Berejiklian Resigns

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced on Friday she will resign from state parliament. She stepped down in response to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) launch of an investigation into allegations of corruption against her.

Although Berejiklian will not officially resign until the Liberals have elected a new leader, she said yesterday’s announcement would be the last time she addressed the state as premier.

Berejiklian announcing her resignation on Friday

ICAC will start public hearings from the 18th of October as an extension of the Operation Keppel inquiries into former MP Daryl Maguire’s misconduct. The hearing will investigate potential conflicts between Berejiklian’s public duties and personal interests in grants she awarded to projects in the Wagga Wagga electorate. She was in a personal relationship with Maguire, who was the Member for Wagga Wagga at the time.

The ICAC probe will investigate the Australia Clay Target Association grant, a $5.5 million grant given to ACTA in Wagga Wagga in 2017. Berejiklian oversaw the funds from which the grant was drawn in her capacity as NSW Treasurer at the time. The investigation will also consider a similar grant awarded to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, also in Wagga Wagga.

The ICAC inquest aims to uncover whether, in the period between 2012 and 2018, Berejiklian’s involvement in these grants while in a relationship with Maguire constituted a “breach of public trust” or constituted “corrupt conduct”. Allegations that Berejiklian knew of Maguire’s corruption and did not report it to the appropriate authorities will also come under the investigation’s scope.

Berejiklian and Maguire

Berejiklian said in her announcement that she has “always acted with the highest level of integrity,” and that resigning went “against every fibre of her being.” The timing of the ICAC announcement has also been scrutinised, with Berejiklian herself stating that it “couldn’t have come at a worse time.” Her resignation will force the election of a new Premier as well as a by-election for her Willoughby seat.

Gladys Berejiklian has been one of the most popular Premiers of the past twenty years. Her popularity soared after her handling of the Black Summer bushfires of 2019-2020 in NSW. Her leadership through the pandemic has only solidified her standing. The ICAC scandal has been the only smear on her relatively clean image and for many, her resignation is a shame.

Perhaps especially so when the favourite for her replacement is NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, a devout Catholic from the Liberals’ Right wing with a history of conservative views from abortion to Trump. Not to mention his problematic handling of icare and the NSW Generations Fund.

Factionally unaligned Planning Minister Rob Stokes is also a strong contender, who could win both conservative and moderate support to clinch victory. Outlying candidates include moderates like Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Minister for Tourism Stuart Ayres.

The state awaits the Liberals’ party room meeting, scheduled to be on Tuesday. The results have the potential to influence both imminent changes with NSW’s ‘roadmap’ out of lockdown, and the Liberals’ fate in the 2023 state election down the line.

More on the candidates for the NSW’s next Premier on Monday.

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