by PAUL COLLITS – FORMER NSW Gladys Berejiklian has been found to have been seriously corrupt by an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.
And, true to form, the clueless NSW Liberal Party has circled the wagons in praise of her leadership – calling ICAC’s Operation Keppel a “soap opera”.
Its senior MPs’ delusional attempts to minimise Gladys’s questionable behaviour – and to praise her leadership – merely reminds voters that the NSW Liberals simply don’t have a clue. Still.
They have no self-awareness and cling to the belief they were a good government.
The legendary Gladys Lillian Moncrieff was known as “Australia’s Queen of Song”, or, more simply, Our Glad.
To the best of my knowledge she wasn’t corrupt, nor did she hang out with petty criminals. As far as I know, she never lied under oath, nor was she hauled before public tribunals for bringing her country into disrepute.
And she never locked anyone up or forced unnecessary and dangerous medical procedures on anyone. No one ever called her a “hot mess”.
She was never a “social media meme queen”. Mercifully, the internet has never “gone wild” over her.
(For the uninitiated, a hot mess is: “A person or thing that is spectacularly unsuccessful or disordered, especially one that is a source of peculiar fascination).
Pity we cannot say the same about Our Glad’s modern namesake, the former NSW Premier.
ICAC’s recent findings against Ms Berejiklian muster some immediate reactions.
First, it is good news, but it’s also a great pity she could not have been prosecuted as well. ICAC has given its reasons for this, which may or may not be compelling.
Second point, it is a pity that the findings weren’t stronger for the simple reason that it has allowed egregious Liberals like Matt Kean to whinge about ICAC, calling it a “soap opera”.
This outburst risibly coming from a minister who was a lead actor in the soap opera that was the unlamented NSW Liberal Government.
Liberal Opposition Leader Mark Speakman also chimed in: “She was an outstanding MP for NSW. She was an incredibly popular premier because she wanted what was best for the people of NSW.”
These tricky attempts to minimise Gladys’s behaviour serves only to reinforce NSW’s rejection of the Party last March.
No, Matty Boy, “just dating a weirdo” doesn’t cut it.
On another view, perhaps the NSW Liberals are not so clueless after all, but engaged in clever narrative-creation.
Get in first and bed-in the idea that you want embedded. Modern politics 101. Mount a coordinated and aggressive defence of the indefensible and, lo and behold, the punters just might believe it.
The Sydney Morning Herald reports that Berejiklian herself has mounted a brief self-defence, post ICAC: “Gladys Berejiklian has responded to the ICAC report that found she had engaged in serious corrupt conduct.
“ ‘Serving the people of NSW was an honour and privilege. At all times I have worked my hardest in the public interest,’ Berejiklian said in a statement.
“ ‘Nothing in this report demonstrates otherwise. Thank you to members of the public for their incredible support. This will sustain me always. The report is currently being examined by my legal team.’ ”
Clearly, Gladys’s definition of “working in the public interest” is at variance with most decent people.
In terms of her “incredible support”, I would hope that her perception here is not an accurate reflection of the mood of the NSW public.
A voting public that still has some hankering for good governance. Like keeping promises, not wasting public money, not over-reaching on a mandate, maintaining probity and not treating the polity as your personal plaything and fiefdom.
On all counts, I would give the seriously compromised Gladys Berejiklian close to a nought out of ten.
Third, criticisms of ICAC for being too slow in completing its inquiries are utterly beside the point here, and suggest a classic “look over there” feint by the former premier’s brave defenders. A distraction from the main game.
Fourth, Gladys’s true “crimes” – relating to COVID policy, above all – are still allowed to slip on by. They don’t even get talked about.
On the contrary, she’s lauded as some sort of COVID – and not as a pariah, which she most definitely was. All because she wasn’t as bad as Daniel Andrews.
Speaking of her “crimes” more generally, she bequeathed the pointless Dominic Perrottet to the State as a direct result of her own questionable behaviour and subsequent resignation.
She allowed Michael Photios to pick her first Cabinet. She allowed the all-powerful Liberal factions to run riot. She did nothing – how could she? – to reform the NSW Party.
She oversaw and cheered on the homosexualisation of the State, through her government’s alignment with, and funding of, all things “pride”.
Her oversight of the Education Department’s grooming-in-schools programs and the sexualisation of young children culminated with her endless appearances at the annual gay march and the perks she provided to Alex Greenwich MP in return for his support of her minority government.
She welcomed with glee the State’s new horrific abortion laws, aka infanticide on demand, her support for which she kept mightily quiet during the 2019 election campaign.
She wasted billions on vanity projects, like the Sydney CBD light rail. She must also be the first ever leader to knock down a perfectly good football stadium only to build another almost exactly the same on the same site.
She allowed her government to be run by unelected lobbyists. Compared to all this (and much more), what she did with Daryl Maguire was a drop in the bucket.
Fifth, Gladys’s avoidance, as a Liberal wet (Moderate, to some), of a criminal charge and possibly jail time allows her ugly faction to keep spinning its narrative.
Berejiklian has been described to me as “a Leftist robot”. In this perfectly apt description, the key word for me is “Leftist”.
She was always a creature of the hard-Left’s Moderate faction.
Sixth, it allows yet another questionable politician to slither off into the mid distances, while sidelining (and postponing) the bigger argument we need about the endemic corruption of our political system.
How on earth do we address this? As I always say to those for whom ICAC is a problem, the worse problem is endemic political corruption.
When we get rid of that, then, I agree, we won’t need an ICAC. Systemic corruption is real and everywhere. This isn’t about a few bad apples. Politicians have long since lost their sense of right and wrong. Their moral compass.
They think they live in some version of The West Wing or The House of Cards.
Berejiklian and then Nationals leader John Barilaro admitted in 2021 that they were pork barrelling – itself a corrupt practice – but just said, in response to criticism, well, everyone does it.
There is no further need to argue the case that corruption is endemic when our leaders speak thus.
When we are simultaneously facing a crisis of executive overreach and the wholesale abandonment of ministerial responsibility, then we have an existential threat to our democratic system.
The two problems, big government with totalitarian tendencies and corrupt behaviour, are closely linked, of course. And they are destroying, piece by piece, our whole system of governance.
They know they are screwing us, and they don’t care.
Finally, I have lost what little respect I might have had for Chris Minns, the Labor Premier. Not to mention Peter Dutton.
Minns praised Gladys Berejiklian. For COVID. Truly bizarre.
If the new State Premier thinks that anyone in Australia handled COVID “excellently”, then he needs to be taken to a lonely island, left there, and given ample opportunity to reflect on what he has just said, and evidently believes.
What exactly is excellent about shredding people’s rights and freedoms, about lying to the public, about causing (with her political class colleagues) the destruction of the Australian economy and about fabricating an emergency?
Minns’ statement is profoundly inaccurate, ignorant and, on yesterday of all days, inappropriate.
As for Dutton’s claim that Gladys is “not a corrupt person”, and simply chose a “bum” as a boyfriend. Get real Mr Dutton! Bum? Weirdo? She. Acted. Corruptly.
My old colleague AJ Brown, the legal scholar, of Transparency International, has a far more balanced and accurate view of the ICAC findings and of ICAC more generally, as SBS reports:
Political activist group Transparency International’s AJ Brown stressed that “corruption is not always criminal”, and said there was a public interest in exposing the impact public figures’ undeclared interests had on their decision-making.
“We have clear evidence now and findings that the premier herself failed to declare important interests,” he said.
“She turned a blind eye or worse to the evidence she had that her then-boyfriend was engaging in corrupt activity. She compromised decision-making processes as a result of her undeclared personal interest. Those things are also clearly corruption.
“Just the fact that the precise circumstances of that mean that a criminal charge isn’t justified or is unlikely to succeed, doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be recognised and identified as corrupt conduct.”
The great fear is that public corruption is so much part of political life that it has become ho-hum, that its acceptance by the electorate is now just another part of the deal.
We now await, without interest, whether Gladys will seek to have her tarnished reputation restored through a challenge to the NSW Supreme Court.
Just like Nick Greiner did, to his considerable career benefit, three decades ago, after a similar ICAC finding.
Just so long as no one in the Moderates faction thinks that Gladys for Canberra is still a thing.
Good riddance, Ms Berejiklian. Oh, and it must be time to review my continuing relationship with Optus.PC