Many are coming to the defence of the NSW Premier following her outing as a consort of the corrupt. Their arguments in her favour, all five of them, are without merit.
Andrew Bolt often says that for the left, it is always the side and not the principle that counts. In other words, when it comes to politics, they forever play the man and not the ball. They will excuse, even defend, appalling behaviour and actions on their own side in order to win the political point, rather than standing up for principles that they ought to believe in. Defending Bill Clinton’s and Joe Biden’s appalling history of sexual harassment because they both supported abortion rights is but one example. Not defending freedom of speech when right wing people are under attack for saying something deemed offensive is another.
Well, it seems as though the same is true for the other side. Right wingers too play the man (or woman) and not the ball.
God knows why, but it seems that New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian must be saved, and all sorts of rubbish arguments – no, not arguments, merely assertions without merit – are being dragged out to keep her in office. Five arguments have been proffered in defence of the NSW Premier.
First, there is faux feminism.
The sisterhood, from Emma Alberici to Jenna Price to Sharri Markson, have come to Gladys’s aid. Gladys is only being attacked and pressured to resign because she is a woman, used by a man – a “third rate country MP”, no less. (Are country MPs especially low grade?) Male feminists like Bill Shorten (yes the man once accused of raping a woman) came to the party as well.
According to Jenna Price:
It can't be easy being a single woman in such a powerful position and there will be shysters and hucksters hanging around, desperate to be in on the action.
So it is single women, not just women, who are most at risk from what might be regarded as entrapment. Recognising that Maguire is a low life is not an argument for exonerating the Premier. Not good enough.
Gladys is a sympathetic figure to leftist feminists, of course. She is a lesftist AND a super feminist herself. She has argued for half the parliaments to be female, and to change the Liberal Party rules in relation to winnable seats for women. She believes in targets. She is famously pro-abortion. Feminists are circling the wagons for Gladys, one of their own.
Another tack is that Gladys should be defended because we need more women leaders, or because she is a ‘role model’. Or something like that. I recall similar arguments were proposed when Julia Gillard came to the attention of the authorities over her own past shady relationship (with one Bruce Wilson). There is no substance to this argument. We should expect female leaders to be no less, and no more honourable, than male leaders. And we should expect their antennae to be just as attuned to shysters and chancers as men’s.
The sociologist Catherine Hakim in her book Honey Money: The Power of Erotic Capital, explores the whole question of using one’s sexuality for career purposes.
There is ample evidence that both women and men use their attractiveness and their sex (as in gender) to attain and hold power and generally to advance their interests. Women politicians have advantages in some areas. They play the female card when it suits. Julia Gillard was able to stitch up Tony Abbott with a meme that still dogs him. This was after years in which the two of them could be seen to be flirting on a grand scale.
No, women leaders generally get a good run, and there is no reason that a female politician should expect to be any less accountable than a man. Just imagine that it was – say – Tony Abbott who was caught in this web of sleaze. I expect there would be very little sympathy, if any. There wasn’t much sympathy for Barnaby’s “private affair”, and there was no suggestion of corruption in that case. Malcolm Turnbull hounded him from office.
The feminist message to Gladys is – hold firm and “do this for the women who will come after you”. What? Do feminists give a pass to corruption, shoddy governance, non-existent standards of accountability and breaching ministerial codes of conduct, just because she is one of the girls? Seemingly, Gladys hovers effortlessly between being an “independent woman with my own finances” and one wandering around the place with (according to one eye witness) “a little girl lost” look about her.
The second defence of Gladys is her “record”.
She is a “good premier” who has governed well, and she deserves a break for a “personal” mistake. I have pointed out her ghastly, deal-making, bungling two-faced record to the point of tedium. Gladys Berejiklian is not a good premier.
For the unaware, here is a quick summary for revision.
First of all there is the no “buck stops here” attitude of the Premier of the Premier State to the Brett Walker Commission into the Ruby Princess. That hardly raised an eyebrow. Long forgotten. Ruby who? The non-acceptance of responsibility for this disgrace by NSW ministers could be considered either breathtaking in its arrogance or merely par for the course in the cesspit of NSW politics.
Then we had Gladys’s sleazy, secret deal with NSW Abortion Inc, aka Alex Greenwich MP and Brad Hazzard, to deliver the state’s own version of Daniel Andrews’ infanticide on demand legislation. The euthanasia mob, led by the appalling NSW Nationals, is merely having a breather before they return to the fray.
Then we have the mad green leftism of most of the NSW Liberal frontbench about anything from koalas to climate change. The midwit Andrew Constance thinks bushfires are the result of global warming. He would be at home in the Andrew cabinet south of the Murray. That would be the same Andrew Constance on whose watch as Transport Minister the embarrassing NorthConnex project is nearly eighteen months overdue and still not open – for reasons yet to be explained to NSW taxpayers. A sackable offence in former times, for the sheer incompetence of the man. The man who cannot even make up his mind about which parliament he wants to sit in.
Then there is the NSW Premier’s appalling behaviour towards her own deputy premier, on sick leave because of depression. In many workplaces this would be called bullying.
Then there were the overruns worth billions on the unwanted and unneeded Sydney trams. What about knocking down perfectly good football stadiums at a cost of over 700 million dollars?
Then there was the Powerhouse Museum relocation fiasco, a dreadful initial decision only put right as part of a deal to get the rainbow warrior Don Harwin back into cabinet. And still costing the NSW taxpayers dearly, now that we are going to get not one but two Powerhouse Museums! Parramatta has to have one too. Why not one in every city in New South Wales? (Perhaps Harwin had leverage over the Premier that he used to get his job back).
With the NSW Government, where exactly do you start and stop?
The onus is on those who claim Gladys’s superior policy making record to make the case. They never do, because it isn’t there. Her record has been somewhere between mediocre and disastrous. It looks good to some partly because we in New South Wales are so used to having simply awful governments. None was worse than that of the recently and sadly departed John Fahey, a good man leading a rotten and mercifully short lived government.
Even the normally excellent Henry Ergas spoke of Berejiklian’s “previously untarnished reputation”.
He has got to be joking. This might be her first brush with ICAC, but untarnished? Not tarnished by the secret deals with baby killing greens and the payoffs to them? By the bullying by her offsiders of Barilaro? By the under the counter saving of the career of the creepy Don Harwin? By the backflips without explanation? By her frittering away money on expensive and unwanted light rail systems while city businesses went bankrupt? By her privatisation deals with greenie energy companies? By her allowing Michael Photios to keep running the state from the safe distance of his lucrative consulting practice, built solely on the back of his privileged access to NSW ministers? Plenty of tarnish there, I would think.
She has patently breached her own Ministerial Code of Conduct. (As Caroline Overington noted, the real October surprise is that New South Wales has one). I suspect the Premier lied under oath, but the proof of that, if it comes, must wait for another day. She knew about her boyfriend – she even kicked him out of the building in August 2018. Then kept sharing his bed. And still keeping it from colleagues.
Speaking of keeping the relationship secret, this was a workplace. The right thing to do when you take up with a colleague should be for one of you to get another job, or at least to bring the relationship into the open so that everyone in the office knows the new circs. Not exactly teamwork. And, of course, she has perpetuated the political culture of a state where people routinely pay other people to get access to ministers, to get them to decide things in their favour. Not just perpetuated the culture of sleaze, but participated in it. This is all on the record.
As reported by the ABC, in State Parliament, Opposition Leader Jodi McKay moved a motion of no confidence based on four points:
- She failed to report her knowledge of Mr Maguire's business dealings;
- She failed to report discussions she had with Mr Maguire, including his commissions on business;
- She failed under the ICAC rules to report corrupt conduct;
- She failed to "uphold any standard of propriety" across her government.
All fair questions to be asking in the bear pit that is the NSW Parliament.
Really, Henry Ergas. The “good person hard done by” line will not work, I am afraid.
Gladys only looks good because there is a lunatic (Andrews) south of the southern border, and another not far off lunacy (Palaszczuk) north of the northern border. This comparative exoneration argument might be true but certainly is irrelevant.
The lead in line to the Ergas article stated:
The turmoil in NSW involving Premier Gladys Berejiklian is nothing compared with Machiavellian cover-ups in Victoria.
Well, maybe, or maybe not. Setting aside the 800 Covid deaths in Victoria and looking past the events of the last week or so to the overall records of the two regimes, the differences between the appalling governments of the two states are differences of degree, not kind. To suggest otherwise would be to commit a category error.
Much of the right-of-centre reaction to Berejiklian’s woes has been couched in terms of Daniel Andrews. Like Scott Morrison, Gladys is lucky she has Andrews also occupying the stage at present as a point of contrast. Andrews makes everyone else look like a cross between Churchill and Mother Teresa. He has become the nation’s whipping boy, in part for merely implementing grotesquely wrong Covid policies more disastrously than everyone else did. (And yes, I know that 800 people died on his watch).
For the third defence of Gladys, there is the anti ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) brigade.
This is the Gerard Henderson argument. ICAC destroys innocent premiers. Not quite. The NSW Independents of the day did Greiner in. Who can say why Barry O’Farrell left the building? Perhaps he just didn’t want to be there. No, arguing that ICAC is over zealous – if one accepts that it is – does not exonerate Gladys. Whereas I say – thank God for ICAC. With both political parties historically compromised in the gutter state, and with the Liberal Party showing no signs whatsoever they get it, and intend to clean it up, we sure as hell need somebody to round up the crooks. As for ICAC’s powers, well just look at Victoria’s equivalent to see how a crime buster without teeth performs. You almost wouldn’t know it was there.
Fourth, there is the argument that they all do it in New South Wales.
Gladys is no worse than all the others. In a private conversation this week with my local member, the NSW Treasurer said – what about Macdonald and Obeid? Well, what about them? There was Rex Jackson. Yes there was Richard Torbay. Joe “tripod” Tripodi. Milton Orkopoulos (God help us). New South Wales is utterly tarnished with corruption. Pointing out all of the past corrupt and crooked behaviour of MPs merely highlights the need to root out current corruption, I would have thought. Reminding people of past indiscretions by the other side is, again, true but irrelevant.
Fifth, there is blatant circling the wagons behaviour.
She is a Lib so she must be saved. The old warhorse John Howard has been wheeled out, reminding us of his residual high regard and still unexpended political capital. Blueblood Liberals defend whoever is in office flying the flag. John Howard defended Malcolm Turnbull, of course. Even helped him talk himself out of retirement. This was surely the greatest blunder ever by a former Australian prime minister.
Many of the right-of-centre punditocracy are deeply embedded in the network of Liberal Party linked think tanks and assorted organisations and networks. Take for example one of Gladys’s strongest defenders this week, Janet Albrechtsen. She is Chair of the Institute of Public Affairs, both a breeding laboratory (Tim Wilson, James Paterson) and a retirement home (David Kemp) for Liberal Party politicians. A Venn Diagram of IPA and Liberal Party donors would make for interesting observation. Albrechtsen is also very close to the Liberal Party “powerbroker” Michael Kroger, who many south of the Murray regard as a toxic factional influence and hold accountable for the abysmal non-performance of the Victorian Liberals over some decades. In turn, Kroger is very close to Mr NSW Liberal Party, Michael Photios.
So no mystery to Janet’s vigorous defence of Photios’s girl in Macquarie Street.
It is disappointing, even if expected, that those who would normally be cheering for high standards in politics let their guard down when it comes to one of their own. I understand that political war is war, and that the combatants should play for keeps. This should not extend to defending second rate leaders like Gladys Berejiklian in second rate political outfits like the NSW Liberals.
It is a bit of a giveaway that so many articles have been written in the past few days about the Premier State’s history of corruption. Yes, as always, the Rum Corps gets a guernsey. If the current premier isn’t “tarnished”, why all the subsequent outpourings about New South Wales’ sordid history? No, everyone knows she is tarnished, and should go. Not because anyone better from the sorry NSW Liberal Party would replace her – they are all mere puppets of the hidden, leftist factional bosses – but rather because showing Gladys the door just might signify the start of a very, very long road back for the State to probity, decency, transparency and principled politics.
We-the-people should expect no less.