When Craig Knowles, NSW planning
minister and wannabe successor to Bob Carr, had an unfortunate run-in
with a breatho on Friday night, the government played it honest, open
and smart. Knowles admitted his error and explained the circumstances
straight away. Opposition leader John Brogden was generous and
understanding.

Now, it seems the NSW Labor Party might soon have
to take a leaf out the book of their South Australian bruvvers and
suspend privilege – or give a few people the Peter Baldwin treatment –
after some comments from Deputy Liberal leader Barry O’Farrell in Parliament on Tuesday.

The Sydney Morning Herald covered the issue under the headline ‘Unanswered Questions on Knowles’s Night Out’:

“An Opposition frontbencher, Barry O’Farrell,
yesterday wanted to know what the minister was doing between 9pm and
11pm after he claimed he had stopped drinking,” The Herald reported.

“At
the weekend Mr Knowles confessed he had ‘somewhere in the order of
three glasses of wine at the event’ and was recorded as having a blood
alcohol reading of 0.06%.

“But it has been revealed the first
reading at 11:40pm on Friday showed a blood alcohol level of 0.085 and
a reading half an hour later showed 0.06t.

“Outside Parliament,
Mr O’Farrell asked how Mr Knowles could register such a high reading
three hours after he claimed he stopped drinking.

“Mr O’Farrell
produced an official table that showed the body would eliminate three
glasses of wine in 2 hours, 24 minutes. If Mr Knowles had stopped
drinking at 9pm he would have been at least 15 minutes ‘in the clear’
when he was stopped, the chart indicated.”

There’s a lot of scurrilous stuff floating about
concerning those missing hours. That’s just hearsay. What is
significant, though, is the accusation that Knowles has not told the
full truth about the evening’s events. Bob Carr is on the nose. Knowles
is one of the leading contenders to take the job. Friday night was an
unfortunate setback, but not necessarily fateful. But if – if – he
wasn’t full and frank, things are very different. So what’s O’Farrell
hinting at?

“The
reality is we need from Craig Knowles some answers,” the deputy Liberal
leader said. “Was it, as he originally told the media on Saturday,
three drinks which he stopped drinking at 9pm? If so, he has to explain
how he could record such a high reading later in the evening.

“Did
he drive to a restaurant in Newtown, continue drinking, but more
importantly, was he intoxicated when he drove to that restaurant and
when did the function end?”

Getting sprung for a low range PCA
doesn’t disqualify someone from becoming premier. Being economical with
the actualite is another matter.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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