Ward 'devastated' by O'Farrell resignation

KIAMA MP Gareth Ward is ‘‘devastated’’ by the resignation of NSW Premier and friend Barry O’Farrell.

Mr Ward said he regarded Mr O’Farrell as a Premier who ‘‘has changed our state for the better’’.

He paid tribute to the leadership of Mr O’Farrell as Premier during the past three years.

“The Premier in resigning his office held himself to the same standard he has held others,’’ Mr Ward said. 

‘‘I think it’s important that anyone in public life hold themselves to the highest of standards. 

‘‘He’s paid the ultimate price for his forgetfulness. 

‘‘Others however who have faced ICAC haven’t paid a price for their gross corruption, and I think that needs to be reflected on.

‘‘When I was first elected to (Shoalhaven City) council, I always have sought to shine a brighter light on those who sought to abuse their office for their own private benefit, and I’ll continue to do so. 

‘‘In this instance, the Premier was forgetful in remembering a bottle of wine; he gave evidence to ICAC to the contrary of that, he’s now made the decision to design. 

‘‘I am absolutely devastated.”

Mr Ward said the O’Farrell government had turned a difficult situation in NSW around.

‘‘When we came to government, we inherited a $55 billion state debt, a $30 billion infrastructure backlog and a $5.2 billion deficit,’’ he said.

‘‘Barry’s been a friend of mine, he’s been someone who has supported me and my region, and his door has always been open. 

‘‘We’ve been trying to get on with fixing the state, and he has been an integral part of that. 

‘‘I have no doubt that if we hadn’t have won, the upgrades we’re seeing to the Princes Highway at the moment would not have happened. 

‘‘So I’m grateful to him for his stewardship of the state, as we seek to recover so much ground that we lost over 16 years.

‘‘You can’t help but feel a great deal of regret for him, for his family and also for his great service for the state.

‘‘I say that no matter who is the Premier, no matter who is in government, I ran for Parliament to do things for this region like fix the Princes Highway and the hospitals, which I’m doing, and I’ll continue to do that regardless of who is Premier, and who is in government.”

Mr Ward didn’t wish to elaborate on the state’s next leader, although joked that it definitely wouldn’t be him.

‘‘It is vital that we get on with the job that people expect from state governments. 

‘‘One of the things that has ceased under this government is the soap opera we saw under the last government. 

‘‘Scandal after scandal after scandal, taking pride of place in the pages rather than the business of government, which is what people want from state governments. 

‘‘They want good services; they want us to work hard, improve what we have and to fight for our state to do more.’’

Liberal Federal Member for Gilmore Ann Sudmalis praised Mr O’Farrell, saying “he’s pulled NSW back together” and was a “good, honest representative” who stood by his word.

“I’m really saddened, because he has made a huge difference in NSW,” she said.

“He has been a great Premier for NSW.

“I think the fact that he didn’t recall the situation, and has now taken appropriate action speaks volumes for the morals of the man.

“When we had the country held to ransom for people like Craig Thomson… We have a gentleman with a much lesser scale (offence).

“These things can happen at times, but he’s done the right thing.”

Ms Sudmalis said NSW was a “bit of an economic basket case” at the time Mr O’Farrell took on the role.

“He’s turned that around, and NSW is leading the charge in economic recovery,” she said.

Shoalhaven Mayor and former Gilmore MP Joanna Gash said Mr O’Farrell’s resignation was a great loss for NSW.

“I have known Barry for many years, I admire him and still believe in him,” she said.

“This is a very unfortunate incident but his morals and principles are such that if he feels he’s done the wrong thing he has to accept the consequences.

“For all the things happening over the past few years in ICAC, for a bottle of wine to lose your premier, something has to happen.

“I’m disappointed and upset about the whole thing.

“It’s very disappointing, he was a great premier. Things were certainly starting to happen in NSW.

“We have seen him on a number of occasions regarding developments in the Shoalhaven and he has always been very supportive.

“I’m devastated by this.”

Cr Gash hoped his removal would not have an effect on the Shoalhaven.

“We will have to wait and see who takes his place, I don’t envy the state for this, it is something that has to happen,” she said.

“They are big shoes to fill. The party will rally.”

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