Berejiklian: a sad end to a proud career

It was a sad and messy end for NSW's first elected female premier, a darling of the Liberal Party.
It was a sad and messy end for NSW's first elected female premier, a darling of the Liberal Party.

It was a sad and messy end for NSW's first elected female premier, a darling of the Liberal Party, and the woman credited with steering NSW through some of the most tumultuous periods in its history.

At a press conference on Friday, Gladys Berejiklian announced she would resign as premier immediately, after the state's corruption watchdog announced it would investigate whether her past, secret relationship with a former MP constituted a breach of public trust.

The Willoughby MP will quit parliament altogether once a date for a by-election for her seat could be determined.

Teary and at times angry, Ms Berejiklian did not take questions from journalists, but said she had always exercised her duties with "the highest levels of integrity" and had "no regrets".

The 51-year-old in October 2020 sensationally revealed she had been in a secret relationship with former Wagga Wagga Liberal MP Daryl Maguire at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing into allegations he used his public office to profit himself.

Phone calls between the pair were played at the hearing, during which Ms Berejiklian could be heard telling her then-partner she didn't need to know about his business dealings.

Ms Berejiklian denied any wrongdoing, saying she had believed Mr Maguire was "someone of honesty and integrity".

She had not disclosed her relationship with him as she didn't believe it was of a "sufficient status" to be public knowledge.

At the time of the hearing, almost a year ago, that relationship - which had begun in 2015 - was over.

But the ICAC on Friday announced it would now investigate Ms Berejiklian.

It will probe whether she broke the law by failing to disclose her relationship with Mr Maguire and whether she "was liable to allow or encourage" his conduct.

Ms Berejiklian's role in grant funding awarded to two projects in his electorate in 2018 will also be investigated.

After 14 years in parliament, then-Treasurer Berejiklian nabbed the top job when Mike Baird stepped down in 2017 to spend more time with his family.

She led the Liberal Party to an election win in 2019, becoming the first woman to do so in NSW.

During her tenure, she cleared the way for the decriminalisation of abortion in NSW, championed a light rail for Sydney, and ramped up the government's asset recycling plan.

Ms Berejiklian also led NSW through the Black Summer bushfires, which killed 33 people nationwide and torched 3000 homes, and is credited with crafting NSW's response to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The eldest of three daughters born to Armenian immigrant parents, Ms Berejiklian joined the Liberal Party in the early 1990s, entered parliament in 2003 before eventually becoming the state's 45th premier.

She had previously served as Treasurer and Minister for Industrial Relations in the Baird government.

Prior to that, she was Minister for Transport following the election of the O'Farrell government in 2011.

Ms Berejiklian is the second premier felled by ICAC in a decade.

Her political mentor Barry O'Farrell resigned as premier in 2014 after failing to disclose he had received a $3000 bottle of wine as a gift.

Ms Berejiklian's replacement will be determined by the state's parliamentary Liberals.

Australian Associated Press