Gladys Berejiklian might be remembered as premier of NSW for her resilience, level-headedness, disaster administration expertise, and administrative competence — and, after all, the ICAC investigation that toppled her.
Respectable, decided and hard-working, she was unflappable in adversity.
Berejiklian leaves a legacy of financial achievement and main infrastructure creation. She achieved a significant milestone each personally and for ladies by being the primary feminine NSW premier to win a basic election.
Energetic, efficient and politically astute
Of Armenian descent, Berejiklian started her profession in politics working for former Liberal chief Peter Collins. She was distinguished within the Liberal moderates faction and was president of the Younger Liberals. After a sojourn in banking, she was elected MP for Collins’ former seat of Willoughby in 2003. She proved to be an brisk, efficient shadow transport minister.
Berejiklian impressed Liberal chief Barry O’Farrell, who grew to become one thing of a mentor. When O’Farrell grew to become premier in 2011, Berejiklian served within the necessary transport portfolio.
She was tipped as a doable future premier due to her sturdy efficiency. Nevertheless, when O’Farrell resigned after deceptive an ICAC inquiry in April 2014, Mike Baird had the numbers within the occasion room. Berejiklian, who was personally near Baird, withdrew from the competition and was elected deputy chief. She was treasurer and industrial relations minister within the Baird authorities.
Berejiklian’s time got here when Baird resigned in January 2017 — she was elected Premier unopposed in late January 2017.
Berejiklian’s coverage route was much like that of her predecessor, with a powerful concentrate on economics, infrastructure and public sector reform.
Additionally like Baird, Berejiklian was a small “l” liberal on social reform. She had a much less outgoing private fashion than Baird however succeeded in convincing the voters she was reliable, succesful and delicate to their wants.
The premier stabilised the federal government and confirmed it nonetheless had function and dynamism. She confirmed her political astuteness by shortly dumping the unpopular native authorities reforms that had been a consider Baird’s downfall.
The premier survived two rounds of threatening by-elections in April 2017, an indication the anti-government feeling that marked the top of Baird’s time period had diminished.
The serpentine politics of Sydney
The serpentine politics of Sydney sport and stadiums left Berejiklian wrong-footed on the finish of 2017. She introduced that each Allianz and Homebush stadiums in Sydney can be concurrently demolished and rebuilt at an estimated value of A$2.5 billion.
It was a significant miscalculation that might hang-out Berejiklian. Public response was overwhelmingly unfavorable, a standard theme being that it was a gross misuse of public funds to rebuild two stadiums, one solely 17-years-old, as an alternative of financing important group amenities. The premier backtracked on the demolition of Homebush however a lot public resentment remained about Allianz.
In her marketing campaign for the March 2019 election, Berejiklian ran largely on the federal government’s document.
The financial system was performing properly in comparison with different states, the general public funds had been in the very best situation they’d been in for a very long time, and the infrastructure price range for the following 4 years was near $90 billion. Labor chief Michael Daley made opposition to the demolishing and rebuilding of Allianz Stadium the spearhead of his marketing campaign.
Whereas not a flashy or magnetic campaigner, Berejiklian stayed “on message” and got here throughout as honest and conscientious. The end result was a triumphant victory for her. The federal government’s two-party most well-liked vote was 52% and its main vote 42% — 9% larger than Labor’s.
The premier had persuaded sufficient voters that the federal government had vital achievements to its credit score and was higher outfitted to ship extra sooner or later.
By bushfires and COVID
The final years of Berejiklian’s time period had been marked by skilful dealing with of main crises. Like different components of Australia, in January 2020, NSW was ravaged by a devastating bushfire season, wherein 25 lives had been misplaced.
Not like Prime Minister Scott Morrison, Berejiklian emerged from the bushfire disaster with enhanced status.
As political commentator Niki Savva, writing in The Australian, put it:
When the fires hit NSW, she made some extent of being there, daily, standing subsequent to the hearth chief, Shane Fitzsimmons, supporting him and permitting him to do his job. She visited affected communities. Her embraces had been accepted. Nobody refused to shake her hand.
No sooner had the bushfires ceased than the state was plunged into one other disaster with the outbreak of coronavirus. Berejiklian responded in a lot the identical manner, this time with Chief Medical Officer, Kerry Chant, by her aspect.
The second NSW COVID outbreak proved to be tougher and unpredictable to handle however by the point of her resignation the scenario was coming beneath management.
Though she had been criticised by some for her dealing with of the disaster, Berejiklian’s calm, competent, communicative strategy would appear to have resonated within the voters.
ICAC’s Operation Keppel
ICAC’s Operation Keppel was inquiring into whether or not former Liberal MP for Wagga Daryl Maguire engaged in conduct that concerned a breach of public belief.
Public hearings started in September 2020 and Berejiklian appeared as a witness in October.
In a disclosure that generated a widespread tsunami of shock, it was revealed the premier had been in a “shut private relationship” with Maguire from 2015 which had solely lately ended.
Beforehand, the general public persona of Berejiklian, who had by no means married, was that of a somewhat prim profession lady wedded to her job.
Berejiklian stated that she had no intention of quitting as she had performed nothing incorrect and most voters appeared to be sympathetic.
The overall angle was that she had made a miscalculation in her private life, a not unusual phenomenon, and didn’t should be punished by shedding her job.
As reporter Deborah Snow put it, writing in The Sydney Morning Herald,
there was aid inside the federal government that the disaster was enjoying out as a titillating love gone incorrect scandal somewhat than a probity scandal.
The announcement of an ICAC inquiry into whether or not the premier had engaged in conduct that concerned a “breach of public belief” because of her relationship with Maguire has precipitated her resignation.
She might have stepped apart pending the results of the inquiry, however as an alternative has chosen to take the identical course as O’Farrell, who determined to do the honourable factor and stroll.
The lengthy historical past of political corruption in NSW — and the downfall of MPs, ministers and premiers
David Clune doesn’t work for, seek the advice of, personal shares in or obtain funding from any firm or organisation that might profit from this text, and has disclosed no related affiliations past their educational appointment.