck, more than 60,000 jobs were to be created in the left-leaning west and Prince William and Kate were coming to town - the premier abruptly announced his resignation, farewelling startled news reporters to front round two of an unprecedented corruption hearing.

It took less than three hours for evidence before the NSW corruption watchdog cast a shadow over almost 30 years in politics on Tuesday.

Questioned over why he did not declare a $3000 bottle of Penfold's Grange, sent by the boss of the water company at the centre of the corruption inquiry, Mr O'Farrell said he could not recall receiving the gift.

Despite being shown a courier's receipt, confirming the bottle had been sent to his Sydney home shortly after the 2011 election, Mr O'Farrell said he believed he would have remembered receiving a 1959 bottle of vintage Penfolds.

By Wednesday morning, ICAC had informed the Premier that a hand written note signed in the Premier's name, thanking Australia Water Holding's boss Nick Di Girolamo for the wine and "all" that he did, would be tendered at the hearing.

Stepping up to face the Sydney press core, Mr O'Farrell maintained the evidence he had given was truthful but accepted the people of NSW could not forgive what he described as "a significant memory fail".

"As someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my actions," Mr O'Farrell said

"In no way did I seek to mislead, wilfully or otherwise, the Independent Commission Against Corruption - that would go against everything that I have."

As news of the Premier's shock resignation filtered through parliament ranks and the corporate world, many a powerful ally came to his defence.

NSW Tourism and Transformation Forum Chief Executive Ken Morrisson said Mr "O'Farrell had "got NSW Back on track".

Noting the progress of the North, South and Inner West rail links, the introduction of public transport Opal Cards and the establishment of Destination NSW, Mr Morrisson thanked Mr O'Farrell for "making the decisions that will set up the state for the future".

Prime Minister Tony Abbott described his friend of more than 20 years as a "man of honour" and said Mr O'Farrell had "inadvertently, innocently misled ICAC"

Since he led the NSW Liberal Party to victory at the 2011 election - breaking a 16-year Labor stronghold - Mr O'Farrell has become best known for unpopular public sector jobs cuts, anti-bikie legislation and alcohol reforms.

Following public outcry at the weak jail sentence handed to Thomas Kelly's killer Kieran Loveridge, he introduced mandatory sentencing for deadly coward punches and other alcohol related assaults.

It will be at least next week before voters learn who will lead the NSW Liberal Party but close watchers of parliament are tipping the job will go to Treasurer Mike Baird.

The note tendered to ICAC.
The note tendered to ICAC. Supplied

 

Disgraced O'Farrell recalled to ICAC after resignation

NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell has been  recalled to give evidence at ICAC after  resigning over allegations he mislead the NSW corruption watchdog over a gift he received from the boss of Australian Water Holdings.

He is due to reappear at midday after admitting today that the evidence he gave yesterday was wrong.

The unprecedented resignation follows a tense day before ICAC where Mr O'Farrell was questioned about a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange wine, sent to him by AWA chief Nick Di Girolamo in the days following the 2011 state election.

Despite being provided with a courier's receipt, which confirmed the wine had been delivered to his home address, Mr O'Farrell said he had no memory.

Holding a press conference in Sydney this morning Mr O'Farrell said he had been advised by ICAC that a thank you note, penned by him in relation to the wine, would be presented at today's hearing.

While he maintained he could not recall receiving the wine, and that his evidence was truthful to the best of his knowledge, Mr O'Farrell said as someone who believed in accountability, he would accept the consequences of his actions.

Speaking to a clearly stunned media pack, he said he had not intended to mislead the inquiry in any way.

He said he had responded to the claim to the best of his knowledge at the time.

"But this has clearly been a significant memory fail on my part albeit within weeks of coming to office," he said.

Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had enormous respect and admiration for Mr O'Farrell.

He said he had been a great servant of the Liberal party and the people of NSW and Australia.

Mr Abbott said Mr O'Farrell had "innocently and inadvertently " mislead the ICAC inquiry yesterday and described his resignation as an "utterly honourable" act of integrity.

 

Mr O'Farrell's statement to the media

"I've been advised overnight that this morning at ICAC, a thank you 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, I do accept there is a thank you note signed by me.

"As someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequence of my action.
I want to say two or three 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 have.

"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.

"That is, that as soon as I can organise a meeting of the Parliamentary Liberal Party for next week, I will be resigning the position and enabling a new Liberal leader to be elected, someone who will then become the Premier of New South Wales.

"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've always supported throughout my career.

"I've accepted that I've had a massive memory fail.

"I still can't explain either the arrival of the gift that I have no recollection of or its absence which I certainly still can't fathom.

"But I accept the consequences in an orderly way.

"A new Liberal Leader will be elected to take on the position of Premier of New South Wales."


Spend money on veterans' health, not war memorials

Spend money on veterans' health, not war memorials

Former army chief calls for more mental health support for veterans

How to save $200 on your electricity bill

How to save $200 on your electricity bill

Slash your power bill and reduce your impact on the environment

Splendour tickets sold out in minutes

Splendour tickets sold out in minutes

If you missed out, don’t panic and read on

Local Partners