NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell resigns : Illawarra MPs react

Barry O'Farrell at a press conference at ICAC on Wednesday. Picture: TAMARA DEAN

Barry O'Farrell at a press conference at ICAC on Wednesday. Picture: TAMARA DEAN

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4pm: A collective gasp was heard when Barry O'Farrell's handwritten thankyou note was produced to the commission.

3:46pm: The man who brought down a premier with a bottle of wine, Liberal fundraiser and Obeid associate Nick Di Girolamo, is still in the witness box at ICAC. The inquiry into Obeid-linked company Australian Water Holdings, now in its fifth week, is expected to conclude today.

The commission will not be reflecting with satisfaction that its inquiry has claimed the scalp of a sitting premier. O'Farrell was a vocal supporter of ICAC and increased its funding to deal with its increased workload.

Counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, made clear in his opening address: "We have looked carefully at the activities of Mr O'Farrell and [former finance minister Greg] Mr Pearce and we have found no evidence to implicate either in any corruption."

Watson reiterated today that there is no suggestion O'Farrell engaged in corrupt conduct.

3.45pm: Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery said Barry O’Farrell’s resignation was commendable, as it left a clean slate for the Liberal government to get on with electing a new leader. 

‘‘ICAC scrutiny is very powerful and can bring down the best of us in terms of accountability,’’ Cr Bradbery said.

‘‘The Premier has resigned because he set a high standard for his own behaviour, so I think he’s keeping his own integrity by doing what he’s done.’’

‘‘He has reacted to his own standards.’’

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Wollongong Lord Mayor Gordon Bradbery. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

3.30pm: South Coast Labour Council secretary Arthur Rorris has rejected the Prime Minister’s statement that Barry O’Farrell’s resignation was an act of ‘‘high honour’’ and integrity.

‘‘We’re coming out guns blazing on this, because Tony Abbott is trying to restrict this to a question of memory and say it was an inadvertant mistake - what a load of garbage,’’ Mr Rorris said.

‘‘I’m mean, there’s even a hand written note.’’

He also called on Mr Abbott to broaden his Royal Commission into union corruption, saying this latest link between Australian Water Holdings’ former chief executive Nick Di Girolamo and the NSW Government showed ‘‘the underbelly of the seedy relationships between big business and all levels of government’’.

‘‘Tony Abbott said he wanted to shine a torch in the dark recesses of corruption in the country, and he singled out the union movement in his royal commission,’’ Mr Rorris said.

South Coast Labour Council's Arthur Rorris.

South Coast Labour Council's Arthur Rorris.

‘‘We say go for your life and if there is corruption it needs to be rooted out, however now that we know that corruption on a much, much bigger scale is happening in other places we suggested... that [Tony Abbott] invest in some strong halogens and stick them in his backyard.’’

‘‘If Tony Abbott is sincere about wanting to fight corruption, as opposed to political witchhunts against his opponents, he will broaden the royal commission.’’

2:37pm: Former NSW premier, Australian foreign minister and diarist Bob Carr has given an interview in Brisbane where he's spruiking his new book.

Mr Carr has said Mr O'Farrell had no alternative to resign, but would not be drawn on whether Mr O’Farrell’s “significant memory fail” about being gifted a $3000 bottle of 1959 Grange wine was plausible.

“Given that the Premier’s resigned, I don’t think there’s any more in argument, the point is he’s accepted the case and that’s really all that matters at this point,” he said.

"...As the evidence was emerging I think even his closest friends and supporters would say there was going to be no alternative to this. It was decisive of him to get to the point quickly rather than to fight on.

Having attracted ridicule about the parts of his diary that focus on diet and exercise, Mr Carr - who gave up drinking three years ago - said he wouldn’t know how many calories were in a bottle of ’59 Grange.

“Too many... wine is full of sugar, and after wasting too much of my life savouring good wine, I reached a decision that the disadvantages outweigh the joy of the stuff,” he said.

“As tempted as I am by a wonderful pinot noir from time to time, I think being clear-headed is the better course.''

Bob Carr at Dymocks Book Store on Monday. Picture: PETER RAE

Bob Carr at Dymocks Book Store on Monday. Picture: PETER RAE

2.30pm: Heathcote MP Lee Evan says ‘‘it’s extremely sad that the Premier, who is an extremely honest man, has been caught up in a saga that is really not the focus of why he was appearing at ICAC in the first place’’.

‘‘But as Premier he expects a very high standard from all MPs and, from day one, he has banged on that it’s the small things that bring you down,’’ Mr Evans said.

‘‘The reason why ICAC is going on at the moment is because standards were lowered under the previous government, so the Premier has fallen on his sword for a reason that really - in the big wide world, not declaring a gift - is not really a major crime.’’

Heathcote MP Lee Evans. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Heathcote MP Lee Evans. Picture: SYLVIA LIBER

Mr Evans said it’s likely Mr O’Farrell would have received ‘‘thousands of gifts and written thousands of cards’’ in the weeks following the 2011 election, and said it was completely plausible that he could have forgotten about the bottle of wine.

‘‘It’s a damn shame that one of our best, possibly the best, premiers we’ve ever had has fallen on his sword for a relatively minor infraction, but that’s the level of the gentleman,’’ he said.

1:55pm: Here's a timeline of events that led to today's resignation of the premier from smh.com.au.

- August 2, 2013: Reports emerge that ICAC is investigating the Obeid family's interests in Australian Water Holdings, a company that manages hundreds of millions of dollars worth of work for Sydney Water.

- August 15, 2013: Premier Barry O'Farrell denies pushing through a Sydney Water deal for AWH, saying the state is suffering ''scandal starvation'' after years of Labor corruption.

- October 28, 2013: Reports emerge that federal Assistant Treasurer Arthur Sinodinos in 2011 met Mr O'Farrell's then-chief-of-staff to lobby for a $100 million contract that AWH was hoping to win from Sydney Water. AWH was eventually awarded a 25-year contract.

- March 18, 2014: ICAC alleges AWH entered a business deal with Sydney Water and incorrectly invoiced it for tens of thousands of dollars for ''administration costs'' after donating a similar amount to the Liberal party.

- April 2, 2014: ICAC is told million-dollar payments listed in Obeid family ledgers as ''Australian Water'' transfers were, in fact, loans to family friend Nick Di Girolamo.

- April 14, 2014: Mr O'Farrell is called to give evidence before ICAC.

- April 15, 2014: Nick Di Girolamo tells the NSW corruption watchdog that when he was head of the AWH, he couriered a $3000 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange to Mr O'Farrell's home just after he was elected. Following Mr Di Girolamo's testimony, Mr O'Farrell denies receiving the bottle of vintage Grange wine. ''What I do know is if I had received a bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange I would have known about it and I did not receive a bottle of Penfolds Grange,'' he said.

- April 16, 2014: As a thank you note from Mr O'Farrell to Mr Di Girolamo is tendered at ICAC, the Liberal leader announces he will be resigning as Premier during a surprise press conference. Mr O'Farrell calls it a ''massive memory fail'', but says he never wilfully misled the ICAC.

Barry O'Farrell with Michelle Blicavs and Greg Pearce in 2010. Picture: KEN ROBERTSON

Barry O'Farrell with Michelle Blicavs and Greg Pearce in 2010. Picture: KEN ROBERTSON

1:42pm: We posted earlier on some of the plaudits coming for Barry O'Farrell's time as premier, but there's also a fair share of brickbats.

Here's one from a furious MP within O'Farrell's own party, who described the decision to quit as "not surprising".

"He was never prepared to fight for anything.

"He wouldn't take on the leadership when John Brogden left because he wouldn't fight for it.

"He wouldn't make a decision on the second Sydney airport, on the sale of electricity poles and wires. He wouldn't make a decision on any of that stuff.

"He always walked away from any tough decision. This is another one".

1:39pm: NSW Opposition Leader John Robertson has given a press conference where he's called on Mr O'Farrell to now work with him to implement a "new standard of transparency and accountability". Here are some of his choice quotes:

* "What we see today is not about a bottle of wine. Today is about an insight into how the Liberal Party operates in government in NSW."

* "Today we've seen a Liberal Government in NSW that has allowed donors and lobbyists to reach into the heart of public administration in this state. We now see a Liberal Government in complete disarray, losing a Premier in its first term."

* "ICAC has demonstrated today yet again the great work that it does shining a light on corrupt activity. But today is also a very sad day for the people of NSW. Because yet again their confidence in politicians in this state has been rocked to the core with the announcement of the resignation of the Premier of NSW."

"In 2011, the people of NSW voted for change. They were promised change, they were promised an end to the scandal, a Government that would be whiter than white, a government that would be open, honest and transparent but we don't see that occurring."

* "Twelve months ago I announced a new standard of behaviour and performance for MPs in this state, something that the people of NSW have every right to expect. I asked the now former premier to work with me and implement this new standard of transparency and accountability for every member of the Parliament for NSW, a standard that I've applied to my frontbench."

1.35pm: Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka is not commenting on Barry O’Farrell’s resignation, his media officer Vanessa Rofe has just advised the Mercury. 

Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

Minister for the Illawarra John Ajaka. Picture: ANDY ZAKELI

1.25pm: Sean Nicholls: There are two contenders to take over from Barry O'Farrell as NSW Premier after his resignation, but Liberal party sources claim the numbers remain "very fluid".

At this early stage, Treasurer Mike Baird is being touted as the leading contender. A member of the left faction, Baird also enjoys the support of many in the right thanks to his position on privatisation of public assets.

Full story here. 

Premier Barry O'Farrell outside Wollongong council chambers. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

Premier Barry O'Farrell outside Wollongong council chambers. Picture: ORLANDO CHIODO

1:13pm: Barry O'Farrell told ICAC on Wednesday that he rejected a characterisation of a May 27, 2011, meeting between him and Di Girolamo as "cosy".

Former finance minister Greg Pearce gave evidence last week that he was "taken aback" when he arrived at the meeting, and he felt like he was a schoolboy being summonsed to the headmaster's office. O'Farrell alluded to the circumstances in which he sacked Pearce last year as a reason why he may have given that testimony.

"That was a scheduled meeting with Minister Pearce. It was not a surprise call to anybody's office," O'Farrell said.

"He was a few minutes late because of a division in the Legislative Council but it was a meeting that took place in the usual meeting room with the usual people present for a meeting and I reject his characterisation, although as I've said elsewhere yesterday, I understand his disappointment with me about actions I took last year."

1:05pm: This was O'Farrell's own exchange with his barrister, John Agius, SC, who was counsel assisting the 1990s Wood Royal Commission into police corruption.

"It's not been put to you by counsel assisting that you have acted in a corrupt way or given Australian Water Holdings any advantage, that's not been suggested to you," Agius said.

"It will not be suggested either," Watson interjected.

"I'm indebted for that," Agius said. "Lest there be [any] doubt about it at all, and accepting this note on its face and that you did receive the bottle of '59 vintage Grange, did you ever at any time accede to any request by Mr Di Girolamo or anybody else to give AWH any special assistance?"

"I'm pleased to say, counsel, that people don't have to rely on my recollection of this matter. The fact is that the records show that the dealings with Australian Water Holdings were done appropriately, done on the basis of departmental advice, done on the basis of the issues being handled by the board of Sydney Water. We know the evidence of the chairman of Sydney Water and managing director of Sydney Water is they made those decisions commercially without political pressure and as I've characterised it outside of this chamber, all of those decisions were made at arms' length and the net outcome of that decision... was not a green light for AWH but it was a final stake through the heart of the public-private partnership proposal.

"At no stage do I recall Mr Di Girolamo ever raising with me the bottle of wine and seeking some special favour as a result of it. I can't remember that being asked for. I know and the record demonstrates that none was given."

12:55pm:  Keira MP Ryan Park says Barry O’Farrell’s resignation ‘‘shows that we have a government in complete and utter disarray’’, as several senior ministers and the premier have been forced to step down.

‘‘This was a government who promised to be squeaky clean, yet it is demonstrated that they still have issues to do with integrity,’’ he siad.

‘‘It shows they are certainly not incapable of suffering things that perhaps the previous Labor government was accused of doing and [which were said to be] exclusively theirs.’’

He said Labor still had a lot of work to do to regain the trust ahead of next year’s state election, but hoped the commuity would realised that all political parties had to deal with integrity and allegations of corruption.

Keira MP Ryan Park. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

Keira MP Ryan Park. Picture: ADAM McLEAN

12:39pm: Plans for who will greet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge at Sydney Airport at 2.35pm remain in disarray.

A spokeswoman from the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet has told Fairfax Media that no decision has been made on who will represent the NSW Government following Mr O'Farrell's shock resignation this morning.

"We will know when everyone else does, and that is likely to only be made clear at the airport this afternoon," she said.

Mr O'Farrell and his wife Rosemary were scheduled to join Governor General Sir Peter Cosgrove and his wife Her Excellency Lady Cosgrove, along with NSW governor Marie Bashire and Sir Nicholas Sheadie, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and wife Margie, and Ian Watt, secretary of the Prime Minister's Department on the tarmac to greet the royal couple on their first official tour of Australia.

Mr O'Farrell was also due to meet the couple at the Sydney Opera House at 3.10pm to attend a welcome reception he was co-hosting with the NSW Governor. It remains unclear who will host in his absence.

12:36pm: Counsel assisting ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, put to O'Farrell the question on everyone's lips: "Have you got any idea what could have happened to the wine?"

"No," a brusque O'Farrell replied.

"It would be a very unusual bottle to open over a spag bol on a Friday night, you'd agree," Watson pressed.

"I cannot speculate," O'Farrell replied. "If my mistaken recollection yesterday, which I gave in good faith believing it was an accurate recollection... I look at this today and it still does not jog a recollection about either a bottle of wine on a porch, because I understand now the evidence is that it was left on the porch, or what happened to that bottle of wine."

12:35pm: O'Farrell told ICAC in his brief stint in the box that "as a strong supporter of this Commission, I've always urged people to come forward fearlessly, frankly and give honest evidence, and that's what I believed I was doing yesterday".

"But the regret for me, counsel, is having seen the letter, having seen the envelope, it still does not spark a recollection.

"Can I just have 60 seconds more? When the issue around Easter was raised with me by your counsel, because you'd narrowed down your dates, I looked at my diary and, you know, if you'd asked me a day or two before what I'd done in Easter 2011 I might well have remembered that we'd spent it on the Gold Coast.

"When I saw the written diary I remembered a number of things about that holiday, not the least being that my eldest son told me on that occasion that his career post-school would be the Army, which thankfully he's pursuing.

"I look at this note, I read the note, I accept that is is in my handwriting and I still have no recollection about the receipt of the gift or the bottle of wine."

12.35pm: Wollongong MP Noreen Hay has refused to play politics over former Premier Barry O’Farrell’s resignation.

‘‘As a politican, I take no satisfaction at all from this,’’ she said.

‘‘But when you set high standards, you have to be able to live up to them.’’

‘‘Barry O’Farrell has been very keen to condemn anyone and everyone in relation to standards, so I think the fact he hasn’t lived up to them means resignation in this instance is the appropriate action.’’

Ms Hay said she would ‘‘let others judge’’ whether Mr O’Farrell had been hypocritical given his harsh criticism of Labor in relation to corruption allegations, but said she believed politicians needed to be sure ‘‘they were not living in a glass house before they start throwing around stones’’.

Pick up tomorrow's Mercury for the full reaction from Illawarra MP's.

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay.Picture: GREG TOTMAN

Wollongong MP Noreen Hay.Picture: GREG TOTMAN

12:28pm: This exchange from Barry O'Farrell's second appearance at ICAC today sums up much of the past 24 hours.

Watson: Mr O'Farrell, I'll show you the originals of the documents that were recovered overnight and I'll just ask you to have a look at them and just confirm it is your handwriting. Is that right?

O'Farrell: Yes.

Watson: Well Mr O'Farrell, it's in a pretty sad position that we are now. I've got to ask you: why should the people of NSW, why should they not think that you didn't give honest evidence yesterday, Mr O'Farrell?

O'Farrell: Well I certainly tried to give accurate evidence to the best of my recollection. Can I say, counsel, that in the days since I've been back from China when this matter was first raised with me by my counsel, it went from boxes of wine, to box of wine, to yesterday a bottle of wine. It went from a date that was allegedly in June, to May, then April, back to May, then yesterday to the 20th of April. I gave this matter thought. I considered what I'd been doing and I gave yesterday my best recollection of that which clearly was mistaken and Commissioner, I certainly regret that.

12.25pm: Kiama MP Gareth Ward says he is ‘‘absolutely devastated’’ by Premier Barry O’Farrell’s resignation.

‘‘It would be very easy for me to take advantage of Barry’s demise, but the reality is that today the premier held himself to the same standards he applied to others and in public life that is a rarity,’’ Mr Ward said.

Full story here.

Premier Barry O'Farrell and Kiama MP Gareth Ward. Picture: DAVID HALL

Premier Barry O'Farrell and Kiama MP Gareth Ward. Picture: DAVID HALL

12:22pm: The race to replace Barry O'Farrell is on in earnest.

Liberal Party sources have told Herald State Political Editor Sean Nicholls the numbers remain "very fluid".

At this early stage, Treasurer Mike Baird is being touted as the leading contender. A member of the left faction, Baird also enjoys the support of many in the right thanks to his position on privatisation of public assets.

The question is whether Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian will run. Ms Berejiklian has always been touted as O'Farrell's favoured successor. It is understood she has told colleagues she has yet to make up her mind.

As a long time warrior of the left, there is a view the right could actively seek to destabilise her premiership.

12:18pm: Asked by John Agius SC, O'Farrell's barrister, if it was common for him to receive gifts after his March 2011 election victory, O'Farrell says: "There was an avalanche of letters, of emails, and there was one or two small gifts."

This included some bottles of wine.

And that concludes the outgoing Premier's testimony, as he exits the witness box.

Stand by for a full transcript.

12:15pm: He may have given incorrect evidence at ICAC on Tuesday regarding a $3000 bottle of wine, but there is no suggestion O'Farrell gave an advantage to Australian Water Holdings, the commission has heard.

O'Farrell's own barrister, John Agius, SC - counsel assisting the 1990s Wood Royal Commission - says there has been no suggestion O'Farrell acted corruptly or gave an advantage to Australian Water.

"It will not be suggested either," Watson says.

"I am indebted for that," Agius says.

12:13pm: O'Farrell says the evidence at ICAC still hasn't jogged his memory about receiving the wine.

"I stand by the evidence I gave yesterday," he says.

O'Farrell adds he has no memory of a phone call he made to Nick Di Girolamo around 9.30pm on April 20, 2011 - the day the Grange was delivered to his then home at Roseville.

12:12pm: Barry O'Farrell is back in the box at ICAC.

Watson asks why should the people of NSW should believe he gave honest evidence yesterday.

"I gave my best recollection of that, which clearly was mistaken. Commissioner, I certainly regret that," O'Farrell says.

12:12pm: As Barry O'Farrell prepares to once again begin giving evidence at ICAC, his predecessor in the job, Labor's Kristina Keneally, has spoken to 2UE radio.

In the interview, Ms Keneally, who also appeared at ICAC during the AWH inquiry, said:

* She had been in a meeting and only just found out about the resignation;

* Feels sorry for the people of NSW;

* Says in her experience she can't imagine how you would forget such a thing, but will say when you are  premier it is a very hectic time;

* Says she takes no pleasure or joy in hearing about BOF's resignation.

11:51am: 9.17am. That's what time ICAC learned of the existence of a handwritten note from Barry O'Farrell thanking Nick Di Girolamo for the 1959 wine.

An irate counsel assisting the inquiry, Geoffrey Watson, SC, has this morning defended ICAC against the suggestion that it was "sitting on" the thank you card from O'Farrell.

The smoking gun, instead, came from Mr Di Girolamo.

"I just want to correct something. I've been informed while I've been sitting here that there is some suggestion being made that ICAC had access to that information relating to Mr O'Farrell, the card, and sat on it, held it back until Mr O'Farrell gave his evidence," Watson said.

"If it is being said, it's false, it shouldn't be said and quite frankly - and I think I probably speak on behalf of everybody at ICAC - I resent it if it is being said.

"I can tell whoever wants to know in the world ICAC acquired the information at 9.17am this morning."

Di Girolamo then adds: "I would resent that too, commissioner."

Commissioner Megan Latham says: "I can also verify that the email to ICAC came onto my desk at 9.20am this morning and that it was sent through partly I think from Mr Alexis [Mr Di Girolamo's barrister, Todd Alexis, SC] to Mr Watson as I understand it at that time and prior to that time no one had any knowledge that that document even existed."

11:43am: So who is Nick Di Girolamo, the man whose gift of a $3000 bottle of 1959 has led to the resignation of a premier.

* Former managing partner at law firm Colin Biggers & Paisley.

* Obeid family friend.

* Became CEO and 60 per cent owner of Australian Water Holdings in February 2007.

* Gave himself a salary of $1.1 million plus bonuses of $425,000. Salaries passed on to Sydney Water as expenses.

* Has been accused during the hearing of being an "old-fashioned shyster fraudster'' and a ''bare-faced liar''.

Barry O'Farrell, Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale and President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce Nick Di Girolamo. Picture: SUPPLIED

Barry O'Farrell, Ipswich mayor Paul Pisasale and President of the Italian Chamber of Commerce Nick Di Girolamo. Picture: SUPPLIED

11.40am: Who will be the next NSW Premier? Sportsbet.com.au odds are on Mike Baird.

Next NSW Premier

$1.30   Mike Baird

$5.50   Gladys Berejiklian

$17      Pru Goward

$17      Anthony Roberts

$21      Andrew Picolli  

$21      Mike Gallacher

$26      Andrew Constance

$26      Jillian Skinner

$34      Stuart Ayres

$34      Gabrielle Upton

Markets courtesy of sportsbet.com.au

11:31am: Tributes have started to flow for Barry O'Farrell's three years in office as NSW Premier.

The Tourism & Transport Forum was one of the first bodies to move, sending out a press release saying: "Sydney and New South Wales have moved forward and will continue to do so thanks to the hard work of Barry O’Farrell over the past three years".

TTF Chief Executive Ken Morrison said Mr O’Farrell had had a very positive influence.

“Barry O’Farrell has worked tirelessly over the past three years to improve Sydney’s productivity and liveability through investment in transport and other infrastructure and we are surprised and saddened to see him go,” Mr Morrison said.

11:21am: The $3000 plonk was left at the door!

Counsel assisting ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, has told today's hearing that the commission's investigators have already spoken to the courier driver who delivered the $3000 bottle of Penfolds Grange Hermitage to O'Farrell's then home at Roseville.

"This is not surprising - he has no independent recollection," Watson says.

But Watson then tenders a three-page document from the courier company, Direct Couriers, which shows the wine was picked up from Australian Water's offices at 3.38 pm on April 20, 2011 and delivered to O'Farrell's home at 4.31 pm.

It was "left as directed at the front of the door", Watson says.

11:15am: Mr O'Farrell this morning sent a text message to the Prime Minister asking for him to call. Mr Abbott revealed what happened at a press conference about Badgerys Creek.

"He texted me that I should call him and by the time I saw the text, I think he was about to go in and make his statement and we had a brief conversation and I said to him that he was acting from high honour here and I just said how sorry I was that this wasn't happening in three or four years time because Barry is a man of honour," Mr Abbott said.

"He is a man of integrity. He is a very decent man and I think he has been a very capable Premier over the last three years. I think he will be missed."

He also expressed confidence that Mr O'Farrell inadvertently misled ICAC.

"This is the thing, if you're in public life, you meet lots of people, from time to time people give you things," Mr Abbott said.

"They might give you ties or pens or a bottle of wine, and sure, a bottle of Grange is pretty special, no doubt about that. Given that premiers and other senior politicians have very crowded busy lives, I don't think it is reasonable to expect everything from some years ago to be front of mind.

11:09am: So the question now turns to who will be the next premier of NSW?

Barry O'Farrell has said he will resign next week, at a meeting of the Liberal Party executive.

The Herald's State Political editor, Sean Nicholls, says the contest to replace BOF is essentially a two-horse race between Treasurer Mike Baird and Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian.

11:06am: Among all the more serious ramifications of today's dramatic developments is the question, who will greet the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge today? Our royal reporter Daisy Dumas writes: 

The Premier was due to be part of the Duke and Duchess and Prince George of Cambridge's welcome committee at Kingsford Smith Airport this afternoon.

His absence in the line of dignitaries, including the Governor General, Peter Cosgrove, Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Governor of NSW, Marie Bashir, will be notable - but even starker at the official welcome reception at the Sydney Opera House that he was due to host with the NSW Governor.

There, the Premier was scheduled to give a speech to the Duke and Duchess and 400 guests. His Royal Highness is also set to say some words at the reception. The Premier was then in line to farewell the couple from Bennelong Point as they make their way to Admiralty House.

Protocol suggests that Deputy Premier Andrew Stoner may cover Mr O'Farrell's duties today. It is not, by any stretch of the imagination, an average day to step into the boss's shoes.

11:02am: ICAC has just confirmed that Barry O'Farrell will return to the witness box at 12pm today.

11:02am: We now have the full excerpt of Prime Minister Tony Abbott's press conference this morning in Sydney:

"I have known Barry for two decades. He has been a friend of mine throughout that time. He has been a great servant of the Liberal Party, a great servant of the people of NSW and of Australia. He has constantly worked to do the right thing by the people of NSW and we were together as recently as last Friday in China winning trade and jobs for our country and our State. Obviously, as we now know, he innocently, inadvertently misled ICAC yesterday and he has taken the utterly honourable step of resigning as Premier. This is an honour and an integrity at a very high level. We are seeing an act of integrity, an act of honour, the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics. I admire him tremendously for this, although I deeply regret the necessity for it.

Question: Do you trust this Government, the State Government, which is proving to be corrupt, to deliver your major infrastructure?

Abbott: That, if I may say so, is an entirely unjustified smear. Let me not mince my words, an entirely unjustified smear and frankly, I think you should withdraw that and apologise. There is no evidence whatsoever for that. Can you please tell me what your evidence for that is?

Question: He specifically said yesterday if he was delivered a bottle of that nature, he would remember it. Today a thank you note has uncovered and he resigned. I think voters would be sceptical about the way this has unfolded.

Abbott: Without wanting to get into an argument with the media, what you have just said is very different from the accusation, the statement that you earlier made and we need to have decent standards in this country. We need to have decent standards from the media, if I may say so, as well as decent standards from politicians.

10:49am: For those who need a bit of background about what brought Mr O'Farrell to take the dramatic step of resigning as Premier, here is the Herald's report of yesterday's proceedings at ICAC. An excerpt below:

"Barry O'Farrell has categorically denied at a corruption inquiry that he received a $3000 bottle of wine from the head of the water company linked to the Obeid family.

"In a tense stint in the Independent Commission Against Corruption witness box, the Premier insisted he also could not recall a telephone conversation with the businessman who claimed he sent the lavish gift.

"The commission heard explosive evidence on Tuesday that the then chief executive of Obeid-linked infrastructure company Australian Water Holdings, Nick Di Girolamo, sent Mr O'Farrell the $2978 bottle of 1959 Penfolds Grange Hermitage around April 20, 2011."

10:42am: Tony Abbott has told a press conference called to discuss the Badgerys Creek airport:

"I have enormous respect and admiration for Barry O'Farrell...

"He's been a great servant on the Liberal party and the people of NSW...

"He has constantly worked to do the right thing by the people of NSW...

"He has taken the utterly honourable step of resigning as premier."

We'll update you with the full text of that press conference shortly.


10:36am: Counsel assisting ICAC, Geoffrey Watson, SC, brandished the smoking gun shortly after 10am on Wednesday. Here's what he told the inquiry:

"There's been a pretty substantial development on a significant matter overnight. I need to tender three pages. They're copies of two documents.

"One is an envelope addressed in we believe the handwriting of Mr O'Farrell... to Mr and Mrs Di Girolamo.

"The second page is a copy of the front of a card emanating from the NSW Parliament.

"The third is a note we believe in the handwriting of Mr O'Farrell and on the card issued from the office of the Premier of NSW thanking Mr and Mrs Di Girolamo for their gift, being a bottle of wonderful wine from 1959."

10:31am: Here's the text of Barry O'Farrell's statement to the press this morning. He refused to take any questions.

"I’ve been advised overnight that this morning at ICAC a thank you note from me in relation to the bottle of wine will be presented. I still can’t recall the receipt of a gift of a bottle of 1959 Grange, I can’t explain what happened to that bottle of wine. But I do accept that there is a thank you note signed by me and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my actions.

"The evidence I gave to the independent commission against corruption yesterday was evidence to the best of my knowledge. I believe it to be truthful and as I said yesterday it's important that citizens deal with police, deal with the courts and deal with watchdogs like ICAC in a truthful fashion.

"In no way did I seek to mislead, wilfully or otherwise, the Independent Commission Against Corruption. But this has clearly been a significant memory fail on my part, albeit within weeks of coming to office, but I accept the  consequences of my actions. And that is that as soon as I can organise a meeting of the parliamentary Liberal party for next week I will be resigning the position and enabling a new Liberal leader to be elected, someone who will then become the Premier of NSW."

10:28am: And here it is: the thank you note from Barry O'Farrell to Nick Di Girolamo that was tendered in ICAC today and led to the Premier's sensational resignation.

The thank you note that brought down a premier.

The thank you note that brought down a premier.

10:26am: Here is a post from Michaela Whitbourn reporting on ICAC proceedings this morning:

"Premier Barry O'Farrell has been caught out lying to a corruption inquiry after a handwritten note was tendered in which he thanked the head of a company linked to the Obeid family for a $3000 bottle of wine"

10:21am: Barry O'Farrell told the press:

"I still can't explain either the arrival of a gift that i have no recollection of or it's, eh, absence which I certainly still can't fathom.

"But I accept consequences and in an orderly way a new Liberal leader will be elected to take up the position of Premier of NSW."

10:19am: Premier Barry O'Farrell has resigned after being caught out lying to a corruption inquiry after a handwritten note was tendered in which he thanked the head of a company linked to the Obeid family for a $3000 bottle of wine.

Mr O'Farrell was holding a press conference at 10am AEST.


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