Critics Pop Champagne As New South Wales’ Premier Gladys Berejiklian Resigns
With her eyes red and teary after a night spent obviously crying, New South Wales’ controversial Liberal Premier Gladys Berejiklian announced her resignation due to her entanglement in an investigation by the Independent Commission Against Corruption related to a “close personal relationship” Berejiklian had with a local MP who was forced to resign over his own alleged misdeeds.
Berejiklian decided to announce her resignation, ending the second-longest tenure by a Liberal premier in NSW, Australia’s most populous state, ahead of an expected public hearing by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption, which also took down Berejiklian’s alleged ex-boy-toy, former NSW MP Daryl Maguire. The hearings are part of Operation Keppel, an investigation that initially targeted said boy-toy, a former state MP, who was busted for using his position to profit in business.
With her gone, NSW will get its fourth premier in a decade. But in the meantime, Sydney has been left essentially “leaderless” as it faces the transition back to normality.
Some rejoiced at the news of her resignation, given her status in Australia’s COVID pandemic.
— A Current Affair (@ACurrentAffair9) October 1, 2021
Good riddance to another corrupt politician
“Gladys Berejiklian resigns as ICAC opens investigation into whether NSW premier breached public trust” https://t.co/n6sSCFCOSr
— Robert David (@RobertD38259050) October 1, 2021
One YouTube star, Jordan ‘FriendlyJordies’ Shanks, even popped a bottle of champagne to celebrate.
YouTube star FriendlyJordies pops open a bottle of champagne as he gleefully celebrates NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s shock resignation over ICAC corruption investigation https://t.co/xitjqoZVLR pic.twitter.com/45DtVJxA2q
— Showbiz (@showbiznotices) October 1, 2021
In her departing statement, Berejiklian said she was resigning because she had always advised others to step down if they were facing an investigation, or became the subject of “allegations.”
“I have made it clear on numerous occasions that if any of my ministers were the subject of allegations being investigated by an integrity agency or law enforcement, then he or she should stand aside during the course of the investigation until their name was cleared,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“The reason for my stance was not to have made any presumptions, as to their conduct, but rather to maintain the integrity of the public office which has held, which that person is held whilst an investigation was completed.”
“That same standard must always apply to me also as the premier, however standing aside is not an option for me as the premier of New South Wales as the people of this state need certainty as to who the leader is during the challenging times of the pandemic.”
“I cannot predict how long it will take the ICAC to complete this investigation, let alone deliver a report in circumstances where I was first called to give evidence in a public hearing nearly 12 months ago.”
“Therefore, it pains me to announce that I have no option but to resign from the Office of Premier, my resignation will take effect as soon as the New South Wales Liberal Party can elect a new parliamentary leader in order to allow the new leader and government, a fresh start.”
Berejiklian saw her personal life put on public display a year ago during the last round of hearings, when her relationship with Maguire was first exposed. But on Friday, ICAP announced in a statement on its website that the scope of its investigation had widened and included the period between 2012 and 2018.
It is now focusing on whether Berejiklian “engaged in conduct that constituted or involved a breach of public trust by exercising public functions in circumstances where she was in a position of conflict between her public duties and her private interest,” according to Reuters.
Berejiklian’s involvement in the potential breach is related to grant funding promised to community organizations in Maguire’s electorate of Wagga Wagga, and whether she failed to report – or perhaps even encouraged – corrupt behavior by Maguire.
But that’s not all: Maguire has been implicated in all kinds of wrongdoing, including running a visas-for-sale scheme for Chinese nationals to fraudulently receive an Australian visa (crucial for helping them smuggle wealth out of China).
He also allegedly tried to profit from his position as chairman of Parliament’s Asia-Pacific Friendship Group by supporting and promoting a series of Chinese business deals.
Recordings obtained by ICAP purportedly show Maguire complaining to Berejiklian about his financial troubles and even alluding to payments he expected from upcoming “deals”.
Personal texts from their years-long secret relationship have also been publicized as part of the investigation that appear to show him gloating to her about his “deals”, and her cheering him on – raising questions about whether she knew about the illegal schemes and perhaps decided to turn a blind eye.
ICAP hasn’t yet to make any findings official against Maguire, but it’s looking like he could face criminal liability. But the status of their “secret relationship” certainly illustrates her lapse in judgment and willingness to deceive the public. It also likely opened up new avenues for ICAP to investigate.
Prime Minister Scott Morrison, who is a member of Berejiklian’s Liberal Party, said she had “displayed heroic qualities” – despite her status as an object of public scorn over the state’s approach to combating COVID. Turnbull wrote on Twitter that she was a dedicated reformer who had “led the State bravely and tirelessly through the bushfires and the pandemic”.
It’s interesting that Berejiklian’s reign is coming to an end just as the lockdowns and other restrictive COVID measures are finally being wound back in the face of growing backlash from both the public and private businesses.
But that doesn’t mean the government’s ineffective and unpopular COVID restrictions are going away completely. Authorities in New South Wales are threatening to jail Australians who don’t show a COVID-19 vaccination pass when they enter a private business, like a restaurant or store.
NSW Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello threatened people who he described as “fraudsters” with arrest if they try to enter premises with “fake vaccine passports”.
“If people want to do the wrong thing, if they get found out, as I said, it could be jail time there,” said Dominello.
Meanwhile, PM Morrison just announced Friday that Australia’s border, which has been closed since the start of the pandemic, will reopen starting in November.