|43rd Premier of New South Wales|
28 March 2011
|Preceded by||Kristina Keneally|
|Minister for Western Sydney|
3 April 2011
|Preceded by||David Borger|
|19th Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party|
4 April 2007
|Preceded by||Peter Debnam|
|35th Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales|
4 April 2007 – 28 March 2011
|Preceded by||Peter Debnam|
|Succeeded by||John Robertson|
|Member of the New South Wales Parliament
27 March 1999
|Preceded by||Stephen O'Doherty|
|Member of the New South Wales Parliament
25 March 1995 – 26 March 1999
|Preceded by||Bruce Baird|
|Succeeded by||Constituency abolished|
|Born||Barry Robert O'Farrell
24 May 1959
Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
|Political party||Liberal Party of Australia|
|Alma mater||Australian National University|
Barry Robert O'Farrell MP, (born 24 May 1959) is an Australian politician and is the 43rd Premier of New South Wales and Minister for Western Sydney. He has been the Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party since 2007, and a Member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 1995, representing Northcott until 1999 and representing Ku-ring-gai on the Upper North Shore of Sydney since 1999.
He was born in Melbourne in 1959, his father's Army career saw his family move around Australia, ending up in Darwin in the Northern Territory, where he finished his education at St John's College. In 1977 O'Farrell moved to Canberra to study at the Australian National University, where he gained a Bachelor of Arts. After working for a number of Federal and State Liberal Party of Australia MPs, O'Farrell served as the State Director of the New South Wales Liberal Party from 1992 to 1995.
At the March 1995 New South Wales state election, O'Farrell was elected to the safe Liberal seat of Northcott in northern Sydney. Following the seat's abolition in the 1998 redistribution he secured selection for the equally safe seat of Ku-ring-gai in 1999 and has held it ever since. O'Farrell joined the Shadow Ministry in 1998 and served two periods as Deputy Leader (1999-2002 and 2003-2007). Following the Liberals' failure at the 2007 state election (their fourth in a row), O'Farrell challenged party Leader Peter Debnam. Debnam withdrew from the contest on the day of the ballot and O'Farrell was elected unopposed as the Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party and consequently as Leader of the Opposition. He became Premier in a landslide at the 2011 election.
Early life and background
The youngest of three children, Barry Robert O'Farrell was born to Kevin and Mae O'Farrell in the Royal Women's Hospital, Melbourne, in 1959. He is descended from Irish immigrants who arrived in Victoria in the 1860s; and his paternal grandfather was an officer in the Victoria Police Force in Ballarat. The O'Farrells moved to Darwin during his adolescence and he finished his high school education at St John's College.
In 1977 O'Farrell began studying at the Australian National University in Canberra, residing at Ursula College. During his second year of study, he was elected President of the Ursula College Student Association. In 1980 he received a Bachelor of Arts (BA) in Australian history, politics and Aboriginal studies and has cited Professor Manning Clark and Don Baker as major influences for his continuing interest in Australian history.
After briefly serving as a graduate trainee in the Department of Consumer Affairs, in 1980 O'Farrell joined the Liberal Party and worked in the offices of two South Australian Senators, Tony Messner and Gordon Davidson.
When John Howard became Leader of the Opposition in 1985, his chief of staff, Gerard Henderson, hired O'Farrell as a Sydney-based adviser. In 1985, O'Farrell was employed as Chief of Staff for Bruce Baird, a cabinet minister in the New South Wales government. Four years later, O'Farrell beat Tony Abbott in being appointed the State Director of the New South Wales Liberal Party. O'Farrell held this position until 1995.
Member of Parliament
In 1994 O'Farrell was preselected for the safe Liberal seat of Northcott and subsequently elected to the seat of Northcott on 25 March 1995 at the 1995 election with 60.05% of the primary vote, 68.63% after preferences against ALP candidate and future federal MP for Fraser, Andrew Leigh.
His maiden speech to Parliament on 19 September 1995 O'Farrell.
On 14 December 1998, State Opposition Leader Kerry Chikarovski appointed O'Farrell Shadow Minister for Small Business and Information Technology. When his seat of Northcott was abolished in the 1998 redistribution, O'Farrell decided to contest the equally safe seat of Ku-ring-gai, which had been vacated by the sitting member, Stephen O'Doherty, who had moved to contest the seat of Hornsby following the redistribution. His transfer bid was successful at the March 1999 election, gaining 56.3% of the primary vote and 70.03% after preferences. When Ron Phillips was defeated at the election, thereby vacating the Deputy Leadership, O'Farrell stood for the position and was elected on 31 March 1999, beating Chris Hartcher by one vote. Chikarovski then appointed him on 19 April 1999 to the senior role of Shadow Minister for Transport, dropping Small Business. He represented Northcott until its abolition on 26 March 1999.
In a further Shadow Cabinet reshuffle on 4 January 2002, O'Farrell lost Information Technology and became Shadow Minister for Innovation. However, when John Brogden deposed Chikarovski as Leader on 28 March 2002, O'Farrell also lost the Deputy Leadership 11 votes to 9 to Chris Hartcher. On 1 September 2002, Brogden appointed him as Shadow Minister for Education and Training and Shadow Special Minister of State.
Following the March 2003 State election, O'Farrell was re-elected with 71.60% of the two-party preferred vote, O'Farrell successfully contested the deputy's position, replacing Hartcher. Brogden then appointed him on 8 April 2003 as Shadow Minister for Health, dropping his Education portfolio.
After the resignation of John Brogden as leader on 29 August 2005, Peter Debnam became leader when O'Farrell pulled out of the leadership race on the morning of the 1 September party vote. Debnam then appointed him as Shadow Leader of the House, Shadow Minister for Transport and Shadow Minister for Waterways on 20 March 2006. In a November reshuffle, he was shifted to the senior position of Shadow Treasurer.
Leader of the Opposition
After the Liberals were defeated in the March 2007 state election, O'Farrell announced his intention to challenge Debnam for party leadership. When it was apparent that Debnam did not have enough support to keep his post, he opted not to recontest, leaving O'Farrell to take the leadership unopposed. Jillian Skinner was elected Deputy Leader. He later appointed himself Shadow Minister for Western Sydney.
In 2008, O'Farrell led by-election campaigns in Lakemba, Ryde, and Cabramatta where the Coalition recorded the largest by-election swing against Labor in its history. The Liberals achieved a swing of 22.7% in Cabramatta and 13% in Lakemba. Ryde, once a safe Labor seat, was taken by Liberal Victor Dominello on a swing of 23.1%.
On 2 September 2009, in the wake of Health Minister John Della Bosca's resignation following an affair, O'Farrell introduced a Motion of no confidence on the Premier Nathan Rees and the NSW Government. O'Farrell was hoping to push an early election saying that "The job of changing New South Wales for the better needs to start today. The best thing that Nathan Rees could do is to allow the people to have their say through an early election". The motion was put to the house but defeated on party lines. Despite this, all independent members of the Legislative Assembly voted for the motion.
In June 2010 the Liberal Party candidate, Stuart Ayres, won the Penrith by-election with a swing of 25%. The by-election was caused by the resignation of Karyn Paluzzano after she admitted to lying to the ICAC about abusing her parliamentary expenses. A jubilant O'Farrell stated, "What we've seen this evening is the Liberal Party win its first seat in Western Sydney in 20 years. It demonstrates once and for all that Labor does not have a lock on Western Sydney."
In August 2010, independent MP and Lord Mayor of Sydney Clover Moore introduced the Adoption Amendment (Same Sex Couples) Bill as a private member's bill, which, among other things, had the purpose of giving same-sex couples the right to adopt as a couple instead of as individuals. Both O'Farrell and Premier Kristina Keneally allowed a conscience vote on the bill.  O'Farrell supported the reforms: "I support this measure today ... for the sake of children but also because I don't believe our society should exclude because of gender, sexuality, faith, background or some other factor, people who have a contribution they can make...That's not the free and confident society I seek."  The bill was passed by the Legislative Assembly 46 votes to 44.
In late 2010, following the government announcement of the sale of NSW's electricity assets, O'Farrell called for a judicial inquiry into the matter. After rejecting a judicial inquiry, Premier Kristina Keneally shut down or 'prorogued' Parliament early to try to stop a parliamentary inquiry announced by O'Farrell. O'Farrell maintained pressure on the issue over the Christmas/New Year period arguing the public had a right to know whether fair price had been achieved, why eight directors had resigned over the sale and what impact the sale would have on power bills. On 6 January, Keneally bowed to pressure and agreed to attend an inquiry she had earlier called "unconstitutional".
On the eve of the 2011 election, ABC radio reported that NSW Labor could be facing "the biggest loss in Australian political history", with the state-wide swing predicted at between 16 and 18 per cent. Asked to define himself ideologically O'Farrell told the ABC:
|“||I describe myself as a classic Liberal. You know, ascribe to those Liberal principles but like Menzies believe that the role of government is to apply the principles, the plans, the policies to an issue that suit the times. So Menzies used to say that it must be great being an ideologue because it saves time thinking. Menzies wanted to deliver real change, wanted to deliver real solutions and that's where I put myself.||”|
During the campaign in the lead-up to the 26 March 2011 election the Coalition had been ahead in opinion polling for almost three years. The final Newspoll saw a two-party-preferred figure of 64.1 percent for the Coalition and 35.9 percent for the Labor Party. O'Farrell went on to lead the Coalition to win the election with a swing of over 16%, the highest for a general election in Australia since World War II. The Coalition won several seats in Labor's traditional west Sydney heartland, many of which had previously been safe for Labor; two of them, Smithfield and Campbelltown, fell to the Liberals on 20 percent swings. The Liberal Party achieved an overall gain of 27 seats, while the National Party gained 5 seats, thereby achieving an overall majority in the Legislative Assembly of 45 seats. In his own seat of Ku-ring-gai, already considered an ultra-safe Liberal seat, O'Farrell achieved 72.7% of the primary vote, 87% after preferences, for an overall majority of 37%, making his own seat the safest in the state. The Liberals actually won a majority in their own right, with 51 seats—the first time the main non-Labor party in New South Wales had won an outright majority since adopting the Liberal label in 1945. Although O'Farrell thus had no need for the support of the Nationals, he opted to retain the Coalition.
Premier of New South Wales
O'Farrell was sworn in as Premier by the Governor of New South Wales, Marie Bashir on 28 March 2011. Although O'Farrell's victory was beyond doubt, counting was still underway in a few seats at the time. For this reason, O'Farrell and NSW Nationals leader Andrew Stoner were sworn in as a two-man government—a move similar to how Gough Whitlam took office after winning the 1972 federal election. The full ministry was sworn in on 3 April 2011 at a formal ceremony at Government House by the Lieutenant Governor, James Spigelman. Upon taking office, O'Farrell, reduced the size of the Premier's personal staff and moved the office from Governor Macquarie Tower back to the historic Premier's office within Parliament House.
Following the swearing in of cabinet, on 4 April O'Farrell announced a "100 Day Action Plan", outlining the agenda of his government for his first one hundred days in office. O'Farrell's moved to rein in public expenditure by capping public service wage increases at 2.5% a year, with any additional increases to be justified by real productivity increases, and by abolishing the 'unattached list' for public servants. The new Government also enshrined the independence of the public service by the establishing of an independent Public Service Commission, to implement structural reform, chaired by former federal department head Dr. Peter Shergold.
O'Farrell also fulfilled his election promise to repeal the controversial powers granted under part 3A of the Planning and Assessment Act that allowed the government to over-ride decisions by local councils about major developments. Another aspect was the creation of Infrastructure NSW, which is to decide upon which infrastructure projects take precedence, funding requirements and overall delivery. O'Farrell then appointed former Liberal Premier Nick Greiner as its Chairman.
On 13 May 2011 the O'Farrell Government moved to retrospectively change commercial contracts relating to the Solar Rebate Scheme that saw eligible households paid a gross feed in tariff of 60 cents a kilowatt hour. This move followed revelations the scheme had blown out in cost from $400M to $1.9B. Without compensation, the rebate tariff would have been reduced by 33% to 40 cents a kilowatt hour from 1 July 2011 through to the conclusion of the scheme in 2016. However, the Legislative Council made it clear that they would not agree to roll the bonus back and the government conceded. The scheme was closed to new customers 28 April 2011.
On 7 October 2011 O'Farrell announced the Governor of New South Wales Marie Bashir would live in Government House, fifteen years after Bob Carr's decision to not have the Governor live there, arguing "that's what it was built for".
During a visit to Lebanon and the United Arab Emirates in May 2012, O'Farrell was awarded an Honorary Doctorate from the Lebanese Maronite Order Université Saint-Esprit de Kaslik. In receiving the honour, O'Farrell said:
"This Honorary Doctorate from a renowned university honours the relationship between the people of NSW and the people of Lebanon, as much as it does any individual. It is therefore particularly humbling to receive it. I sincerely hope that my current visit to Lebanon conveys the high esteem in which the Government and people of NSW hold the Lebanese community, and reflects my desire to foster an even closer and more productive relationship, including in the field of education."
At the December 2012 Council of Australian Governments meeting, O'Farrell reached agreement with Prime Minister Gillard, for NSW to become the first state or territory to secure funding for the full rollout of the National Disability Insurance Scheme. When fully operational in 2018/19, the Federal Government will commit $3.3 billion and the NSW Government $3.1 billion to provide individualised care and support to an estimated 140,000 people with disabilities across the State. At a jont media conference with Gillard, O'Farrell praised the efforts of his Minister for Ageing and Disabilities Andrew Constance in helping to finalise the deal.
On 19 April 2013, O'Farrell came out in support for legalising Same-sex marriage after the New Zealand Parliament successfully passed the Marriage (Definition of Marriage) Amendment Act 2013 which legalised Same-sex marriage in New Zealand on 19 August 2013. O'Farrell also urged federal Opposition leader Tony Abbott to allow a conscience vote as the Liberal Party of Australia didn't allow a conscience vote to its federal MPs and Senators under Abbott.
On 23 April 2013 O'Farrell became the first state premier to sign up to the federal government's Gonski national education reforms, securing $5 billion in additional funding for the State’s schools.
In mid-March 2014, the O'Farrell state government's Community Services Minister, Pru Goward, announced the prospective sale of around 300 harbourfront public housing properties under the management of Government Property NSW. Goward explained that the proceeds generated from the sale, expected to be in the hundreds of millions, will be reinvested into the public housing system. Considered historic structures, the harbourfront properties are located at Millers Point, The Rocks and on Gloucester Street, and include the Sirius complex, a high-rise, 79-unit apartment complex near the Harbour Bridge that is an example of brutalist architecture.
2014 ICAC investigation
In April 2014, O'Farrell appeared as a witness during an investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption into alleged actions by Australian Water Holdings. At the inquiry it was alleged that O'Farrell had received a $3,000 bottle of Grange Hermitage wine from an AWH executive, which he had failed to declare. O'Farrell initially categorically denied having received the gift, but on 16 April he announced his intention to resign as the Premier of NSW after it was revealed that additional evidence would be tabled, including a letter from O'Farrell thanking the executive for the gift.
Personal and community life
While working for Bruce Baird in Sydney, O'Farrell met Rosemary Cowan, Baird's PA and daughter of former National Party State and Federal MP Bruce Cowan. They married in late 1992 and had two sons. In April 2008, after losing 50 kilograms (110 lb), O'Farrell and his elder son walked the Kokoda Track.
Having been a member of Parliament since 1995, O'Farrell has been involved in various local organisations including Ku-ring-gai Amateur Swimming Club, the Ku-ring-gai Historical Society and as an honorary Member of the Rotary Club of Wahroonga. O'Farrell is Patron of the Trish MS Research Foundation, Vice Patron of the Sir David Martin Foundation and Patron of the RSPCA NSW Branch.
|Wikimedia Commons has media related to Barry O'Farrell.|
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|Parliament of New South Wales|
|Member for Northcott
1995 – 1999
|Member for Ku-ring-gai
1999 – present
|Party political offices|
|Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party
1999 – 2002
|Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party
2003 – 2007
|Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party
2007 – present
|Leader of the Opposition of New South Wales
2007 – 2011
|Premier of New South Wales
2011 – present
|Minister for Western Sydney
2011 – present