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Ex-minister ready to contest fine over COVID-19 breach

Former government Minister Don Harwin has an October court date scheduled to contest his fine for breaching COVID-19 restrictions.

It comes as documents provided to Parliament's Upper House show the police officer who cleared John Barilaro of similar allegations personally texted the Deputy Premier to tell him he was off the hook.

Mr Harwin's court proceedings, to take place in Gosford on October 28, set the scene for the extraordinary circumstances of a Minister challenging police for their application of rules he was privy to the creation of.

Former arts minister Don Harwin outside Parliament House on Wednesday, May 27. Picture: AAP
Former arts minister Don Harwin outside Parliament House on Wednesday, May 27. Picture: AAP

 

It is not clear if Mr Harwin will be required to appear on October 28.

Liberal figures spoken to by The Daily Telegraph said Mr Harwin had a right to defend himself, but noted the steps were politically troublemaking for Premier Berejiklian and NSW police who had instituted the rules.

While there has been a push from Mr Harwin's moderate colleagues to have him reinstated to cabinet since he quit his post in the wake of the events, other ministers believe returning him to a senior position would undermine public confidence.

Meanwhile, police documents obtained under parliamentary procedure have revealed why Mr Barilaro was cleared of breaching COVID-19 lockdown rules by travelling to his luxury farm in Nerriga on the weekend of May 2.

"I am satisfied from the comments made by Mr Barilaro … (that) he has a number of nominated places of residence and that he was in fact conducting his travels to conduct needed work on that property including," a report from Assistant Commissioner Joe Cassar stated.

 

NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was cleared of similar allegations to Mr Harwin. Picture: AAP
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro was cleared of similar allegations to Mr Harwin. Picture: AAP

 

The documents also show Detective Superintendent Kevin McNeil, who interviewed Mr Barilaro for the investigation, personally texted the Deputy Premier to let him know he was cleared.

"Sir just confirming … there will be no further action regarding the allegations that you breached COVID restrictions on the weekend of 2 May 2020," the text states.

Greens MP David Shoebridge withdrew a call for the police to reveal similar documents about Mr Harwin, as they are not made available under the same parliamentary process.

 

 

 

 

Originally published as Ex-minister ready to contest fine over COVID-19 breach