Premier of New South Wales forced to resign over failure to declare gift of £1,700 bottle of vintage red wine

Barry O’Farrell was given the 1959 bottle of Penfolds Grange by a Sydney lawyer at the centre of an inquiry by the state’s anti-corruption watchdog

sydney

Red wine has caused many a memory lapse, but rarely one quite so spectacular as that of Barry O’Farrell, who was forced to resign as premier of Australia’s largest state today over the gift of a A$3,000 (£1,700) bottle of Penfolds Grange, which he claimed not to recall receiving.

The wine – considered one of Australia’s finest, and bottled on Mr O’Farrell’s birth date, 24 May, 1959 – was couriered to his home by Nick Di Girolamo, a Sydney lawyer at the centre of an inquiry by New South Wales’s anti-corruption watchdog into allegedly shady dealings at a water infrastructure company of which he was chief executive.

The occasion was Mr O’Farrell’s election victory in 2011, but the gift – which he did not declare in the parliamentary register of interests – came to light this week, in testimony by Mr Di Girolamo at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) hearing. Summoned before the ICAC, Mr O’Farrell, a close friend of Prime Minister Tony Abbott, categorically denied receiving the wine – adding “that I’m certain I would remember receiving a bottle of Penfolds, particularly one that was my birth year”. His wife, Rosemary, whom he described as “the premier of my home”, backed him up.

Inconveniently, though, mobile phone records showed he made a 28-second call to Mr Di Girolamo that evening. And today the ICAC’s lawyers produced a handwritten note, signed “Baz and Rosemary”, in which Mr O’Farrell thanked the head of Australian Water Holdings for the “wonderful wine”. He duly announced his resignation, citing a “massive memory fail”.

A bottle of Penfolds Grange wine A bottle of Penfolds Grange wine The events unravelled just as the Duke  and Duchess of Cambridge were due to fly into Sydney, and threw organisers of the royal tour into turmoil. Mr O’Farrell was scheduled to greet the couple, travelling with Prince George, and host a reception for 400 people at Sydney Opera House. He withdrew, leaving the state’s governor, Marie Bashir, to perform those duties alone.

Australians, meanwhile, puzzled over how anyone – even a busy premier – could forget such a memorable gift. The irony is that Mr O’Farrell, whose conservative Liberal Party won by a landslide in 2011, ousting a Labor government tainted by corruption scandals, was regarded as a clean pair of hands. Although there is no suggestion of corrupt behaviour on his part, Mr Di Girolamo lobbied his government in the hope of winning lucrative contracts.

A former Liberal minister has recounted attending a meeting between Mr Di Girolamo and the premier and being “taken aback” at how “cosy” the pair were.

Mr O’Farrell apologised for misleading the inquiry. “I still can’t explain either the arrival of a gift that I have no recollection of, or its absence, which I still can’t fathom, but I accept the consequences,” he said.

Mr Abbott said his friend had “constantly worked to do the right thing by the people of New South Wales”, and he praised him for resigning.

Mr O’Farrell told the ICAC he was “no wine connoisseur”, being more of a “Brokenwood Cricket Pitch drinker” – a tipple that costs about A$20. A bottle of 1960 vintage Penfolds Grange was offered on eBay for A$5,890 today.

News
John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
News
i100

Other places that have held independence referendums
Arts and Entertainment
Jack Huston is the new Ben-Hur
film

It scooped up an unprecedented 11 Academy Awards when it was first remade in 1959

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Life and Style
fashion

Olympic diver has made his modelling debut for Adidas

Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'
film

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

News
news

News
peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's starring part
News
London's New Year's Eve fireworks event is going to be ticketed this year for the first time at £10 a head
news

Revellers will have to pay to see New Year's Eve fireworks in London

News
news

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
Property
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
Travel
travel

...and the perfect time to visit them

Sport
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)
football

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

News
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck
news

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Life and Style
tech

Try putting that one on your Christmas list
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

SEN Teaching Assistant Runcorn

£50 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: SEN Teaching Assistant EBD , Septemb...

English Teacher

£110 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: The Job ? This is a new post...

Primary Teacher EYFS, KS1 and KS2

£85 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Randstad Education are urgentl...

Teacher

£85 - £140 per day: Randstad Education Preston: Rapidly developing and growing...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week