NSW Liberal MP Don Harwin has been reinstated as arts minister after having his $1000 fine for breaching COVID-19 travel restrictions withdrawn in court.
Mr Harwin quit as NSW arts minister in April after it was revealed he had decamped from his residence in Sydney’s Elizabeth Bay to his Pearl Beach holiday home.
He was later accused of travelling back and forth between Sydney and the Central Coast at a time when travel to regional NSW was restricted.
NSW Police fined Mr Harwin $1000 for acting “in contravention of a current ministerial direction under the Public Health Act” and referred the matter to the Director of Public Prosecutions.
But Mr 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 argued he’d been living mostly at his Pearl Beach home for four months before his resignation.
His fine was withdrawn by the DPP on Friday in Gosford Local Court.
“The applicable public health order in its terms did not restrict a person to a single place of residence,” a DPP spokeswoman said in a statement on Friday.
“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.”
Despite this, NSW Police and state politicians at the height of COVID-19 restrictions argued that Sydneysiders with regional NSW homes should not leave the city for those properties.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian at the time said Mr Harwin had “appropriately resigned” his frontbench role and that politicians had to be perceived to be acting correctly.
She reinstated Mr Harwin to his arts portfolio on Friday.
“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,” Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.
“Mr Harwin has always assured me that he did not break the rules.”