NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian resigns as ICAC probes her conduct

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian announcing her resignation this afternoon. Photo: Screenshot of live-streamed media conference from Gladys Berejiklian/Facebook.

By TILEAH DOBSON

NSW Gladys Berejiklian announced her resignation as premier today at a 1pm scheduled press conference. Ms Berejiklian also stated that she will give up her seat of Willoughby, prompting a by-election, after which she will leave the NSW Parliament altogether.

The shock announcement comes after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said it would investigate the premier for potentially breaching public trust over her relationship with former MP Daryl Maguire.

This decision to resign was not made lightly, Ms Berejiklian told reporters at today’s press conference.

“Resigning at this time is against every instinct of my being and something I do not want to do. I love my job and serving the community, but I have been given no option following the [ICAC] statement,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“I have had to make an extremely difficult decision overnight, but one which I feel obliged to do because of the love and respect that I have for the people of NSW and the high regard which I have for the office of premier.”

The premier revealed that she will leave parliament as soon as a by-election can be held for her seat of Willoughby.

“I’m extremely confident that whoever succeeds me will be more than capable to continue the job,” Ms Berejiklian said.

“Please give them your trust and confidence. We will come through this. Stronger, more resilient and appreciating what really matters in life. I felt strong, energised, and optimistic about the future of NSW.”

The premier has stated that she will remain in parliament until a by-election for the seat of Willoughby can be held. File photo.

Politicians pay tribute

Following the resignation, Liberal City of Sydney Councillor Christine Forster voiced her support for the premier in a Facebook post.

“Gladys Berejiklian is one of the most talented and dedicated Members of Parliament I have had the privilege to know and will be a huge loss for the people of Willoughby, Sydney and NSW,” Ms Forster said.

“I thank her for the selfless service she has given our state and the strength, commitment, leadership and humanity she has demonstrated in public life.

“I wish Gladys the success she deserves in her future endeavours and look forward to the Liberal Party electing a new premier who will continue her work charting Sydney’s and NSW’s post-Covid return to normal life.”

Councillor Christine Forster (left) with NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian. Photo: Christine Forster/Facebook.

The independent Member for Sydney, Alex Greenwich MP, also paid tribute to the premier.

“Gladys Berejiklian was a strong and determined leader for NSW during our state’s most challenging time,” Mr Greenwich said in a statement issued this afternoon.

“Today, in resigning, she again did the right thing.

“Agreements of confidence and supply were made with Ms Berejiklian, and along with my Independent colleagues, I look forward to meeting and working with whomever is the next premier in the best interest of stability for our state,” he said.

NSW Labor leader Chris Minns praised Ms Berejiklian’s dedication to the people of NSW.

“From day one, I have acknowledged the premier’s efforts to steer our state through the Covid crisis,” the opposition leader said.

“For all our disagreements, I never doubted Gladys’ dedication to NSW or her work in the service of it. I thank her for her service.”

ICAC investigation

The ICAC, meanwhile, revealed its investigation into Berejiklian earlier today. It is looking at whether there was a conflict of interest between her public duties and her private relationship with ex-boyfriend and disgraced MP Daryl Maguire.

The premier has previously dismissed any suggestion that she broke the law by failing to report her knowledge of Maguire’s dealings to the ICAC.

“If at any time I had cause to report something inappropriate within my responsibilities as a Member of Parliament, of course, I would have,” Ms Berejiklian said earlier this year.

ICAC Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl AO SC will oversee a public inquiry on the issue, to commence on 18 October.

The ICAC is also investigating Ms Berejiklian over grant funding to the Australian Clay Target Association in 2016-17 and grant funding to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga in 2018.

The commission plans to investigate whether Berejiklian’s relationship with the then Wagga Wagga MP, Maguire, influenced those arrangements, constituting a breach of public trust or partial exercise of official functions.

Former MP of Wagga Wagga, Daryl Maguire, is the central figure in ICAC’s investigation into Gladys Berejiklian.

It will also investigate whether the premier knew or should have “suspected on reasonable grounds” that Maguire was involved in corrupt conduct, failing to report him as required.

Maguire was the former MP for the seat of Wagga Wagga and is accused of abusing his political position during his tenure from 2012 to 2018.

He’s accused of using both his parliamentary position and public office to illegally gain benefits for himself or the company he allegedly controlled, G8way International.

He was forced to resign in 2018 after evidence surfaced that he sought payment from property developers after helping to broker favourable deals.

Tileah Dobson is the news editor of the Sydney Sentinel.