Every departing politician wants to leave office with three things: dignity, their legacy intact and making a point of principle, and NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is no exception.
Ms Berejiklian is behaving like a Premier on the way out and not one who wants to hang around.
This week she went to the NSW South Coast and then she will visit other forgotten parts of regional NSW to remind remind voters that she “really cares”.
It is too late to remedy the widely-held perception that she has been the Transport Minister, Treasurer and then Premier of Sydney – not NSW. Billions of dollars have been spent on Sydney while the bush has gone begging.
On Tuesday in the southern township of Moruya a few bemused Liberals were organised to provide an audience for the local TV and travelling photographers. Studying all the fuss, one onlooker said to his friend, “Isn’t that the Premier? What’s she doing here?”
Well may he ask. If she was Dame Nellie Melba, it would be called another “swan song”. After inspecting progress on a long-promised bridge, Ms Berejiklian cheerily said: “It (the new bridge) couldn’t have come at a better time given COVID and given traffic volumes as those who can’t travel internationally have decided to come to the South Coast.”
It reminded locals how much they hate the traffic snarls and the region’s growing number of homeless. Visitors to the area have to step across people living rough and others begging for money. On the wealthy South Coast – it’s incredible!
Ms Berejiklian warned locals that homelessness may get worse when she blithely said there was no “quick fix” to housing issues while acknowledging there were “dozens” of families without a permanent home.
Back in Sydney, meanwhile, her Treasurer Dominic Perrottet was putting the finishing touches to his half-page article for Wednesday’s Daily Telegraph which told a quite different story. Under the headline, State of confidence is key – Economic indicators are proving that the post-coronavirus recovery is well underway in NSW, Perrottet twittered excitedly:
“Barely eight months after the most severe economic contraction in three decades, confidence in economic conditions for the year ahead is higher than at any point in the past seven. A renewed sense of optimism is a testament to the indomitable spirit of the people of NSW.” The Big End of Town loved it and opened the champagne and broke out the cigars. “Here’s to Dom!” they shouted.
He concluded with a flourish telling “the people of NSW [they can] face the future with optimism, determination and confidence”.
Premier Berejiklian is telling voters on the South Coast one thing and Treasurer Perrottet is regaling the CBD with quite another. They are not on the same page. They are on two different missions: she wants to get out and he wants to get in.
Ms Berejiklian’s already tarnished image suffered another blow this week when a leaked document showed that one of her Ministers, Daryl Maguire, a former lover and potential husband, was involved in a corrupt land deal with a Hong Kong developer.
Tipped off about Cabinet plans to build a Sydney motorway, the Hong Kong developer spent $85 million on “cheap” farmland and stood to make a vast profit when it was requisitioned by the Coalition Government for the M9 Motorway.
Premier Berejiklian knew nothing of the behind-the-scenes arrangements made by “Dazza” Maguire but he knew it all and the ICAC has all the evidence. A senior Transport bureaucrat wrote a note: “Chinese investor buying up land – who has been talking to who? What MPs [are] being briefed, how did Daryl Maguire get that info?”
On Wednesday Premier Berejiklian was back in Sydney to repair her image as a “killjoy” after eagerly supporting the lockdown of pubs, clubs and nightclubs. Talk about recycling stale “news”. Ending the lockdown was widely reported weeks ago.
Bosses of the grog and gambling industries cheered to the rafters as they anticipated greater profits, rising share prices and bigger salaries.
What about the staff? They will remain in semi-poverty on casual, part-time rates, of course.
Overheard in Darlinghurst bar: “Bar tender, get me a treble. Put it on my tab. And hurry up for chrissakes, I don’t have all day. I’m a busy man.”