OPINION: Gladys Berejiklian Found Guilty But Who Gives A Stuff, Some Say She’s PM Material
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, now a senior Optus executive, has basically been found guilty of pork barrelling and not revealing a lover, a favourite past time of both Labor and Liberal Coalition MP’s – but there will be no corruption charges.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has admitted that despite spending millions, and taking months to investigate, it is “not of the opinion” that Ms Berejiklian should be pursued with criminal charges.
In a nutshell, she is guilty of not revealing that her lover at the time was former MP Daryl Maguire, who is facing charges, while her government handed out grants to his local shooting club.
The Commission, that spent days in sitting, could only come up with a conclusion that Berejiklian breached public trust in 2016 and 2017 by exercising her official functions in relation to millions of dollars in funding promised and/or awarded to the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) in Maguire’s electorate, without disclosing her close personal relationship with Maguire, when she was in a position of a conflict of interest between her public duty and her private interest.
The ICAC said this could “objectively have the potential to influence the performance of her public duty.”
This basically is a rap over the knuckles and an issue which former Prime Ministers have got away with in the past.
The reality is that you don’t need a multi-million-dollar Commission to reveal that politicians look after their favourite and winnable electorates irrelevant of whether it’s local, State or Federal and, for the record, there is a history of politicians having affairs and not revealing the affairs despite “conflict of interest issues”.
Political sex scandals are nothing new. Barnaby Joyce’s affair with his press secretary did not stop him recommending projects in his electorate. Let’s face it, love affairs in politics are nothing new, neither is pork barrelling nor using politicians to push a cause.
When push comes to shove, as it were, there are some things that the general public know is part and parcel of what takes place in Government.
And yes, some of those might involve doing the odd favour during a pillow chat.
Jim Cairns and Junie Morosi’s affair did contribute to the downfall of the Whitlam government.
Robert James Lee Hawke was known for his affair with his speech writer Josephine Blanche d’Alpuget, who he later married, but this did not stop him cuddling up to Kodak.
Hawke’s power base was the old Coburg council.
Local Labor councillors guarded his back against the knives of the Socialist Left, and he returned the favour by showering the electorate with government money, despite not declaring his affair with Blanche d’Alpuget.
In September 1989, Hawke was stunned by one of Coburg’s biggest employers, Kodak (Australasia) Pty Ltd, which at the time was being run by former Telstra CEO Ziggy Switkowski.
It was a brilliant play to get money out of the Federal Government and it worked.
Switkowski announced that Kodak was planning to close its local production plant with the loss of at least 900 jobs. He got the money and the plant stayed in Coburg until 2004 when it was closed, as digital photography took over.
Hawke also won his seat.
The big question now is whether Gladys Berejiklian should return to Federal politics, because if she did, she would romp it in if she was selected for a North Shore seat in Sydney, with insiders claiming she is the perfect candidate to put up against Prime Minister Anthony Albanese in a Federal Election.
While doing a great job at Optus, having won over some big wholesale accounts, Berejiklian is also liked by Labor voters for the way she oversaw the state’s response to the catastrophic Black Summer bushfires, before she became a nationally recognised figure during the Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier today NSW Speaker Greg Piper received the long-awaited findings from ICAC, he said two former MPs had engaged in “corrupt conduct.”
“It has been anticipated by many for a long time … We understand from what you have told us that there are findings of corrupt conduct against two individuals who are associated with this Parliament. And there’s a series of recommendations in there,” he said.
Berejiklian was expected to announce a swift NSW Court of Appeal challenge to the ICAC findings if she had been found to have engaged in corrupt conduct.
Her former lover and ex-Liberal MP Daryl Maguire now faces further charges of corruption over illicit business schemes while he was a member of parliament.
Sources says the former NSW Liberal leader is likely to stay at Optus, unless she is talked into entering Federal politics.
She joined Optus after she resigned as Premier and member for Willoughby in October 2021, after the Independent Commission Against Corruption revealed it was broadening its probe to consider her involvement.
Denying any wrongdoing, Ms Berejiklian claimed her failure to disclose the relationship had been because it had not been of sufficient substance, characterising it as “on again, off again.”
Some say that after a scandal, politicians can move to a more lucrative life, taking advantage of what they learnt during their days in Government.
After Nick Greiner in 1992 and Barry O’Farrell in 2014, Ms Berejiklian was the third Liberal premier brought down by the Greiner-established corruption watchdog.
Embroiled in the Australian Water Holdings scandal, Mr O’Farrell was forced to resign after it became apparent he had given incorrect evidence about a $3000 bottle of Grange Hermitage, but ICAC did not find adverse findings against him.
He became Australia’s High Commissioner to India.