Tuesday, Dec. 7, 2021
I have some sympathy for former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, as, I think, would many people who implicitly understand that no one is perfect, least of all themselves. She did the right thing – eventually – when the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) named her as a person of interest requiring investigation. She resigned as premier and said she would leave state politics. Ethically, she had no option but to fall upon her sword. Taking personal responsibility comes with leadership. That’s something a lot of so-called leaders should think about.
Berejiklian erred in letting the known serial gouger, former state member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire, into her private life. She was state treasurer at the time and Maguire was – as always – sniffing around for political favour and public money. He embodies the word grub, both politically and personally. She was mad not to disclose to her ministerial colleagues her personal relationship with Maguire. That was straight-out dereliction of duty by an elected official. She was daft not to say “WTF!” when Maguire told her things about his schemes to acquire wealth and influence at public expense, opting instead to tell him there were things she didn’t need to know about.
But she took the fall that was the inevitable outcome of this astonishing public negligence, and she is due credit for her courage in doing so.
Now prime minister Scott Morrison wants her to run for federal parliament in the conservative blue-ribbon seat of Warringah, won in 2019 by the independent Zali Steggall, who saw off former prime minister Tony Abbott who’d been there since 1994. The Liberals are desperate to retain-and-or-regain seats they see as their natural turf in the election that must be held by June 2022. The sky will fall in, d’you see, if they lose office. It won’t, of course. Most Australians, however they generally vote or plan to next time, understand that perfectly well.
Morrison, who is a living lesson in the problems of the Peter principle and whose grasp of ethics is as notional as his grip on verisimilitude, says the ICAC investigation of Berejiklian is a stitch-up, and that most people don’t really care what she did with or to whom, while in office in NSW. Neither does he see any difficulty with getting Berejiklian endorsed as the Liberal candidate in Warringah ahead of the ICAC decision in her case. He doesn’t like independent inquiries into allegations of corruption, as we know. That’s why there isn’t a federal ICAC. It would be too close to home.
Berejiklian should do herself, and everyone, a favour. There’s only one answer she can give Morrison: No.