Gladys Berejiklian was left ‘shocked and distressed’ by the allegations of sexual assault against Minister of Families Gareth Ward.
Liberal MP Mr Ward, 39, resigned from the NSW ministry last night after confirming that he is under investigation for violent sexual offenses that allegedly took place in 2013.
According to reports, the alleged crimes took place in a hotel room against an adult.
Speaking in a brief press conference on Friday morning, Ms Berejiklian said: “I think we were all incredibly shocked and upset by what happened yesterday afternoon.”
Families Minister Gareth Ward released a statement confirming he had stepped down but denied any wrongdoing. Pictured with New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian
“None of us will tolerate behavior that is deemed totally unacceptable.”
The Prime Minister added: ‘I asked him if he had done anything wrong. He denied any wrongdoing.
“ He was very adamant that the police had not contacted him yet. ”
Last night Mr Ward, who as Minister of Families was responsible for 17,000 vulnerable children, released a statement confirming that he had resigned as a Liberal MP and will sit on the cross bench.
“Today I was briefed by a reporter about an investigation into me by NSW Police,” he said.
“I have not been contacted by the police in connection with the allegations. I deny any wrongdoing.
“ Until this issue is resolved, I should step aside from my role as Minister. I will also be retiring from the Liberal Party room.
“I will not make any further comment at this time.”
New South Wales Minister for Families Gareth Ward has stepped aside after confirming he is under investigation by detectives for violent sex offenses allegedly taking place in 2013
Ms Berejiklian said she learned about the investigation through media reports on Thursday.
“ I subsequently received advice from Minister Gareth Ward on his decision to step down as minister and sit on the cross bench as there is speculation about his future, ” he said. she said in a statement.
“I support his decision. The Attorney General will act within Mr. Ward’s portfolio responsibilities.
In a statement, NSW Police said: ‘Detectives from the Child Abuse and Sex Crimes Squad have established Strike Force Condello to investigate allegations of sexual violence offenses .
“The incidents are said to have taken place from 2013. As investigations continue, no further information is available.”
Mr Ward, who represents Kiama, south of Sydney, has previously been implicated in a ‘secret massage’ extortion incident.
He was staying at the Intercontinental Hotel near Broadway in New York City in 2017 when he allegedly called what he believed to be a masseur.
But what was meant to be a relaxing time during the holidays turned into a “ terrifying ” blackmail attempt, he said.
“ Listen, I contacted someone I thought was a masseur and when he came to my hotel – he brought a friend – it became clear that they wanted more. I made it clear that was not what I wanted and asked them to leave, ‘he told Daily Mail Australia at the time.
“ They got aggressive and took out their phones and started recording and demanding money. ”
Mr Ward said he told the men he would bring the money to them and took the elevator to the lobby, where he told the clerk as the couple ‘ran away’.
Attorney General Mark Speakman will take on Mr. Ward’s portfolio responsibilities.
This is the second incident of sexual assault against a NSW MP this year following allegations that Upper Hunter MP Michael Johnsen raped a sex worker in 2019. He has since resigned from Parliament.
Mr Johnsen has not been charged by police and denies the allegation, calling it unfair and unfounded.
It comes after federal politics has been rocked by a series of sex scandals this year.
Former Liberal employee Brittany Higgins has claimed she was raped by a colleague in a minister’s office in Parliament in 2019.
And former Attorney General Christian Porter was accused of raping a woman after a debate contest when he was 17, allegations he strongly denies.
Police decided not to charge him after the alleged victim committed suicide last year.
Last month, Ms Higgins met with Prime Minister Scott Morrison in Sydney to discuss how women’s security could be improved.
His ideas included updating Parliament’s security rules to encourage them to prevent drunk staff from entering the building and calling an ambulance if anyone is found unconscious.
She claims she was sexually assaulted after security let her into the building with a colleague after a drunken night.
Her attacker allegedly raped her on a sofa in the office of then Defense Minister Linda Reynold, before being found half-naked and unconscious by security hours later.
Ms Higgins reported her allegations to Australian Federal Police. No charges were laid.
Former political staffer Brittany Higgins (center) alongside boyfriend David Sharaz (right)