• Kristin Perissinotto

Is it over for Gladys Berejiklian?

Today, ICAC heard that Gladys Berejiklian, who was the Treasurer for NSW at the time, put a funding proposal for the Australian Clay Target Association that was previously delayed, back on the agenda. The proposal was of course prepared by none other than Darryl Maguire, disgraces former MP and person who was in a "close, personal relationship" with the former Premier. This evidence is pretty scathing, but is it all over for Gladys Berejiklian?

In case you forgot because it seems the mainstream media has, this is the second round of scandals relating to Berejiklian's relationship with former MP Maguire. In 2020, the news of their relationship initially broke and brought into questions Berejiklian's standing as Premier. She publicly called for the resignation of the man we now know to have been her "close, personal relationship" friend - sorry, that's the only phrase she's gone on the record with.

The former Premier managed to get off scot-free when the news of her secret relationship broke - a relationship that should have been disclosed when it began in 2015. She was surrounded by support from her colleagues, what seemed to be a vocal majority of NSW residents, and of course, the mainstream media. She successfully pulled off the "unlucky in love" card, perhaps the first woman in the history of Australian politics to do so. But this time around, she hasn't been so lucky and of course, resigned her position as Premier, and left politics completely.

She received a massive wave of support all across the country, not just in her home state of NSW. Her office was flooded with flowers and "please come back" signs and notes. Change.org even featured a petition to get her back - it doesn't work like that, but okay queens. People across the political spectrum vocalised support for the former Premier, and claimed sexism was at fault for her resignation. Evidence heard at ICAC today would suggest otherwise. We at Cheek would (and did) argue that both can be true: Berejiklian should have resigned, AND if a man was in the same position, he too should have resigned.

So has the former Premier's luck run out? Unfortunately, I don't think so. At the beginning of October, she was approached by senior Liberals to run for the federal seat of Warringah, in the election that could be happening any time between next month and May 2022. This is the seat formerly held by Tony Abbott (you might remember him as the self-appointed Minister for Women! Dark times.), that swung to independent Zali Steggall in the last election. This seat was a safe Liberal seat prior to Tony's loss, so the Libs thinking will be that it could be won back by a high-profile candidate like Berejiklian.

Even Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who apparently doesn't have a good relationship with Berejiklian, told the media she has "a lot more to contribute," and can choose "what she want's to do next," indicating the party may be willing to offer her a role of some kind, even if it's not an elected position. He went on to say that the NSW ICAC “is certainly not a model we would ever consider at a federal level, and I think that has been on display for some time”. Which poses very baffling questions such as "how stupid do you think I am Scott?" and "are we crazy for expecting our elected officials to be held to a standard?"

And the final piece of the puzzle is, as it so often is, the Murdoch press. Murdoch journalists have been absolutely tripping over themselves to condemn ICAC, bolster Berejiklian's ego, and assure their loyal readers that she was unfairly pushed out of politics - I'm sure some of them even managed to blame the Labor party or 'woke agenda' for her resignation. One journalist for the Australian this week claimed there is 'no need for ICAC' because 'the police are available'. He goes on to say that ICAC has "developed a nasty habit of destroying Liberal premiers." Interesting take by a publication that has two nasty habits of 1. protecting and bolstering Liberal premiers, and 2. destroying Labor premiers.