Gladys Berejiklian has quit State Parliament and politics, after heading a NSW Liberal Party centre-right administration for six years. Her legacy is a NSW Liberal Party right-wing Government.
She has departed to the sound of sobbing and mourning by her band of rusted-on supporters. But the vast majority of people in NSW were left bewildered by her resignation on Friday, 1 October 2021. They now have to face the appalling consequence of Premier Dominic Perrottet, her deputy leader, ex-Treasurer and chosen successor. She chose him, and she backed him, and she opened the door for him. The people of NSW were never consulted and never asked. The decision was taken by the Parliamentary Liberal Party on the recommendation of the outgoing Premier.
Others have left too – Deputy Premier John Barilaro, the NSW Nationals leader, has quit politics altogether; and Transport Minister Andrew Constance will try to win a seat in Federal Parliament. Many more NSW MPs have planned to quit before the next State Election. They have seen the writing on the wall and they are getting out because: 1) they can’t defend their seats from pre-selection; 2) they believe that a resurgent NSW Labor under Chris Minns will throw them out of office, and becoming a backbencher is too demeaning to tolerate.
Seven months ago, in March 2021, I wrote a series of articles that Premier Berejiklian was on the brink of resignation after losing the support of her Cabinet, her backbenchers and the NSW Nationals. The Parliamentary Press Gallery studiously ignored my reports because they feared losing the “drops” from Berejiklian. Reporting “real news” carried a penalty which they preferred not to accept.
Gladys was always going to go
From being Australia’s most popular politician a few years ago, Ms Berejiklian had become the country’s most reviled political leader. It began when she decided to build football stadiums instead of public schools and hospitals, tore up city roads to build light rail tracks, and more tollways and train tracks through suburban Sydney where Liberal smarties had bought cheap real estate. When she resigned a week ago, Press Gallery reporters said in unison: “This story is not new. We knew back in March that she was going to go.” Which begs the question – if they knew, why didn’t they write it? Surely, they are guilty of a dereliction of duty, and should resign, apologise, be suspended or take a new job. The Gallery holds Ministers and MPs to a high standard of conduct, but it does not apply to them. They can write (or censor) what they like, and get away with it.
By popular acclaim Ms Berejiklian’s exit was blamed on the ICAC. The public watchdog had “forced” two former Liberal Premiers, Nick Greiner and Barry O’Farrell, to resign and now it had felled poor Ms Berejiklian. What rot! NSW Labor general secretary Graham Richardson and a host of other ALP identities had escaped “adverse findings” at the ICAC and walked away with meaningless raps over the knuckles.
When Berejiklian resurrected the disgraced career of Arts Minister Don Harwin, the Press Gallery farcically believed that it was a sign she was staying. What poppycock! It showed she was running so short of Ministerial supporters that she had find someone, anybody, to back her in Cabinet. The Incredible Bulk, Don Harwin, was just the man.
Since Ms Berejiklian’s exit, the Press Gallery has also seized on Perrottet’s religious beliefs to hammer his administration. They are not the issue. Perrottet is a crazed Catholic: so are many people in the Liberal, National and Labor parties. His brother Alex Perrottet is the head of Sydney’s Opus Dei Warrane College at the University of NSW – supported by right-wing Zionists – and therefore he has been linked to Opus Dei, a far-right group of Catholic believers.
Like Prime Minister Scott Morrison who is an ordained American Pentecostalist preacher, Perrottet has made his far right religious beliefs a factor in his political approach. He (and Morrison) both chose to bring their religion into their politics which has turned them into fair game. My question is this: Is Perrottet’s family link to Opus Dei as important as his approach to Aboriginal disadvantage, jobs and housing for young people, science, music and language teaching, the performing arts and universities? When MPs meet shortly to vote on euthanasia, One Nation attacks on transgender reform and religious freedoms – just watch for Perrottet’s vote under the cover of a “conscience” vote. My view is that Perrottet’s nutty religious views are worthy of scrutiny and debate, but the main issue is his politics.
So what’s next? The ICAC will clear Ms Berejiklian but criticise her for “errors of personal judgement”. Daryl Maguire, former Liberal MP and former husband-to-be of Ms Berejiklian, will be carted off to jail to demonstrate that NSW is a “clean State” in which to do business. Labor’s Chris Minns will be the next Premier of NSW but the Coalition has left the Treasury bare: every dollar has been spent and revenue is falling. Premier Minns will have to raise revenue somehow so he will sell Crown Land, privatise public buildings, hire consultants and outsource jobs. It will be fire sale time again.
A family affair for the Nationals
An important sub-plot involves meticulous research by Shadow Health Minister Walt Secord who has established a close link between Upper House Liberal MP Bronwyn (“Bronnie”) Taylor and the awarding of government grants linked to her family. Her husband, Duncan Taylor, is the brother of Federal Minister for Energy and Emissions Reduction Angus Taylor, a Rhodes Scholar, Oxford University graduate and a possible future Prime Minister. Although Mrs Taylor has denied any involvement in the grants process, Walt Secord MLC rejected her denial in March 2020 saying: “If you weren’t lobbying and engaging behind the scenes, why were you told about it [by email]?”
In this week’s NSW Nationals leadership elections Mrs Taylor, sister-in-law of Angus Taylor and NSW Mental Health Minister, was sworn in as the Deputy Leader but her eyes were firmly fixed on the lower house seat of Goulburn currently held by Liberal MP, Mrs Wendy Tuckerman.