The Unraveling of Macquarie Street

Gladys Berejiklian – Credit: NCA Newswire, Jeremy Piper

Gladys Berejiklian is a household name in New South Wales, her political career spanned nearly 2 decades, and she was the first woman in the state to be elected Premier.

She’s guided her constituents through catastrophic bushfires, crippling drought, a mouse plague, severe flooding, and a pandemic. Ms Berejiklian is a self-proclaimed “goody-goody”, who presented herself as a stickler for the rules.

So why did she resign?

New South Wales is one of Australia’s jurisdictions to have an Independent Commission against Corruption, commonly known as ICAC. It is, as the title suggests, independent from the workings of the state government, and takes charge of investigating and eliminating corruption and enhancing the integrity of public office.

On Friday October 1st, it was announced that ICAC would be launching an investigation into the then Premier Berejiklian, and whether she breached public trust.

To understand why Ms Berejiklian is being investigated for potential breaches of public trust, let’s go back to a little over 12 months ago, when the former Premier was facing another ICAC hearing, this time, in the witness box.

On October 12 2020, Ms Berejiklian was called to give testimony in disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire’s hearing. ICAC was probing land deals and community grants made by Mr Maguire during his time in office, including the Waterhouse land deal.

The inquiry found that in 2017 he’d agreed to “grease the wheels” on the agreement, which was facing disruptions and setbacks from authorities because of zoning issues.

Ms Berejiklian was called to the witness box to give evidence of Mr Maguire’s corrupt conduct and dropped a bombshell that would forever tarnish her squeaky-clean record.

Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire had been in a secret relationship since 2015, up until September 2020, a month before the ICAC hearing into his conduct.

That means the pair were romantically involved while she was treasurer, then Premier, and when she asked for his resignation in 2018.

It also means she continued that relationship until well after she essentially fired him.

Ms Berejiklian told reporters at a quick 6 minute press conference that when her ministers were under investigation by the corruption watchdog, she expected them to stand aside until the probe was complete.

She said given her position in the State Parliament, and the current coronavirus situation across New South Wales, she had been left with no choice but to resign.

On Monday October 4th, her Deputy Premier and Nationals Party Leader, John Barilaro, who has been at the centre of YouTube personality Friendlyjordies slew of videos accusing him of corruption, announced his resignation.

John Barilaro – Credit: AAP/Mick Tsikas

That’s two state leaders’ resignation in two business days.

Mr Barilaro held back tears as he told reporters that public life had taken a toll and cited his defamation case against Jordan Shanks.

Transport Minister Andrew Constance also resigned from state politics to take a swing on a federal level.

The three resignations have triggered by-elections, in Ms Berejiklian’s seat of Willoughby, Mr Barilaro’s seat of Monaro and Mr Constance’s seat of Bega.

Willoughby and Bega are pretty safe Liberal seats, but Monaro however, is not.

The Liberal Party currently sits in Parliament with a one seat majority, if Monaro were to be won by Labor or an independent, it would mean newly appointed Premier Dominic Perrottet would begin his run as state leader with quite the challenge, a minority government.