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.
Russell Marks Politicoz Editor
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Barry O'Farrell resigns after being caught out over bottle of wine
"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
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