Within two hours of Mr Harwin’s reinstatement, the Herald learnt of the government’s decision to keep the Ultimo site open while also building a new museum at Parramatta. Mr Harwin has long been a strong advocate for relocating from the inner-city site.
Mr Harwin was not in Gosford Local Court on Friday where he had been expected to challenge the $1000 fine for staying at his beachside house in breach of coronavirus lockdown rules.
His court date had been brought forward four months from October at the special request of the Office of the Director of Public Prosecutions.
In court, the DPP withdrew the charges which were then formally dismissed by magistrate Peter Barnett.
The DPP said a decision had been made to discontinue the charge “following a review of the available evidence”.
NSW Police Commissioner Mick Fuller, who personally reviewed all $1000 fines handed out during the coronavirus lockdown, said he stood by his decision to fine the minister.
“I reviewed the circumstances of the incident at the time, and I stand by my decision to proceed with a Penalty Infringement Notice,” Mr Fuller said. “The discontinuation of the case by the ODPP is a matter for them.”
Mr Harwin repeatedly insisted he did not break the law and returned to his Sydney home by March 31, when the Public Health Order formally began.
He previously said he had been “working remotely” from his holiday home for “a number of weeks prior” to the order coming into effect, and that he “took advice from my department officials” to ensure he adhered to the guidelines.
At the time he expressed regret that his residential arrangements had “become an issue” during the pandemic, but said he was “confident” he had acted in accordance with all guidelines.
“I apologise to the Premier and the people of NSW,” he said in April.
In April the Herald revealed Mr Harwin had decided to sell his Sydney apartment, just two weeks after he quit the cabinet.
The resignation resulted in a “significant pay cut” from his ministerial salary of about $345,000 to that of a backbencher, which is approximately $170,000.
As well as the arts portfolio, Mr Harwin will also regain his responsibilities for Aboriginal affairs and role as special minister of state.
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Lucy Cormack is a crime reporter with The Sydney Morning Herald.
Alexandra Smith is the State Political Editor of The Sydney Morning Herald.