Yesterday, news broke that Member For Kiama Gareth Ward was under investigation over a sexual violence allegation. Today, he announced he would be stepping down from his role as minister for families during the course of the investigation.
During a statement, Ward claimed he was unaware of the allegations until it was brought to his attention by a journalist. He also denies any wrongdoing.
“I have not been contacted by police in relation to any allegations. I deny any wrongdoing. Until this matter is resolved, it is appropriate I stand aside from my role as minister. I will also remove myself from the Liberal party room,” he said.
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian says the allegations made against Minister Ward are “extremely concerning and distressing” but has confirmed she will not call for his resignation at this point in time.
Mere hours before Minister Ward announced his decision to step down, NSW police publicly released a statement confirming an investigation into a 39-year old man.
“Detectives from the child abuse and sex crimes squad have established Strike Force Condello to investigate allegations of sexual violence-related offences against a 39-year-old man,” the NSW police statement said.
“The incidents were reported to have occurred from 2013. As investigations are continuing, no further information is available,” the statement continued.
Earlier on Thursday, The Guardian reported that the NSW police commissioner, Mick Fuller, and several other police members had been seen in NSW parliament.
Mr Ward is now the third Coalition MP the government has lost this year, after National’s MP Michael Johnsen resigned and Liberal MP John Sidoti moved to the crossbench amid a corruption inquiry.