NSW Premier Chris Minns says he will not answer questions from embattled Kiama MP Gareth Ward in the lower house until a parliamentary committee releases its findings.
The former Liberal MP turned independent is fighting five charges, including one count of sexual intercourse without consent, three counts of assault with act of indecency, and one count of common assault, which police allege occurred in 2013 and 2015.
Although Mr Ward was suspended from parliament by former premier Dominic Perrottet, he was successfully re-elected by his electorate of Kiama in the March state election.
Mr Minns’ snub comes after Mr Ward asked the Premier a question on disability inclusion during question time on Wednesday. Mr Minns said he would take it on notice.
“I think it’s appropriate given the context of that inquiry and, effectively, their judgment on his future tenure that any questions that he asked me or my ministers be taken under advice and I’ll reply formally to his inquiries,” Mr Minns told reporters after question time.
NSW MP Gareth Ward is facing historic sexual abuse charges. Picture NCA NewsWire/ Gaye GerardNSW Premier Chris Minns said he and his Labor ministers will take all questions posed by Mr Ward on notice. Picture NCA NewsWire/ Gaye Gerard
“Any fair rendering of his continued service in the Legislative Assembly needs to take into consideration there are serious charges he is facing as a member of the public.”
Mr Minns said Mr Ward would “likely” be referred to the privileges committee and neither he nor his ministers would answer questions from Mr Ward until the committee released its findings.
“I don’t want to prejudge their inquiries, and I don’t want to prejudge what the committee returns to the Legislative Assembly with until we get a judgment from them,” he said.
The Premier took Mr Ward’s question on notice during question time on Wednesday. Picture: NCA NewsWire/ David Swift
In response to Mr Minn’s comments, Mr Ward said he was “sorry” the Premier wasn’t able to answer his question.
“As one of two people in the Lower House with lived experience of disability, we need leaders that are prepared to stand up and fight for people with disabilities,” he said.
“I’m not aware of any referral of me specifically to the privileges committee but I am aware of an inquiry that the committee will undertake within the remit of the committee.”
On Wednesday, Labor MP Ron Hoenig passed a motion for the referral to the privileges committee, however a name was not disclosed as the “person is entitled to a fair trial”.