NSW Minister Escapes being fired after Alcohol Incident
The NSW finance minister who was almost sacked for drinking at work has managed to escape being axed.
Greg Pearce was found to have breached ministerial travel guidelines and admitted to drinking at work, which has resulted in him being put on one month’s personal leave, instead of being fired as everyone expected.
According to an article on Abc.net.au Premier Barry O’Farrell has sent Minister Pearce on a month’s personal leave four days before the state budget is due to be delivered for him to deal with stress and exhaustion.
A report by the head of the Premier’s department, Chris Eccles found Mr Pearce breached ministerial guidelines by using a government contracted travel agency to book a private trip to Canberra of which he benefitted $200. Premier O’Farrell did not feel the discretion warranted axing and said it was minor, Mr Pearce will pay back the money he saved.
Read what Abc.net.au reported on the incident:
Flanked by the premier, a stony faced Mr Pearce faced the media for the first time since the scandals broke and said his behaviour in parliament was caused by exhaustion but exacerbated by alcohol consumption.
He apologised for using taxpayer funds to book a personal trip and described the last two weeks as the worst of his professional life.
In that time, he was accused of being drunk during parliamentary debate, misusing his ministerial travel allowance and not properly disclosing his financial interests.
A doctor for Mr Pearce said he did not have an alcohol dependency problem.
State Opposition Leader John Robertson says Mr O’Farrell’s decision makes a mockery of his promise to uphold high standards.
“I think it’s just a pathetic response from a premier who isn’t serious about another of the promises that he’s now breaking,” Mr Robertson said.
When it was discovered that Pearce was invited to a function being held by Liberal lobbyist Michael Photios, Minister Pearce admitted it was a “private trip”. As the media reported the minister was asked if he actually visited Tralee or whether he had used that as an excuse to attempt to get the trip paid for by the taxpayer, Mr Pearce kept repeating the words, “I went to Canberra on a private trip”.
He finally admitted that alcohol had contributed to his rather shaky appearance in parliament a fortnight ago but added that stress and exhaustion also had something to do with it.
Mr O’Farrell was accused of displaying double standards by not firing the minister but he denied these allegations and said he would still be expecting the highest standards from his ministers.
He went on to state:
“Whether it’s a person who has stolen $200 or $2 million, the community expects proportionate penalties to deal with stress and exhaustion issues,” Mr O’Farrell said.
Labor MLC Walt Secord described the terms of reference of Mr Eccles’s investigation as incredibly narrow, given the number of allegations stacked up against Mr Pearce.