ICAC inquiry claims minister
ENERGY and Resources Minister Chris Hartcher has resigned from the NSW government cabinet in response to a corruption inquiry.
Mr Hartcher said he had been forced to quit his portfolio as a result of an ICAC inquiry, but was confident he would clear his name.
‘‘My resignation follows the issue of a search warrant by the Independent Commission Against Corruption against me,’’ he said.
‘‘I am confident I will be cleared of any wrongdoing.
‘‘This is the first contact I have had with the ICAC and given that their investigations have thus far had an unknown time frame, it is appropriate that I resign.’’
Mr Hartcher said he would continue to serve as the MP for Terrigal while he awaits the outcome of the ICAC’s investigations.
‘‘As this matter is before the ICAC, it is not appropriate to comment further,’’ he said.
NSW Premier Barry O’Farrell, who is in India, said he had spoken to Mr Hartcher earlier yesterday.
“I accept and support Mr Hartcher’s decision to resign from cabinet following today’s actions by ICAC,” Mr O’Farrell said.
Fair Trading Minister Anthony Roberts will be appointed Acting Minister for Resources and Energy, Special Minister of State and Minister for the Central Coast, to replace Mr Hartcher.
Mr O’Farrell said that Stuart Ayres, the member for Penrith and Parliamentary Secretary for Western Sydney, would fill the vacant ministry position.
In September, the Independent Commission Against Corruption raided the offices of Central Coast Liberal MPs Chris Spence and Darren Webber, seizing computers and documents.
The raids are believed to have been linked to allegations, revealed by Fairfax Media last year, that two staff members of Mr Hartcher funnelled political donations through a front company before the 2011 state election.
Last year, Mr Hartcher told Parliament he was not under investigation in relation to the matter involving his two staff, but in September declined to repeat the statement.
Mr Spence and Mr Webber have also voluntarily withdrawn from the Liberal Party during the inquiry.
In September, the NSW opposition called on Mr O’Farrell to suspend Mr Spence, the member for The Entrance, and Mr Webber, the member for Wyong, but Mr O’Farrell declined.
At that time, Mr O’Farrell said the Liberal Party had referred issues surrounding donations to the Central Coast Liberal campaign to the Electoral Funding Authority, but there had been no statements from ICAC that it was investigating the matter.
He added that there was ‘‘no speculation at this stage of any ICAC activity in relation to the offices of Mr Hartcher’’.