Barry O'Farrell: Abbott's angry retort
The Prime Minister praised the NSW Premier's 'honesty and integrity' and bristled when a journalist asked about 'corruption.'PT3M14S http://www.canberratimes.com.au/action/externalEmbeddedPlayer?id=d-36qus 620 349 April 16, 2014
Prime Minister Tony Abbott has defended Barry O’Farrell as “a man of honour” and expressed confidence that the NSW Premier did not deliberately mislead an anti-corruption hearing.
Mr Abbot hailed Mr O'Farrell's snap resignation as an act of integrity at a media conference in Sydney, where the two leaders had been due to give an announcement of almost $3 billion in roads funding for western Sydney.
Prime Minster Tony Abbott at Liverpool Council Photo: Sasha Woolley
The follow-up announcement to Tuesday’s confirmation of plans for an airport at Badgerys Creek was outshone when Mr O’Farrell revealed he would resign after a handwritten note thanking the head of an Obeid-linked company for a $3000 bottle of wine was tendered to ICAC. On Tuesday O'Farrell had said he had no recollection of receiving such a bottle.
Mr Abbott told reporters in Sydney that Mr O’Farrell had “inadvertently, innocently misled ICAC” on Tuesday, when the Premier denied having received the wine or making a call to thank the sender, Nick Di Girolamo.
"Obviously as we now know he inadvertently, innocently misled ICAC yesterday," Mr Abbott said.
Prime Minster Tony Abbott has defended NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell. Photo: Sasha Woolley
"He has taken the utterly honourable step of resigning as Premier.
"We are seeing an act of integrity, an act of honour, the like of which we have rarely seen in Australian politics."
The Prime Minister said Mr O’Farrell had been “a great servant” of the Liberal Party and the people of NSW, but became agitated when a reporter asked if a state government that was “proving to be corrupt” could deliver infrastructure.
Mr Abbott described the question as an "entirely unjustified smear" and asked the reporter for evidence for her assertion.
"I think you should withdraw that and apologise because there is no evidence whatsoever for that," he said.
The reporter reworded their question, but Mr Abbott was visibly upset by the original question, and said: "We need to have decent standards from the media, if I may say so, as well as decent standards from politicians."
He later ended the press conference before he could answer questions on whether he still had confidence in senator Arthur Sinodinos, the federal assistant treasurer who stepped aside after also appearing at the inquiry.
Mr Abbott said he had “enormous respect and admiration” for Mr O’Farrell, who he believed would be missed as a Liberal leader.
“This is the thing, if you're in public life, you meet lots of people, from time to time people give you things,” he 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.”