By Mehroz Siraj
New South Wales Premier, Barry O’Farrell has sensationally resigned from the state’s highest office as a result of the ongoing inquiries of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) into the abuse of money and power within the state’s political hierarchy.
O’ Farrell had been regularly called in by the ICAC’s investigating officers to give evidence against former disgraced NSW Labor MPs, Eddie Obeid, Ian MacDonald and Joe Tripodi who have been at the centre of wide-ranging anti-corruption inquiries being conducted by the agencies.
One of the inquiries that engulfed Premier O’ Farrell was about the ongoing investigations into Australian Waters Holdings (AWH), the private company that wanted to enter into a public-private partnership with the government owned Sydney Water.
It had previously been reported that AWH was billing Sydney Water hundreds of millions of dollars in ruinous expenses which were later diverted towards political donations and bribes to senior NSW politicians from both the mainstream parties.
The AWH’s chief executive, Nick Di Grilamo was closely related to Premier O’ Farrell and Obeid, whose family owns shares within the company.
He had personally lobbied hard for the desired partnership with Sydney Water, as that would have seen the company’s profits soaring.
The Coalition and Premier O’ Farrell had been direct beneficiaries of the AWH’s donations and bribes and the premier had himself taken notice of Obeid’s disgraceful proposal of allocating the private infrastructure company $100million worth of contracts which would have resulted in a near bankruptcy for the publicly owned Sydney Water.
In appreciation of O’ Farrell’s constant involvement in the AWH’s corrupt dealings, Grilamo couriered a $3000 1959 Penfolds Grange wine to the Premier in August 2011, shortly after 2011 state election.
The gift was received by Premier O’ Farrell and the ICAC Commission was told by Geoffrey Watson, QC, that the wine was duly received and that the premier had himself written a letter of thanks to Grilamo.
Although Grilamo had constantly maintained that the gift was a congratulatory token to the premier whose party had spent 16 years in the opposition, critics have slammed it as a means of giving kickbacks to the Premier in return for commercial favours.
O’ Farrell’s failure to accept the receipt of this gift in his pecuniary interests register and in front of the ICAC Commission led towards a build-up of pressure on him which ultimately led to his resignation.
No new replacement candidates had been proposed by the Coalition at the time of this writing.
This is a developing story which will be updated as and when required.