By Alec Smart
A NSW politician was twice found ‘disoriented’ in one night and escorted back to his Potts Point apartment by police.
Gareth Ward MP, the New South Wales Minister for Families, Communities and Disability Services in Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s cabinet since 2019, was found naked at 11.30pm on Weds 11 March trying to enter an apartment that wasn’t his home.
Police were called to investigate following reports that an “unknown man was attempting to open the front door of a unit.” After determining that the 38-year-old MP was in the right building but trying the wrong door, they escorted him back to his unit and called paramedics, because he “appeared to be disoriented.”
“Officers from Kings Cross Police Area Command attended a short time later, locating a naked man standing in the doorway of another unit, and after determining that was his residence, escorted him inside,” a NSW Police statement confirmed.
Ward declined an invitation for a hospital examination by the ambulance crew. The MP for Kiama, south of Wollongong, has since denied accusations from political rivals that he was drunk. He went on to issue a statement claiming he was “disorientated” because earlier that day he had been in hospital under a “general anaesthetic for a procedure” – an operation for kidney stone.
A sleepwalking expert, Dr Robert Kaplan, insisted Ward’s claims of sleepwalking outside his Potts Point apartment were quite plausible.
However, an hour after the first incident, in the early hours of Thurs morning, police were again called to the apartment block, and this time found Ward walking around a communal area of the units, albeit no longer naked but in his underpants.
Ward again refused a hospital check-up, but the following day, after police visited him a third time to check on his welfare, “given the man’s state of confusion during the evening”, Ward released a statement thanking them for “returning me to my residence safely.”
No further police action is likely, and although Ward has publicly apologised, he avoided face to face questioning in parliament over the bizarre incident by conducting a telephone quiz by fellow MPs instead.
This isn’t the first time Ward has raised eyebrows.
On 28 Aug 2017, Ward claimed to have been the target of an attempted mugging while staying at the Intercontinental Hotel in New York after ordering a $100 massage from an online website. At 10.30pm, two African-American men arrived and at some stage allegedly began filming him with a mobile phone in an extortion attempt.
Ward explained: “They said to me, ‘We’re under age, we’ll put this on the internet unless you give us money.’ I said, ‘I didn’t order this, get out of my room, I want you to leave, I don’t have any cash’.”
Ward was escorted down to a cash machine in the foyer whereupon he claimed he “went straight to the front desk and said ‘call police, call security!'”
Afterwards questions were asked about what kind of massage Ward ordered from the website – which he wouldn’t divulge – whereupon he replied: “The claims requesting a special massage are untrue. I requested a normal massage as people on holidays will often do.”
In June 2018 he accepted an all-over spray tan challenge from Wollongong radio Wave FM’s breakfast announcer, Mel Greig, to raise funds for charity, after she joked she wanted to give his pale albino complexion a suntanned look for winter.
On 17 Sept 2018, Ann Sudmalis, MP for Gilmore electorate south of Kiama, announced that she would not contest the next election, despite winning the previous two. She publicly blamed Ward for her resignation, saying: “Bullying, betrayal and back-stabbing have been the hallmarks of one of my state Liberal colleagues, Gareth Ward, over the past six-and-a-half years.
“This is not the first time that Gareth has flexed his vengeance on strong Liberal women. He doesn’t just get even; he annihilates anyone who opposes him.”