‘Groundhog Day’ for Deputy Premier as fresh assault allegations emerge
Kiama MP and Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward is being investigated by police over allegations of sexual violence offences.
Detectives from the NSW Police Child Abuse and Sex Crime Squad have formed a strike force to examine the allegations, which date back to 2013.
Mr Ward has denied any wrongdoing, naming himself as the subject of the allegations and standing aside from his role to sit on the crossbench (full statement below).
In a statement, Premier Gladys Berejiklian says she supports Mr Ward’s decision to step aside (full statement below).
The Attorney General will act in Mr Ward’s portfolio responsibilities.
Earlier, prior to Mr Ward naming himself, Deputy Premier John Barilaro told Jim Wilson the issue will be dealt with appropriately but stressed the need to avoid jeopardising the investigation.
“It’s Groundhog Day – this is how I started this by-election.
“When accusations were made in the House about an individual … and it was the former member for Upper Hunter, Michael Johnsen, I dealt with it within two and a half hours in benching him.
“This is not acceptable.”
Press PLAY below to hear the Deputy Premier’s response in full
Full statement from Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services Gareth Ward:
“Today I have been made aware by a journalist of an investigation into me by NSW Police.
“I have not been contacted by Police in relation to any allegations.
“I deny any wrongdoing.
“Until this matter is resolved, it is appropriate I stand aside from my role as Minister. I will also remove myself from the Liberal Party room.
“I will not be making any further comment at this time.”
Full statement from NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian:
“I was made aware through media reports today that an MP is under investigation by police.
“I have subsequently received advice from Minister Gareth Ward of his decision to step aside as Minister and sit on the cross bench while there is speculation about his future.
“I support his decision.
“The Attorney General will act in Mr Ward’s portfolio responsibilities.”