A NEW PREMIER! WHAT HAPPENED?
Two weeks ago, I had already written for this fortnightly column before the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian decided that it was time for her to exit stage left. Fast forward 14 days and quite a lot has happened, so I will do my best to snapshot it all.
For the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) to announce a specific and dedicated line of inquiry into a NSW Premier really is quite extraordinary. Yes I know, they did it to Barry O’Farrell and they did it to Nick Greiner but it really is a big step for ICAC. After all they didn’t investigate Baird or Keneally or Rees or Iemma or Carr or Fahey.
ICAC is, by design, meant to watch over the decision makers of the state. At the core of ICAC is the responsibility to make sure that taxpayers’ money and state owned property and assets are being handled properly and according to the rules.
The inquiry into former Premier Berejiklian is very specific. The outline of the inquiry is publicly available on the ICAC website.
They say that ICAC only asks the questions after they already have the answers. The issue facing Ms Berejiklian is in regard to decisions about granting public money to projects in her former partner’s (“boyfriend”) Electorate, sometimes for projects that possibly didn’t meet the criteria (to be tested by ICAC) or sometimes for projects that Ms Berejiklian’s boyfriend himself may have benefitted from (to be tested by ICAC), will be a key focus of the inquiry at hand.
The really big question that looks set to be put to Ms Berejiklian is whether or not she was always forthcoming with the truth at ICAC. In simple terms it is a really serious crime to not tell the truth at ICAC, with the possibility of two years in jail for lying or misleading.
It is also a really serious crime to work with other witnesses during an ICAC inquiry to possibly shape the version of events that will be revealed.
Twelve months ago the people of NSW found out that Ms Berejiklian was in a relationship with one of her former MP colleagues and had been for 5 years prior. At that time, the investigation focus was on him and we have all seen some pretty shocking evidence about what he was up to in his role as MP and he has admitted much of this.
Had it not been for the COVID crisis that we were in when the revelations of Ms Berejiklian’s secret relationship first came to light twelve months ago, she may well have been forced to resign at that time.
In the ten years since the Liberal-Nationals formed Government under then Premier Barry O’Farrell, we have had 3 Premiers – O’Farrell, Baird and Berejiklian. Two of those three have now been the headline of ICAC investigations. I am pretty sure that when Meat Loaf sang the line “two out three ain’t bad” he was not thinking of Premiers in public office. For we, the public, in these inquiries, two out of three is shocking!
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