NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell resigns

By Sophie Tarr

The New South Wales Premier Barry O'Farrell has just resigned.

In a shock move this morning the Premier gave the media ten minutes notice of the press conference where he announced he will be stepping down.

He said a thank you note will be tendered to the Independent Commission against Corruption for a bottle of wine he still cannot recall.

The handwritten thank you card appears to be signed by Mr O'Farrell and his wife.

"Thank you for the kind note and wonderful wine. 1959 was a good year even if it is getting even further away! Thanks for all your support, kind regards Baz & Rosemary."

Yesterday, O'Farrell flatly denied suggestions he wrote a letter supporting Australian Water Holdings (AWH) in exchange for Liberal Party donations.

Nor did he recall receiving a bottle of vintage Grange wine, bought for $3000 by AWH and apparently couriered to his home just after the 2011 state election.

The note tendererd to ICAC in which former NSW Premier Barry O'Farrell thanked Nick Di Girolamo for a bottle of wine he didn't recall receiving. Photo: Supplied.

This morning the Premier called it a "significant memory failure on my part" and said he will "accept the consequences".

Mr O'Farrell was on Tuesday quizzed before the NSW corruption watchdog about a letter he wrote to then-AWH chief executive Nick Di Girolamo in late September 2010.

He agreed it was "broadly supportive" of the company's push to secure a lucrative public-private partnership.

"We can show you lots of money going into Liberal Party coffers which coincides with this letter of support. Did you know anything about that?" counsel assisting Geoffrey Watson, SC, asked Mr O'Farrell.

"No, the Liberal Party's financial code requires members of parliament to be at arm's length from fundraising," Mr O'Farrell replied.

"If your inference is that this letter was signed by me because of donations made by Australian Water Holdings then I reject it completely."

Mr Di Girolamo has told the Independent Commission against Corruption he bought Mr O'Farrell a bottle of Grange wine to express his congratulations on securing the premiership but denied using the gift to "butter Mr O'Farrell up".

The ICAC has heard the 1959 vintage bottle - aged since the year of Mr O'Farrell's birth - was delivered to his home in Roseville, on Sydney's north shore, on or around April 20, 2011.

The public inquiry has already heard testimony from Mr O'Farrell's former chief-of-staff Peter McConnell, Liberal Senator Arthur Sinodinos, three former NSW premiers and ex-Labor MP Eddie Obeid (pictured), whose family allegedly had a secret stake in AWH. Photo: AAP

But Mr O'Farrell said he never received it and that he may have been away on a family holiday to the Gold Coast for Easter when the bottle showed up.

"It's the Don Bradman of wine. Unforgettable," Mr Watson said.

"Yes. If it had been received, I don't believe I would have forgotten it," Mr O'Farrell replied.

The gift was never declared on the premier's pecuniary interests register and ICAC investigators have been unable to find a document from the courier company to show when it was dropped off.

But Mr Di Girolamo has told the inquiry he received a thank you call from the premier after sending the wine - and on Tuesday afternoon, Mr O'Farrell was shown a record of a 28-second telephone call from his mobile number to Mr Di Girolamo's, made about 9.30pm on April 20, 2011.

"I've no knowledge - I don't know about this phone call," Mr O'Farrell said.

"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."