NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has exhibited an emerging pattern of behaviour based on an apparent assumption that she’s above the rules that everyone else has to comply with.
She refused to declare the interests of disgraced political grifter Daryl Maguire, despite her “close personal relationship” with him, hoping to marry him and him, allegedly, having a key to her house. She certainly declined to act on his constant stream of half-assed moneymaking schemes despite them centring on his peddling of influence and even using her name.
She broke the rules around the quarter-billion-dollar Stronger Communities Fund, which she had no authority to allocate, but did so anyway to pork-barrel Coalition electorates. Her office refused to comply with rules around preserving documents that would shed light on that grubby exercise — albeit unsuccessfully, as it turns out.
Then she decided the basic rules around COVID-19 testing didn’t apply to her either. As everyone who has had a COVID test knows, you have to self-isolate after being tested until you get the all-clear. Berejiklian just went about her day as normal.
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Caught out on this, at first Berejiklian insisted she’d done nothing wrong. She’d only had a test “out of an abundance of caution” — though, seemingly, the abundance wasn’t quite sufficient for her to actually do anything inconvenient.
Then she admitted “in hindsight, I should have closed my door and not seen anybody”. Colleague Stuart Ayres went on Q+A and bullshitted on her behalf, and managed to fundamentally misrepresent the rules around COVID-19 testing. By yesterday afternoon, the premier was into “deep regret” about it.
You can only imagine the febrile reaction from Scott Morrison and News Corp if Daniel Andrews or Annastacia Palaszczuk had done the same. “Deep regret” wouldn’t have been anywhere near enough.
Berejiklian has sailed through the earlier scandals, despite their gravity.
Wilfully ignoring your lover’s sleazy schemes, blatant pork-barrelling and destroying documents that might prove embarrassing haven’t proved sufficient to force the premier out. Voters think she’s done a good job on COVID, and her party is deadlocked over who might replace her. Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, despite trying to distract attention by issuing BuzzFeed-style top 10 lists of hated buildings, is still weighed down by his complicity in the icare disaster, and is so extreme on issues like abortion that moderates won’t cop him.
But deciding she’s above COVID-19 testing rules is different. As state leader, Berejiklian is required to set an example. Having demanded NSW citizens comply with a huge range of freedom-stifling and economically damaging restrictions, having shut down whole industries and thrown tens of thousands of people out of work in the name of protecting the community and halting the spread of the virus, at the very least Berejiklian should be able to make the trivial sacrifice of isolating for a couple of hours.
It wasn’t hard for Josh Frydenberg, whose parliamentary coughing fit earlier in the year led to a test and self-isolation until he was cleared. It wasn’t hard for Penny Wong, who self-isolated until her test came back negative. Tens of thousands of people in NSW do it every week. But not Berejiklian.
“Take my example,” Berejiklian says to NSW citizens about not self-isolating. Sure. For NSW citizens now, the example is clear: don’t bother self-isolating after a test. And if you’re caught out, deny, and if pressed, offer “deep regret”.
In a state led by a woman who doesn’t think the rules apply to her, why should they think otherwise?
Has Gladys Berejiklian undermined the public’s trust by failing to observe the COVID-19 testing rules? Let us know your thoughts by writing to [email protected]. Please include your full name to be considered for publication in Crikey’s Your Say column.