Gladys Berejiklian has dramatically quit as Premier.
It comes after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) announced it would investigate whether Ms Berejiklian over her conduct between 2012 and 2018.
The Premier will also stand down from Parliament, forcing a by-election in Willoughby.
“I state categorically, I have always acted with the highest level of integrity. History will demonstrate that I have always executed my duties with the highest degree of integrity for the benefit of the people of NSW who I have had the privilege to serve,” she said.
“As the leader of the New South Wales Government, I have expected the highest of standards of myself and my colleagues. I have made it clear on numerous occasions that if any of my Ministers were the subject of allegations being investigated by an integrity agency or law-enforcement, then he or she should stand aside during the course of the investigation until their name was cleared.
“The reason for my stance was not to have made any presumptions as to their conduct, but rather to maintain the integrity of the public office which was held whilst an investigation was completed. That same standard must apply to me as Premier.
“However, standing aside is not an option for me as the Premier of New South Wales. The people of New South Wales need certainty as to who their leader is during these challenging times of the pandemic. I cannot predict how long it will take the ICAC to complete this investigation, let alone deliver a report, in circumstances where I was first called to give evidence at a public hearing nearly 12 months ago. Therefore, it pains me to announce that I have no option but to resign the office of Premier.
“My resignation will take effect as soon as the New South Wales Liberal Party can elect a new Parliamentary leader.”
In a statement earlier today, ICAC said it is investigating whether, between 2012 and 2018, Ms Berejiklian engaged in conduct that:
• constituted or involved a breach of public trust by exercising public functions in circumstances where she was in a position of conflict between her public duties and her private interest as a person who was in a personal relationship with the then NSW Member of Parliament, Mr Daryl Maguire, in connection with: grant funding promised and/or awarded to the Australian Clay Target Association Inc in 2016/2017; and grant funding promised and/or awarded to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga in 2018; and/or
• constituted or involved the partial exercise of any of her official functions, in connection with: grant funding promised and/or awarded to the Australian Clay Target Association Inc in 2016/2017; grant funding promised and/or awarded to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga in 2018; and/or
• constituted or involved the dishonest or partial exercise of any of her official functions and/or a breach of public trust by refusing to exercise her duty pursuant to section 11 of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988 to report any matter that she suspected on reasonable grounds concerned or may concern corrupt conduct in relation to the conduct of Mr Maguire; and/or
• was liable to allow or encourage the occurrence of corrupt conduct by Mr Maguire.
Ms Berejiklian has been largely praised for her leadership during the COVID-19 crisis, particularly during 2020 where she avoided prolonged lockdowns despite multiple outbreaks.
It’s ironic that she stands down less than two weeks out from the current lockdown in NSW ending and Sydney reopening.
“Serving you had been the greatest privilege of my life,” she said this afternoon.
“Thank you again for giving me the honour of being your Premier.”
Treasurer Dominic Perrottet is the favourite to replace Ms Berejiklian but it’s understood Penrith MP Stuart Ayres may also put his hand up.
Troy Dodds is the Weekender’s Managing Editor and Senior Writer. He has more than 15 years experience as a journalist, working with some of Australia’s leading media organisations.