This time 12 months ago, Gladys Berejiklian was the most popular leader in the country. The Premier and her government had expertly steered the state through the first phase of the pandemic, we had avoided a devastating second wave of COVID-19, restrictions on mass gatherings were about to be lifted and the economy was starting to bounce back strongly.
Then, on October 12, she walked to the witness box at the Independent Commission Against Corruption and admitted to having a five-year secret affair with Darryl Maguire, an allegedly corrupt former MP.
It was a bombshell many didn’t think she would survive, but she did – for almost a year. In a surprise to supporters and detractors alike, a Herald and Nine News poll taken two weeks later found two-thirds of voters supported her and believed she should not resign over her relationship with Mr Maguire. She had a 64 per cent approval rating, although 71 per cent conceded her reputation had been damaged.
The ICAC has said next to nothing since those public hearings last October – no further public hearings and certainly no final report. All it said just before Christmas was it was taking “further investigative steps” as part of its inquiry into Mr Maguire, who is accused of using his position in Parliament to improperly further his suspect business dealings.
For the Premier, the delay must have been excruciating – but she has been kept pretty busy, especially since the Delta outbreak that put the bulk of the state in lockdown from the end of June.
Recently, the rumour mill went into overdrive. Speculation was rife that the ICAC was conducting private hearings. Had the ICAC sharpened its focus? Were they now zeroing in on the Premier herself?
At midday today, we had our answer: the NSW Premier was now a person of interest in their inquiries and a fresh public hearing would begin on October 18. An hour later, the Premier resigned – not just as Premier, but also indicated she would leave Parliament. She said she was left with no choice; thinly veiled attacks on the ICAC did not go unnoticed.
We now wait to see the weight of the evidence the ICAC has uncovered. It’s important to note that neither Nick Greiner nor Barry O’Farrell – the two other Liberal premiers forced out of the job by the corruption watchdog – ever faced any formal charges. Misconduct in public office is a serious charge, but rarely prosecuted.