Barry O'Farrell, ICAC and the Bottle of Wine
Barry O'Farrell is the current Australian High Commissioner to India and a former member of the New South Wales Liberal Party. He served as Premier of New South Wales from 2011 to 2014 before resigning as a result of an ICAC investigation.
In April of 2014, Mr. O'Farrell appeared before the NSW ICAC as part of an investigation into alleged actions undertaken by Australian Water Holdings (AWH), including lobbying Mr. O'Farrell regarding an agreement with the state-owned Sydney Water to develop water infrastructure. Furthermore, AWH were accused of charging Sydney Water and using this money for both political donations and executive salaries.
Mr. O'Farrell was accused of having received a $3000 bottle of wine, a1959 Grange, from an AWH executive, Nick Di Girolamo, in 2011 and failed to declare it. Mr. Di Girolamo told the inquiry he sent the wine bottle as a gift to congratulate Mr. O'Farrell on his election victory.
On April 15th it was reported that Mr. O'Farrell had denied having received the bottle of wine stating "I'm not a wine connoisseur," and also stated that he had no recollection of a 28-second phone call with Mr. Di Girolamo around the same time he was allegedly sent the wine.
After leaving the ICAC hearing, Mr. O'Farrell stated to media:
"What we know for certainty is not only do my wife and I have clear recollection that no such bottle of wine was received ... but that at the period over which it was supposed to have been delivered is vague...If you got a 1959 bottle of Grange... you would remember it."
The following day, ICAC learned of a hand-written note from Mr. O'Farrell to Mr. Di Girolamo thanking him for the wine which read:
"Dear Nick and Jodie, We wanted to thank you for your kind note and the wonderful wine. 1959 was a very good year, even if it is getting even further away! Thanks for all your support. Kind regards, Barry and Rosemary”.
Mr. O'Farrell called a press conference shortly after and announced his decision to resign as Premier of New South Wales:
"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...I've accepted that I've had a massive memory fail...I still can't explain either the arrival of a 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."
Mr. O'Farrell returned to the ICAC hearing later that day, where counsel assisting, Geoffrey Watson, stated there was no suggestion Mr. O'Farrell had engaged in corrupt conduct.
In 2017 ICAC finalised their report and cleared Mr. O'Farrell of any wrongdoing.
Sources & Further Reading