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Opposition calls for Della Bosca to be sacked -

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Opposition calls for Della Bosca to be sacked

The World Today - Monday, 9 June , 2008 13:35:00

Reporter: Jennifer Macey

BRENDAN TREMBATH: The New South Wales Government is looking into allegations that a senior minister
threatened staff at a Central Coast restaurant over the weekend.

The State Education Minister John Della Bosca was dining with his wife the federal MP Belinda Neal.

The staff accused the couple of being drunk and abusive. The general manager though has since
retracted his statement and apologised.

While the New South Wales Premier Morris Iemma has now received a written account of what happened,
the Opposition wants more done. It's calling for an inquiry and the Minister to be sacked.

Jennifer Macey reports.

JENNIFER MACEY: A few months ago, New South Wales Education Minister John Della Bosca was seen as a
potential successor to Premier Morris Iemma.

But bad publicity surrounding speeding tickets and now a verbal stoush at a hotel may have stalled
that career advancement.

Mr Della Bosca acknowledges that he and his wife exchanged heated words with staff at Gosford's
Iguana Joe's establishment, but argues the media has blown the argument out of proportion.

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I had a meal with my wife and some friends at the Iguana Joe's restaurant. It's a
bistro, during the early part of the evening. I was drinking mineral water only. During the
breakdown of the bistro into a nightclub, the tables and chairs were cleared, at that point in
time, we thought the staff, a number of us thought the staff were rude to our party. There was a
discussion about that. We had subsequently, there was an argument then we left. That's the story.

JENNIFER MACEY: One of the managers contacted police that night when John Della Bosca drove away,
concerned that he may have been over the limit.

Also that night, six of the staff including two managers signed statutory declarations alleging the
couple were abusive and drunk.

This is the account of Daniel Anthony Richardson who had asked the party to move tables.

EXCERPT FROM STATUTORY DECLARATION BY DANIEL ANTHONY RICHARDSON: I witnessed a woman, later
identified as Belinda Neal, verbally abusing and pointing at Tom. Neal was screaming at Tom,
calling him rude and an arrogant, little person.

JENNIFER MACEY: The club's operations manager, Jared Golla, claims that Mr Della Bosca's wife,
Belinda Neal, threatened to have the liquor licence removed.

EXCERPT FROM STATUTORY DECLARATION BY JARED GOLLA: I noticed Ms Neal following me into a restricted
area. I said, "Please just wait outside the door for me." Ms Neal replied, "I'll have your f***en
licence. You'll not be trading in three months time. What's your f***en name? I'll have your job as
well. I'll have the f***en police done here every weekend to close you down.

JENNIFER MACEY: John Della Bosca denies this allegation.

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: That is a ridiculous argument. She's a federal member of Parliament, she has no
role in that and the fact of the matter is, she said nothing of the sort. I can only be accountable
for my behaviour and my behaviour at all times was simply to explain to the staff that there was an
element of rudeness in the way they'd gone about an aspect of their business and asked to speak to
the general manager.

JENNIFER MACEY: By Sunday, the club's licence holder Steven Twitchin had retracted his statement
and apologised to the Education Minister and his wife.

Mr Della Bosca says he had a lengthy conversation with Iguana's management over the weekend.

JOHN DELLA BOSCA: I simply pointed out that the way in which the Sunday Telegraph has reported the
matter was defamatory. I clearly have rights and entitlements like any citizen if my reputation has
been unfairly traduced. I would consider those. I'm not someone that normally resorts to
litigation. I spoke at great length to a number of the people involved. They decided to make an
apology.

JENNIFER MACEY: A written account has been handed to the Premier who is yet to respond to the
incident.

But the Opposition is furious and wants the Minister sacked.

The leader of the New South Wales' Opposition Barry O'Farrell.

BARRY O'FARRELL: We need an inquiry to see what went on Friday night and what's gone on since and
whether or not any undue influence has been used in order to extract this latest apology from the
owners of the club. What we saw in yesterday's papers were statutory declarations signed by six
staff members alleging certain events occurred on Friday night.

We now we have claims by the club that everything was fine on Friday night. There's an enormous gap
between the two and what stands in the middle of that gap is Iemma Government's third most senior
minister and an influential backbencher in Rudd Government.

JENNIFER MACEY: While John Della Bosca's future is now in question, the incident has again thrown
unfavourable light on his wife, the Federal MP for Robertson, Belinda Neal.

And it's not the first time the federal backbencher has been accused of aggressive behaviour.

Just two weeks ago the pregnant Victorian Liberal MP Sophie Mirabella said Ms Neal had verbally
attacked her in Parliament, allegedly saying, "Evil thoughts would turn her unborn baby into a
demon."

Alex Mitchell, former Sun Herald state political editor and former president of the NSW state
parliamentary press gallery told ABC Local Radio, the Federal MP is renowned for her temper.

ALEX MITCHELL: She is a very confident, self-confident woman, very opinionated and she likes to get
her own way. And I think that's on the record of several occasions over various issues that have
come up inside the Labor Party. So this, to Labor Party people who know of her and John Della Bosca
really well, will not be surprised at all.

BRENDAN TREMBATH: Alex Mitchell, the former Sun Herald state political editor, ending that report
by Jennifer Macey.