NSW MP fined after staying at holiday home

Despite government advising against it the NSW Arts Minister was found at his regional holiday home.
Despite government advising against it the NSW Arts Minister was found at his regional holiday home.

NSW Arts Minister Don Harwin has been fined $1000 after he was found staying at his Central Coast holiday home and breaching coronavirus restrictions.

The coalition frontbencher was spotted on Wednesday afternoon at his million-dollar Pearl Beach house which is more than an hour's drive from his east Sydney primary residence.

NSW Police said it would investigate with Commissioner Mick Fuller noting there is photographic evidence of another person in his home.

Officers spoke with the 55-year-old on Thursday and he was issued with a $1000 fine via email just before 9pm, NSW Police later said in a statement.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian defied calls to sack the MP but on Thursday told him to return to his Sydney apartment - acknowledging the "perception is horrible".

"It's not just about sticking to the rules, it's about making sure there's a perception that everybody is sticking to the rules including members of parliament," the premier told reporters.

She said she became aware of his change of residence a few days ago, despite Mr Harwin travelling back to Sydney for a medical consultation and parliamentary sitting on March 24.

But Ms Berejiklian is adamant Mr Harwin didn't break the rules because he relocated on March 13 before state COVID-19 regulations came into effect on March 17.

Not wanting to "cause a distraction", Mr Harwin confirmed he'd arrived back in Sydney in a statement on Thursday.

He apologised to the premier and the NSW community but insisted he had sought official advice to adhere to the public health order.

Mr Fuller said the restrictions are in place to protect the lives of people in NSW.

"No one individual or corporation is above these laws - anyone suspected of breaching the orders will be investigated and if a breach is detected, they will be dealt with in accordance with the act," he said in a statement.

Speaking to the Daily Telegraph, Mr Harwin rejected he was a "tourist" and claimed he had spent most of the past four months at Pearl Beach.

The 55-year-old said he had chosen to move out of Sydney for health reasons as someone with comorbidities and a history of respiratory problems.

NSW Labor is calling on Mr Harwin to resign or, failing that, for the premier to step in and relieve him of his ministerial duties.

"He's been selfish and he should be brought to account," shadow arts minister Walt Secord told reporters.

Mr Secord believes Mr Harwin - the head of the NSW Liberals' left faction - is being protected as a "factional ally" of Ms Berejiklian.

"Anyone else would have been shown the door," he said.

"She should do the right thing, show leadership and toss him out."

Ms Berejiklian, however, said she wasn't inclined to sack a minister on the basis of a potential fine but would wait for police to first establish the facts.

"If someone is shown to act in a way which is against the ministerial code or against the laws of this state, of course I'll take action," Ms Berejiklian said.

It comes as the state government continues to urge the public against all non-essential travel to regional NSW towns, especially over the Easter long weekend.

Officials across the world have been caught flouting self-isolation rules and reprimanded including Scotland's chief medical officer Catherine Calderwood and New Zealand Health Minister David Clark.

Australian Associated Press