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


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.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Barn owls are among species that could be affected
charity appeal
Sarah Silverman (middle) with sister Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman (right) and sister actress Laura Silverman (left) at Jerusalem's Western Wall for feminist Hanuka candle-lighting ceremony
peopleControversial comedian stages pro-equality Hanukkah lighting during a protest at Jerusalem's Wailing Wall
Arts and Entertainment
The Bach Choir has been crowned the inaugural winner of Sky Arts’ show The Great Culture Quiz
arts + ents140-year-old choir declared winner of Sky Arts' 'The Great Culture Quiz'
After another poor series in Sri Lanka, Alastair Cook claimed all players go through a lean period
cricketEoin Morgan reportedly to take over ODI captaincy
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

Homeless Veterans appeal: 'You look for someone who's an inspiration and try to be like them'

Homeless Veterans appeal

In 2010, Sgt Gary Jamieson stepped on an IED in Afghanistan and lost his legs and an arm. He reveals what, and who, helped him to make a remarkable recovery
Could cannabis oil reverse the effects of cancer?

Could cannabis oil reverse effects of cancer?

As a film following six patients receiving the controversial treatment is released, Kate Hilpern uncovers a very slippery issue
The Interview movie review: You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here

The Interview movie review

You can't see Seth Rogen and James Franco's Kim Jong Un assassination film, but you can read about it here
Serial mania has propelled podcasts into the cultural mainstream

How podcasts became mainstream

People have consumed gripping armchair investigation Serial with a relish typically reserved for box-set binges
Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up for hipster marketing companies

Jesus Christ has become an unlikely pin-up

Kevin Lee Light, aka "Jesus", is the newest client of creative agency Mother while rival agency Anomaly has launched Sexy Jesus, depicting the Messiah in a series of Athena-style poses
Rosetta space mission voted most important scientific breakthrough of 2014

A memorable year for science – if not for mice

The most important scientific breakthroughs of 2014
Christmas cocktails to make you merry: From eggnog to Brown Betty and Rum Bumpo

Christmas cocktails to make you merry

Mulled wine is an essential seasonal treat. But now drinkers are rediscovering other traditional festive tipples. Angela Clutton raises a glass to Christmas cocktails
5 best activity trackers

Fitness technology: 5 best activity trackers

Up the ante in your regimen and change the habits of a lifetime with this wearable tech
Paul Scholes column: It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves

Paul Scholes column

It's a little-known fact, but I have played one of the seven dwarves
Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Fifa's travelling circus once again steals limelight from real stars

Club World Cup kicked into the long grass by the continued farce surrounding Blatter, Garcia, Russia and Qatar
Frank Warren column: 2014 – boxing is back and winning new fans

Frank Warren: Boxing is back and winning new fans

2014 proves it's now one of sport's biggest hitters again
Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas