Don Harwin has been reinstated as Federal Arts Minister after resigning in April when he was issued with a $1000 fine for travelling to his Central Coast holiday home during the COVID-19 shutdown in NSW.
The fine was withdrawn by the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP) on July 3 in Gosford Local Court.
At the time, Harwin was accused of travelling from his chief residence in Elizabeth Bay to his Pearl Beach holiday home when travel restrictions were in force.
He was fined by NSW police for acting “in contravention of a current ministerial direction under the Public Health Act” and the matter was referred to the DPP.
Harwin argued he relocated to Pearl Beach in mid-March before the NSW stay-at-home order was made and sought to challenge the fine.
He also said he had been living mostly at his Pearl Beach home for four months before his resignation.
A DPP spokesperson said on July 3 that “the applicable public health order in its terms did not restrict a person to a single place of residence”.
“The evidence was unable to establish that Mr Harwin left his place of residence without a reasonable excuse as provided by the public health order.” the spokesperson said.
NSW Police and state politicians argued at the height of COVID-19 restrictions that Sydneysiders with regional NSW homes should not leave the city for those properties.
At the time, Premier Gladys Berejiklian said Harwin had “appropriately resigned” his frontbench role and that politicians had to be perceived to be acting correctly.
She reinstated Harwin to his arts portfolio on July 3 following the withdrawal of the fine.
“Mr Harwin’s decision to resign from cabinet was appropriate when he received an infringement notice in April, but now that he has been cleared, it is appropriate that he return to cabinet,” she said.
“Mr Harwin has always assured me that he did not break the rules.”
Media release, Jul 3