Barry O'Farrell resigns: Abbott's praise for an 'integrity' bar set low

The Prime Minister described Barry O'Farrell's resignation as "an act of integrity, an act of honour, the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics".

And while it didn't come until after he got caught, there was some relief in seeing a leader being accountable to his statements and doing the decent thing.

A $3000 bottle of Grange barely compares to the level of deceit by former Labor MP Craig Thomson, or the money siphoned off by former ALP president Michael Williamson, during their times at the Health Services Union.

Nor is it in the league of Labor kingmaker Eddie Obeid and former resources minister Ian MacDonald, who stood to make tens of millions of dollars from dodgy dealings in relation to coal companies.

These men drew the process out, denying wrongdoing until it was too late.

This, perhaps, is why O'Farrell's resignation was different - a politician was taking responsibility for his actions, instead of swerving and spinning his way out.

No "I was mis-advised", no staffer taking the fall as the underling who did not pass on the gift to the boss.

By all accounts a decent man, O'Farrell stretches credibility by insisting it was his memory that failed. But lying to the ICAC has seen others charged.

The latest ICAC hearings have given the public a rare glimpse of how power can work in an environment where political power is concentrated at the top, and where influence-peddlers - many of whom are former colleagues of cabinet members - adorn every hallway.

O'Farrell's may be an honourable act, but it followed an act of misleading a corruption investigation.

It is a mark of how low our expectations have sunk, that the Premier's departure stands out as a man doing the decent thing.

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