The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) in New South Wales has claimed its biggest scalp yet. NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell this morning announced his resignation, effective next week, after he was caught out having apparently lied about receiving a $3,000 bottle of Penfolds Grange from Nick Di Girolamo in April 2011.
Di Girolamo was a significant Liberal Party fundraiser and an “associate of the Obeid family”. He told ICAC yesterday that he had sent the wine, ostensibly to congratulate O’Farrell on the Liberal Party’s election success, and had received a thank you note in response.
Until last night, O’Farrell had maintained that he had no memory of either the wine or the thank you note. But when Counsel assisting the Commission, Geoffrey Watson QC, produced the note shortly after 10am this morning, O’Farrell had no choice but to resign.
And so ICAC continues to expose the seedy world of favours-for-mates that characterises New South Wales politics.
But just as it was a mistake to think that the disease was limited to NSW Labor, it would also be a mistake to assume that the problem is limited to NSW.
Yesterday the Victorian ICAC equivalent, the Independent Broad-based Anti-Corruption Commission, called for greater powers to carry out its task. When the IBAC was established twelve months ago, Denis Napthine's government was heavily criticised for limiting the Commission’s powers to investigate only cases where it is already “reasonably satisfied” that a serious indictable offence has been committed. Lesser offences of misconduct by government ministers, MPs and public servants are outside the Commission’s ambit.
Australians everywhere should be able to feel confidence that public officials are acting in the interest of the public, and not themselves. A bottle of wine is not the Pengaton Papers, but it does symbolise a major breach of the public’s trust.
"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 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 that there is a thank you note signed by me and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my actions." – Barry O'Farrell, NSW Premier
Also: Barry O'Farrell resigns as NSW premier after thankyou card for wine emerges (Michael Safi, The Guardian)
And: Nick Di Girolamo sent Barry O'Farrell a $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange, ICAC hears (Michaela Whitbourn, Kate McClymont and Sean Nicholls, Sydney Morning Herald)
"The airport, to be funded largely by the private sector, is expected to be fully operational by 2024. Tony Abbott confirmed the construction would come with a major infrastructure package, in answer to critics who fear the airport will create greater noise, pollution and gridlock in surrounding areas of western Sydney."
Also: "Jackie Kelly launches attack on PM Tony Abbott over second airport plan" (Latika Bourke, ABC)
And: "Is Badgerys Creek airport a good idea?" (Peter Martin, Sydney Morning Herald)
"Maurice Blackburn principal Jacob Varghese said on Tuesday that a number of asylum seeker parents had contacted the firm from Christmas Island, seeking legal assistance to prevent their children from being sent to Nauru or Manus Island."
Also: "When is an Australian not an Australian? When they're born in detention" (Andrew P Street, The Vine)
"Kevin Rudd has hired a barrister who charges $15,000 a day ahead of his appearance before the royal commission into insulation. But the Federal Attorney-General’s Department has refused to reveal whether Mr Rudd, former minister Peter Garrett, former Senator Mark Arbib and other witnesses will have their legal fees picked up in full by the taxpayer."
"Paul Keating, the architect of the Racial Discrimination Act, has accused the Abbott government of following in John Howard’s footsteps by planning to legislate the ‘right to confront people in respect of their race or creed’."
"The NSW government is in crisis after Premier Barry O'Farrell announced his resignation following revelations he misled a corruption inquiry. In Victoria, it has prompted a quickfire reform of the powers of the state's anti-corruption body; in Canberra it has put the heat on Prime Minister Tony Abbott, especially over his support of Senator Arthur Sinodinos, who has been embroiled in the same corruption hearing."
Also: If O'Farrell has to go, what about PM's man? (Mark Kenny, Sydney Morning Herald)
And: Proposed changes to Queensland corruption watchdog could be dangerous (Rae Wilson, Queensland Times)
Background: History repeats: How O'Farrell and Greiner fell foul of ICAC (Olivia Monaghan, The Conversation)