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O’Farrell quits over AWH wine gift

NSW premier Barry O'Farrell answers a question at the ICAC hearing into AWH in Sydney on Tuesday. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)

NSW premier Barry O’Farrell was grilled by ICAC on Tuesday over a $3,000 bottle of wine which AWH boss Nick Di Girolamo told the corruption inquiry he gave the premier. (AAP Image/Paul Miller)


[Updated 11.30am]

NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has resigned in the wake of controversy over his appearance at the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Mr O’Farrell revealed during a surprise press conference on Wednesday that a note thanking Liberal fundraiser Nick Di Girolamo for a $3,000 bottle of wine, which he had claimed he never received, would be presented to the corruption watchdog.

The outgoing premier called it a ‘massive memory fail’ but said he never wilfully misled the ICAC.

‘I accept the consequences and in an orderly way a new Liberal leader will be elected,’ he said.

A stony-faced Mr O’Farrell stressed in the ICAC witness box on Tuesday that neither he nor his wife Rosemary had any memory of receiving the gift in April 2011.

It was never declared, as required, on his register of pecuniary interests.

‘I still can’t recall the receipt of a gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange,’ Mr O’Farrell told reporters on Wednesday morning.

‘I can’t explain what happened to that bottle of wine.

‘But I do accept there is a thank you note signed by me, and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my action.’

Mr O’Farrell said he would likely remain in the job until next week, when he will hold a meeting with the parliamentary Liberal Party and the process of electing a new leader will begin.

Mr O’Farrell became NSW premier after the Liberals romped to victory in March 2011.

Prime minister Tony Abbott praised Mr O’Farrell for falling on his sword.

‘I have enormous respect and admiration for Barry O’Farrell,’ he said.

‘I have known him for two decades and he is a friend of mine.

‘He innocently, inadvertently misled ICAC yesterday and he has taken the utterly honourable decision of stepping down.’

Mr Abbott said Mr O’Farrell had done the honourable thing in resigning as premier.

‘We are seeing an act of integrity and an act of honour,’ the prime minister told reporters in Sydney.

Mr O’Farrell announced his resignation on Wednesday after appearing before a corruption inquiry on Tuesday.

‘I admire him tremendously for this, although I deeply regret the necessity for it,’ Mr Abbott said.

Mr Abbott said Mr O’Farrell was a ‘great servant’ of the Liberal Party and the NSW people.

He said he had a brief conversation with Mr O’Farrell shortly before he resigned.

[Updated 10:30am] NSW premier Barry O’Farrell has resigned at a hastily called press conference around 10am this morning after it was revealed ICAC is in possession of a thank -you note from him to AWH boss Nick Di Girolamo.

At the ICAC hearing yesterday the premier said he had no recollection of the gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange wine valued at $3000 and no knowledge of the whereabouts of the bottle.

He repeated that claim at his press conference this morning while stating, ‘I’ve clearly had a major memory fail over this.’

Mr O’Farrell was adamant he had not lied to ICAC and said he was resigning the leadership because it was ‘the right thing to do’.

MORE TO FOLLOW

 [Original report – AAP]

It was a bottle of Penfolds Grange that then-Australian Water Holdings (AWH) boss Nick Di Girolamo paid $3,000 for in 2011, but now may cost NSW premier Barry O’Farrell far more.

Mr O’Farrell was grilled at the corruption watchdog on Tuesday over the vintage bottle of Penfolds Grange hermitage wine that was said to be delivered to his home three years ago, although he claims he never received it.

He also came under intense pressure over his contact with Mr Di Girolamo at a time when the Liberal fundraiser was lobbying for a lucrative public-private partnership for his company.

Counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson SC said there was evidence Mr Di Girolamo, who owned half of AWH, believed the government deal could bump the value of the infrastructure company by up to $275 million.

Mr Di Girolamo has told the Independent Commission Against Corruption that in late April 2011 he sent Mr O’Farrell an extravagant drop of wine, bottled in the year of the premier’s birth, to congratulate him on securing the state’s top job in 2011.

‘You were trying to butter Mr O’Farrell up with gifts,’ Mr Watson said on Tuesday.

‘No,’ Mr Di Girolamo replied.

Mr O’Farrell denies receiving the wine at all, saying he spent Easter 2011 on the Gold Coast, and even Oscar the cocker spaniel was away from the O’Farrell family home on Sydney’s north shore about the time the delivery is said to have been made.

The gift was never declared on the premier’s pecuniary interests register although MPs must disclose any gift worth $500 or more.

Mr O’Farrell continued to plead his innocence at a hastily-convened press conference held downstairs from the ICAC hearing room.

Asked by a reporter if he would resign if it is found he has misled the commission, he said: ‘Anyone who walks into the commission, a court of law or gives a statement to police is conscious of the need to tell the truth.’

‘I’ve told the truth today.’

But Mr Di Girolamo had told the inquiry he received a thank-you call from the premier after sending the wine.

On Tuesday afternoon, Mr O’Farrell was shown a record of a 28-second telephone call from his mobile number to Mr Di Girolamo, made about 9.30pm on April 20, 2011.

‘I’ve no knowledge, I don’t know about this phone call,’ Mr O’Farrell told the commission.

‘What I do know is if I had received a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange I would have known about it and I did not receive a bottle of Penfolds Grange.’

He denied that AWH’s donations to the Liberal Party prompted him to send a letter that was ‘broadly supportive’ of the AWH public-private partnership push in September 2010.

‘We can show you lots of money going into Liberal Party coffers which coincides with this letter of support. Did you know anything about that?’ Mr Watson asked.

‘No, the Liberal Party’s financial code requires members of parliament to be at arm’s length from fundraising,’ Mr O’Farrell replied.

He said he occasionally ran into Mr Di Girolamo at Liberal Party fundraisers and Wests Tigers rugby league matches and spoke to him by telephone every month or two and believed he was an ‘upright’ businessman.

Mr Di Girolamo will continue giving evidence on Wednesday, when the public inquiry is expected to conclude.

 

 


13 responses to “O’Farrell quits over AWH wine gift”

  1. Terry Morrison says:

    As I’ve said elsewhere -today we live in a world of spin and duplicity -where Gordon Gecko reins supreme and Society as an ideal is now, no more than a market device to gain attention. Now the mantra of our Government is “we are open for business” and all that implies.So we as a society are no longer connected except by “transactions” which have mutual benefit if we are lucky (see Micheal Sandel on this subject). When politicians speak it’s mostly about money and the cost to the taxpayers.This is true of both sides of politics as they endeavor to wedge each other. And there is now a very determined effort to “arrange” our history. Especially now that bigots are to be eulogized -although I think that may just be turned down as a step too far so that Bolt will not be ranting quite so much.

    Education and health -once seen as the right of everyone in our society are being slowly moved away from the reach of the average Australian; and the poor will undoubtedly suffer..It’s a huge and important subject but it will get short shrift from the Murdoch press and apparatchiks whose main role is to dumb down and confuse the average person in the street who sadly does’t have a clue.

  2. V. Thompson says:

    They’re all liars. Can’t wait for them all to go, including Abbott: he and his lot are such a shameful, heartless, backward bunch.

    • Wayne says:

      To be replaced by Labor and their fabulous leader Bill Shorten AKA Hawley Griffin, YEAH right that would be so much better particularly if you want our debt to hit a trillion dollars.

  3. Ziggi says:

    Barry seemed to be a reasonable guy so far as conservative politicians go. Fingers crossed we don’t end up with a hard line right winger.

  4. Caspar says:

    Innocent. Honorable. I wonder…
    What about caught out?
    The system is corrupt and requires those at the top to lie all the time. Its the way we made it.
    I wonder what his pay out will be…

  5. barry says:

    Abbott was only too happy to give his mate the benefit of the doubt and praise his “integrity”.

    No such generosity was or ever will be offered to Julia Gillard. Instead, she remains guilty whether proved innocent or not.

  6. David says:

    And Barry is an honourable man. So says Abbott. If it were a Labor premier resigning over a lie to ICAC I wonder how honourable Abbott would find him.

  7. Rasa says:

    Well O’Farrell has clearly set a very high benchmark for integrity. How many of the Labor Terrigals, the Labor Obeid sycophants and the Labor/Green Falafel set also fall on their sword.
    Good on O’Farrell for practicing what he preaches. integrity.

  8. Bulldog says:

    Abbott could be accused of “living in the seventies” or the sixties or the fifties take your pick, V thompson is right they’re all liars, How are all those liberal voters thinking now after their party’s first 6 months in office, Disgusted, disallusioned, this party was supposed to lead us all to greater prosperity greater status on the world stage & so on, but of course their still all liars & in their daily dealings wouldn’t know the difference between sh-t & clay. They’re still wondering how to charge people for the electricity they themselves produce (Solar) that in itself would be enough to lose office……………………………….

  9. I don’t think integrity has the slightest thing to do with this. Tony Abbott would have told Barry O’Farrell he had no choice but to resign, and is using it as a way to get to talk about how honourable someone from his party is. It’s all knives in the back in this game. Whoever we get to replace him will be just as corrupt, or thereabouts, since you can’t get to the top in a system like our current government without being like that.

    Barry’s story has the usual fishy smell to it that all the pollies come up with at times like this. it’s a massive memory blank out. Yeah, right. Then a massive memory blank out when I wrote the note and another massive memory blank out when I rang him to say thank-you. Perhaps he should try fish oil? I’ve heard it’s good for that.

  10. rick wagner says:

    We should all feel a little bit sorry for Barry. Here is a man who clearly had a massive memory fail and should not have to resign because of that. He should have to resign because of his bad memory as NSW could be in trouble with a premier who can not remember such a significant event. There is no doubt that there are other significant important events that he will be unable to remember or recall. It is just so unfortunate that many of our great business leaders and politicians suffer from the same recall disease. Unfortunately I was unable to find the grange that I might have been given as gift in the past. I just can’t recall getting it, drinking it or even who gave it to me.

  11. Wayne says:

    He is accused of receiving a bottle of plonk and resigns, that criminal Craig Thomson is accused of STEALING HUNDREDS OF THOUSANDS OF DOLLARS yet clings to the job with the full support of the Labor Party. We see here which party has the higher standards.

  12. Anon says:

    James Packer may give Barry O’Farrell a job at Sydney’s second casino for all his accomplishments that he achieved whilst in office.

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