NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell resigns over evidence
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell has announced he will step down from the Liberal leadership over evidence he gave to the corruption watchdog.
At a press conference on Wednesday, O’Farrell admitted to a “significant memory fail” when giving evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) the day before.
On Tuesday, O’Farrell strenuously denied ever receiving a $3000 bottle of wine in April 2011 from Australian Water Holdings executive (AWH) Nick Di Girolamo. He also failed to explain a call from his phone to Di Girolamo made at the time.
AWH is currently the subject of an inquiry by ICAC, which alleges AWH of corrupt behaviour.
O’Farrell said ICAC will now be presented a note signed by him thanking Di Girolamo for the wine.
"I still can't recall the receipt of a gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange," O'Farrell said.
"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."
O’Farrell said he would meet with the parliamentary Liberal party next week to begin the process of electing a new leader.
LGBTI community organsiations and allies have expressed sadness at O'Farrell's resignation. ACON CEO Nicolas Parkhill commented: “The O’Farrell Government has been supportive of a range of law reforms and policy initiatives that have produced important health and human rights outcomes for LGBTI people and people affected by HIV.
"Under the O’Farrell Government, as particularly demonstrated through the leadership of Health Minister Jillian Skinner, we have seen the implementation of the most innovative HIV strategy in the country aimed at ending HIV transmission by 2020,” Parkhill said.
Out gay Liberal MP Bruce Notley Smith expressed his sadness at the news of O'Farrell's resignation saying O'Farrell had been supportive of the LGBTI community.
"Premier O’Farrell has always been a strong supporter of the LGBTI community and has continuously offered me guidance and encouragement when I advocate for issues that affect us. I am hopeful that the next premier of NSW will follow his approach of being open and available to listen to and address LGBTI concerns."
A moderate Liberal, O'Farrell is seen as both a friend and enemy of the LGBTI community.
Jed Horner from the NSW Gay and Lesbian Rights Lobby (NSWGLRL) told SX the lobby is saddened by O'Farrell's resignation.
"Premier O’Farrell has been a strong moderate voice, who has been supportive of law reform measures that will lead to legislative equality, " Horner told SX. "These include the impending amendments to the Crimes Act, to remove the homosexual advance defence, giving the green light to a private members Bill seeking to expunge historical convictions for consensual intercourse, as well as his statements in support of marriage equality."
While O'Farrell is a supporter of equal marriage rights, he believes it is matter of federal law.
More recently, the Premier signed an accord between the NSW Government, NSW Police and Sydney Mardi Gras, ensuring better policing practices at the annual gay and lesbian festival.
"Barry O'Farrell made a personal commitment to support Mardi Gras whilst in opposition in 2011, and since becoming Premier he has honoured this commitment and been a strong supporter and advocate of Mardi Gras. We thank Mr O'Farrell for his support of Mardi Gras and the LGBTQI community," said Mardi Gras CEO Michael Rolik.
However recently O'Farrell has fallen out of favour with the LGBTI community due to his recently-enacted alcohol legislation, which put him out of favour with many, who say the tough laws are affecting Sydney's once vibrant gay nightlife and culture.
O'Farrell also raised the ire of the community for removing the rainbow crossing on Oxford Street in 2013, as well as introducing legislation that forced the removal of Clover Moore from State Parliament.
O'Farrell's replacement has yet to be announced, but the NSW GLRL hopes the Coalition will appoint an equally progressive candidate.
"It is our hope that the Coalition will appoint someone who can continue to serve to entire community, including LGBTI people, who is socially progressive – that’s our hope as a lobby group for the sake of the community."