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NSW MP to be suspended from parliament

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The NSW government will look to suspend former Liberal MP Gareth Ward from parliament after he was charged with the alleged sexual abuse of a teenage boy and a man.

Pressure is mounting on NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet to act after the member for Kiama was charged with three counts of assault with an act of indecency, and one count each of sexual intercourse without consent and common assault on Tuesday.

Mr Perrottet interrupted his paternity leave on Tuesday to call for Mr Ward’s resignation, saying he would move to expel him if he refused to quit.

But Acting Premier Paul Toole told parliament on Wednesday after receiving legal advice, the government would instead move for Mr Ward’s suspension until a verdict was reached in the trial.

Mr Toole also moved the issue no longer be debated in the parliament “to ensure the alleged victims in this matter have their day in court”.

The motion to suspend Mr Ward is expected to pass when it goes to a vote on Thursday.

The government has also sought advice over whether Mr Ward’s pay can be suspended.

Independent MP Alex Greenwich said removing an MP from the parliament was “extremely serious” and “extremely rare”.

“I understand that the government is seeking legal advice on how they will respond to the premier’s statement yesterday,” the Sydney MP told reporters on Wednesday.

“It’s critically important that nothing that parliament does in any way prejudices the trial.”

He said victims “deserve the right to be heard and deserve a full and thorough process” but added “the parliament is not a court”.

Opposition leader Chris Minns used question time on Wednesday to ask the acting premier if he was aware of any complaints about Mr Ward, including whether former premier Gladys Berejiklian’s office received a complaint about the MP in 2020.

“The simple answer is no,” Mr Toole said.

NSW Police allege Mr Ward indecently assaulted a 17-year-old boy at Meroo Meadow in February 2013, and sexually abused a 27-year-old man in Sydney in September 2015.

Labor also called on the government to reveal details of Mr Ward’s visits to schools, any possible complaints about workplace misconduct, and to reveal every meeting Mr Ward held since police announced he was being investigated for alleged sexual crimes.

Labor MLC John Graham told the parliament on Wednesday, the opposition is seeking documents dating back to May 2021, when Mr Ward identified himself as the politician being investigated by NSW Police for “sexual violence-related offences”.

Mr Ward has said he is “totally innocent of the charges brought against me” and intends to prove his innocence in court.

The MP’s exit from parliament would trigger a by-election in his south coast seat, with the potential loss further weakening Mr Perrottet’s minority government.