NSW Arts Minister, Don Harwin, has resigned from his post amid criticism over his alleged infraction of the Public Health Order imposed as part of the COVID-19 lockdown.
Earlier this week Harwin was fined $1000 by NSW police after he was observed staying in his Central Coast holiday house. The infringement notice was given for violation of the rule prohibiting non-essential travel.
Harwin’s primary residence is in Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, but he went to stay at his holiday house at Pearl Beach on March 13 citing health reasons. Restrictions were officially put in place in NSW on March 17.
While NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, acknowledges that Harwin was not technically in breach, she describes his behaviour as a poor example.
“It’s not just about sticking to the rules, it’s about making sure there’s a perception that everybody is sticking to the rules, including members of parliament,” Berejiklian told reporters.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, sees it otherwise, agreeing with the on-the-spot $1000 fine imposed on Harwin.
“No one individual or corporation is above these laws – anyone suspected of breaching the orders will be investigated and if a breach is detected, they will be dealt with in accordance with the act,” said Fuller in a statement.
With criticism and debate heating up in the hours following the revelation of the infringement, Harwin made the difficult decision to submit his resignation as minister.
“Today I have offered my resignation to the Premier as a Minister in her government,” he said in a statement.
“There is nothing more important than the work of the Government in fighting the coronavirus crisis.
“I will not allow my circumstances to be a distraction from that work and I very much regret that my residential arrangements have become an issue during this time.
“At all times I have sought to act in accordance with public health orders and I sought advice that my living arrangements complied with those orders.
“I remain confident that I have acted in accordance with those orders.”
The 55-year old Harwin was sworn in as Minister for Resources, the Minister for Energy and Utilities, the Minister for the Arts, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council on 30 January 2017 as part of Premier Berejiklian’s Liberal state cabinet. After the 2019 state election, Harwin’s portfolio’s were: Special Minister of State, the Minister for Public Services and Employee Relations, Aboriginal Affairs and the Arts, and the Vice-President of the Executive Council.
In 2014, Harwin came out as gay in a public speech to the Legislative Council. He has been very visible and active in LGBTQI arts.
Star Observer has contacted Minister Harwin for comment and is awaiting reply.