Travel Trouble

"I’m bloody disappointed": Senior NSW minister flaunts Easter travel ban

"I’m bloody disappointed": Senior NSW minister flaunts Easter travel ban

Embattled Minister Don Harwin has urgently returned to Sydney apologising to the Premier and the people of Sydney.

The Arts Minister was caught residing at his Pearl Beach holiday home on the Central Coast, despite countless government pleas for Sydneysiders to stay out of regional NSW to avoid the spread of the virus.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian said she was “disappointed” – despite being aware of Harwin’s plans before The Daily Telegraph reported it.

Berejiklian said it was important her colleagues were “seen to stick to the rule” yet also attempted to defend Harwin by saying he fled to the coast before the lockdown took place.

She did not speak about the fact that he had travelled back and forth at least twice in that period.

When asked why she’s expressing her disappointment only after The Daily Telegraph made the news public, Berejiklian said “based on what he told me strictly he hadn’t breached the rules because they were prior to the restrictions”. 

“But as I say today, it’s not strictly about the rules it’s about the message to the community.”

Harwin, who usually lives in Elizabeth Bay in Sydney’s eastern suburbs, was spotted at his $1.3 million beachside investment property.

The Premier said she will not sack the minister even if he receives a penalty, saying you can’t terminate everyone who gets a fine.

In a written statement this morning, Harwin said: “I apologise to the Premier and the people of NSW”.

“I took advice from my department officials about the Public Health Order to ensure I adhered to the guidelines during this period.

“I have no desire to cause a distraction for the Government at this important time and have returned to my Sydney home.”

Police Commissioner Mick Fuller said if Harwin’s reasoning for travelling isn’t adequate, then he won’t hesitate to issue a fine.

“If (Harwin’s) excuse doesn’t cut the mustard he’ll get the fine,” he said.

Mr Fuller said Harwin will be subjected to a line of questioning and pointed out that there was evidence of another person in his home, which may have also breached the rules.

Harwin confirmed he had been at the holiday home for “about three weeks” and in that time had once travelled to and from Sydney for a medical appointment.

However, he was also in Parliament on March 24 – two weeks ago – which he did not mention.

Deputy Premier John Barilaro, who has strongly advised Sydneysiders to stay away from the regions, said there was a clear expectation for everyone to stay in their principal place of residence.

“The rules apply to everyone, politicians aren’t exempt – we need to set the standard and I’m bloody disappointed,” he said.

“Everyone could go to their holiday home – we are asking people not to. This sets a bad example.”