Just over 12 months ago, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian was Australia’s most popular premier, the NSW economy was leading the nation, employment was picking up and interest rates were at a record low. But then the wheels fell off.
Premier Berejiklian dreamt of a farewell which was wrapped in good news for the voters of NSW and borrowed the phrase, “You’ve never had it so good”, from one of her political heroes, Harold Macmillan, British Tory Prime Minister (1957 to 1963).
With her own confidence breaking records, Ms Berejiklian planned to stand in March 2023 and win again, making it two election victories in a row.
If she sought re-election today, contrary to what the Murdoch media says, Premier Berejiklian would receive a well-deserved drubbing. She is not simply on the nose, she’s on the bugle. Don’t believe the lazy bookies who think she will last in office until 2023 and are quoting odds of $1.85 for Berejiklian to be re-elected and $1.90 for Labor.
In Canberra, and every State and Territory, the Liberals are facing the wrath of voters – they’ve plunged the economy into monumental debt (while claiming to be “good economic managers”) and they’ve bungled the COVID-19 crisis (by making bold announcements one day followed by cringing retreats the next). They have also raised the anger of women across the country by turning deaf ears to the wave of protest against sexual discrimination and violence.
If there was an escape route, Gladys Berejiklian would surely take it. She is first and foremost a banker, and used to leaving the scene of the crime saying, “It wasn’t me. I didn’t see nuffin’.” Here we go again: “I’ve done nothing wrong”.
But she can’t escape responsibility this time because her deeds have caught up with her. She can run, but she can’t hide. Nor can current NSW Opposition leader Jodi McKay.
Will either Ms Berejiklian or Ms McKay lead their respective parties at the next State Election in March 2023? No, they’ll both be job-seeking.
Things are starting to go wrong and it’s unstoppable. Wednesday’s news headline brought further grief to the Premier: the highly-regarded Rural Fire Service (RFS) turns out to be a cesspool of sexual depredation. Instead of putting out fires, some seem more interested in forcing themselves onto female and male volunteers.
What’s next? The Boy Scouts or Girl Guides? Oh dear, on the other hand, let’s not go there …
This week in State Parliament, Premier Berejiklian turned the flame-thrower on Opposition Leader Jodi McKay, the TV news reader from Newcastle. The Premier’s question time tactic was so successful that the media turned all its heat on Ms McKay.
However, Ms Berejiklian’s moment of bliss ended a day later when her candidate to become the next Upper House president, a right-wing Liberal, was defeated by Liberal, Labor, Green and Independent MPs. When a Premier cannot carry his or her candidate for an official parliamentary position, it amounts to a vote of no confidence.
While her parliamentary defeats are symbolic, the State’s debt isn’t. It is real.
Currently the State’s public and private debt is – conservatively – $53.2 BILLION. It is estimated to rise to $104.3 BILLION by 2023-24, the year of the next State Election.
Who is going to pay off the debt? Will it be the not-so-rich or the rich? Treasury is proposing to pay down the public debt by privatising public assets, selling Crown Land, sacking public workers and reducing the strength of the unions.
Everyone seems to agree that the global pandemic offers a unique opportunity for recasting our society. As this week’s placards said: “Enough is enough.”