Barry O’Farrell said he will resign as premier of Australia’s most-populous state after misleading a corruption inquiry over a A$3,000 ($2,800) bottle of wine he received as a gift.
O’Farrell, who yesterday told the Independent Commission Against Corruption he had no recollection of receiving the 1959 bottle of Penfolds Grange, today apologized for a “massive memory fail” after the inquiry was presented with a thank-you note he’d signed.
“In no way did I seek to mislead” the commission, O’Farrell told reporters in Sydney. “I accept the consequences of my actions.”
The resignation comes less than a month after Senator Arthur Sinodinos stepped aside as Australia’s assistant treasurer amid the commission’s investigation into alleged corruption involving public officials and a Sydney-based water company. O’Farrell was given the wine by the company’s chief executive after leading the Liberal-National coalition to power in the March 2011 state election.
O’Farrell had “built his reputation on being clean,” said David Burchell, a political analyst at the University of Western Sydney. “He’s misled a corruption investigation so he really had no choice but to go.”
The state Liberal party is expected to appoint a new leader next week, with Treasurer Mike Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian possible candidates.
Prime Minister Tony Abbott said he had enormous respect for O’Farrell, and that he had “inadvertently” misled the inquiry. The premier had taken the “utterly honorable step of resigning.”
The next New South Wales state election is due in March next year.
To contact the reporter on this story: Jason Scott in Canberra at firstname.lastname@example.org