Hot topics close

Why strong support and a reputation for competency may not save NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

In some ways, it would be simpler for the Liberal Party if there was another bombshell at the ICAC which provided a fatal blow to Gladys Berejiklian, writes state political reporter Ashleigh Raper.

In some ways, it would be simpler for the Liberal Party if there was another bombshell at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) which provided a fatal blow to Gladys Berejiklian.

There wasn't, and now every Liberal MP at Macquarie Street is trying to work out what to do next.

Ms Berejiklian had huge political capital to burn through.

Her competency and hard work in particular through the pandemic and the bushfires make her popular and respected.

She's also garnered a great deal of sympathy as the narrative of being screwed over by a dud partner has played out.

It's an experience many people, especially women, can identify with.

A woman with brown hair looks down in with a solemn facial expressionA woman with brown hair looks down in with a solemn facial expression
The embattled Premier has faced down probing ICAC questioning this week.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

But the shock and support that her colleagues provided earlier this week, has now turned privately to increasing concern.

They're not sure whether the Premier can write this scandal off as a bad week and get back to work.

Some backbenchers from the right faction are being deployed to actively engage in talks about the next step.

The ABC understands they're canvassing colleagues to see if there is an appetite for a leadership change.

Dominic Perrottet, the Treasurer, is from the right and has long been the heir apparent, but would need the dominant moderate faction to swing in behind him.

He's high-profile, and is the deputy Liberal leader, but stood firm behind the Premier on Monday.

"As somebody who has stood by her side as the deputy leader and Treasurer of this state, never have I seen someone work so hard, a person of high integrity, honesty and somebody who puts the people of New South Wales first and foremost," Mr Perrottet said.

"I know every single day that she is somebody who is selfless, and she is somebody who is focused on one thing, and one thing only — and that is the betterment of our people."

A man poses for a photoA man poses for a photo
Dominic Perrottet is one of several senior figures standing behind the Premier.(AAP: Joel Carrett)

Based on those comments, it would be an awkward backflip to turn on the leader, but it's not without precedent in politics.

One thing is certain: there will be no leadership spills.

The Premier would have to resign.

You don't have to be very politically astute to know that tearing down a female leader with a bad ex would be disastrous for the successor.

She is also still perceived to be very popular in the electorate, something not lost on anyone trying to take her job.

But Liberal MPs also know they have a window to execute an orderly change of leadership — where the Premier resigns and someone else takes over unopposed.

Liberal powerbrokers are not confident the cloud cast by Daryl Maguire and his relationship with the Premier will dissipate, or whether it will follow them until the next election.

Shadowy image of Daryl Maguire, bald and on a profileShadowy image of Daryl Maguire, bald and on a profile
Former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire also faced the wrath of ICAC about apparent shady dealings.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

The Premier has stressed again and again that she had no idea what was going on.

However, phone calls between her and Mr Maguire were played to the ICAC, in which he detailed deals he had been working on.

The Premier said in one of them: "I don't need to know about that bit."

Mr Maguire told the ICAC he "didn't want to burden her with details", and he agreed that "there was particular bits of information that she didn't want to know about".

After a horrendous week, Ms Berejiklian is keen to get on with her job, confident in the belief that she has the support of the people to do just that.

Mr Maguire has finished giving evidence, and the main parts of the hearings, which have already lasted almost a month, are now over.

The Premier may have survived the week, but her future is deeply uncertain.

Similar shots
This week's most popular shots