Premier Gladys Berejiklian has had enough. She plans to leave the premiership in March hoping that her political legacy is in reasonable nick despite her personal reputation being in tatters.
As Transport Minister, Treasurer and then Premier, Berejiklian was the hardest working Minister in the Coalition Government. There was not a skerrick of scandal attached to her name. She represented a monumental change from the corruption-riddled days of NSW Labor.
Her timing was exceptionally favourable. It coincided with the arrival of President Donald Trump and a tsunami of ridicule and hatred generated by MeToo, Respect and other chat lines fostered by the US Democratic Party.
Premier Gladys was adopted as an antidote to Trumpism by Sydney websites committed to the women’s movement, feminism and gender-based politics. Another tsunami erupted: chat lines supporting Gladys and her pro-developer Coalition government went into over-drive.
Ms Berejiklian grew more powerful. But her relations with women politicians – Liberal, National, Green or Independent – worsened. Jillian Skinner, Pru Goward, Clover Moore, Katrina Hodgkinson and Patricia Forsythe were treated appallingly, according to some observers.
She surrounded herself with Liberal hacks who covered her in flattery. They kept away the bad news, and only gave her the good news. She loved the “bubble” they created around her and she became increasingly intolerant of Ministers, civil servants or contractors who stood in her way, whispered the corridors of power.
Her shenanigans with former Liberal minister Daryl Maguire are a tale of colossal misjudgement, secrecy and apparent large-scale corruption, her opponents claim. No one in politics believes that she didn’t know about “Dazza’s” land deals which stood to make him (and her) millionaires. She insulted the intelligence of the public by stating she had done nothing wrong.
I’m not the only journalist who has called her to account. Top investigative reporters, Adele Ferguson, Michael West, Michael Pascoe and contributors to John Menadue’s online site, Pearls & Irritations, have practised their craft with splendid professionalism, but I can’t say the same about the NSW Parliamentary Press Gallery or the Murdoch press which appears to live off press releases and pictures that are supplied in government “packages”. One day they write that Gladys is on the ropes and her situation is parlous; the next day she is in charge again, decisive and the heroine of the hour.
There is a Shakespearean quality to Empress Glad’s departure in March (if it is to be so). In Act 1, Scene 2 of the Bard’s mighty tragedy, Julius Caesar, Caesar and his party are stopped by a soothsayer who calls: “Caesar!” And Caesar replies: “Who calls? Who is it that calls on me? I hear a tongue, shriller than all the music. Speak; Caesar is turn’d to hear.”
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: What man is that?
Brutus: A soothsayer bids you beware the ideas of March.
Caesar: Set him before me; let me see his face.
Cassius: Fellow, come from the throng; look upon Caesar.
Caesar: What say’st thou to me now? Speak once again.
Soothsayer: Beware the ides of March.
Caesar: He is a dreamer; let us leave him.
And the conversation closes.
Later in Scene 2, Caesar is speaking to Mark Anthony:
Caesar: Let me have men about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed men, and such as sleep o’nights.
Yond Cassius has a lean and hungry look;
He thinks too much: such men are dangerous.
Mark Anthony: Fear him not, Caesar; he’s not dangerous;
He is a noble Roman.
Caesar is determined to finish his portrait of Cassius.
Caesar: He reads much;
He is a great observer… he loves no plays;
He hears no music.
Seldom he smiles …
Such men as he be never at heart’s ease
Whiles they behold a greater than themselves;
And therefore are they very dangerous.
They leave and the scene ends …
Any similarity between Cassius and her deputy, Dominic Perrottet, is purely Shakespearean. In reality there is a large field of candidates who want to be CEO of NSW Inc. However, the NSW Libs are a hollowed-out version of their former selves. Their gene pool of talent is shallow.
Most are in politics for what it can give them, not what they can give the people of NSW. Gladys is a product of this culture; it has infected NSW Labor and the Nationals as well. They seem to be in it – for themselves! It’s the Liberal way – outsource, bring in highly-paid “consultants”, sack experience, ignore science, make a quid for yourself. It’s neo-liberalism at its finest – selfish individualism and bugger the rest of us.
Is the Soothsayer correct and will the ides of March herald an assassination outside the chamber and a takeover by Cassius?