The raunchy medieval literary classic, The Decameron by Giovanni Boccoccio (1313-75), has nothing on the sordid tryst between the NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and disgraced Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. More than a little appropriately, both are set in a time of plague. But more broadly, a period in which, according to The New Yorker,
“… the values of the Middle Ages (valor, faith, transcendence) were yielding to those of the Renaissance (enjoyment, business, the real).”
I am not in any way accusing Berejiklian of being corrupt. But nonetheless, I find it amazing that Barry O’Farrell resigned the Liberal leadership over a bottle of wine, whereas Berejiklian has admitted to carrying on a sustained secret sexual affair with someone she herself had sacked for corruption. But then Berejiklian is not only a woman, but has also proven to be a champion of progressive political policies (i.e. abortion).
It’s seems like we’ve got a whole new definition of leadership these days — founded on the self-help movement — away from moral character and moving towards sheer political expediency. The real issue is the kind of values which shape and affect one’s decision-making process. Hence, there can ultimately be no division between a leader’s personal and public life. The two things are inextricably linked.
But because of Berejiklian’s gender, it wasn’t going to be long before the requisite ‘puff pieces’ from the left’s sisterhood would come leaping to her defence. Annette Sharp scored the ‘exclusive’ for The Sunday Telegraph running with the classic Mills & Boon headline, “I’ve Given Up on Love”. This was followed up with another ‘exclusive’ by Dina Silmalis based upon an in-house YouGov poll that concluded, ‘Gladys has done nothing bad.’ (The sub-text here is that an extended sexual relationship with a still married man should no longer be recognised as being immoral)
But worse was yet to come. As though having one’s love-life cross-examined by ICAC was not as “humiliating and embarrassing” enough, then came the round of media interviews with Ben Fordham and then Kylie & Jacki O. The latter of which all too predictably quickly sort to explore every sordid sexual detail such as if she ever ‘dabbled’ with lesbianism. In her response — which would have made Seinfeld blush with pride — Berejiklian said,
“I haven’t and didn’t… Not there is anything wrong with that.”
But it was this piece from The Sydney Morning Herald by the Investigations editor, Michael Evans, which really took the cake. According to Evans, there was “Hardly a dry eye in Sydney after Premier’s post-ICAC media blitz”. Evans reported:
Fordham, whose 2GB is a stablemate of the Herald and The Age, wanted to know if Berejiklian, who manages a state budget of a couple of billion, was a novice in the dating game.
“It’s fair to say that, on average, I would probably have less experience than the average person, but that’s an excruciating thing to talk about,’ she said.
Proving she has the mettle for the top job, the Premier pushed on.
“I’ve always been focused on my job and my work and my family and I haven’t really had time for a lot else to be honest.”
Why didn’t she tell anyone about the relationship?
“It wasn’t a normal relationship, he wasn’t my boyfriend. I certainly hoped he would be, but it wasn’t sufficiently substantial. I didn’t want to introduce anyone to my close network unless I knew,” she said. “I was certainly in love with him … but no, he wasn’t my boyfriend.”
Why did she continue the relationship after sacking him for earlier allegations of corruption?
By this time, contact was “extremely sporadic”, she said, and, given that after she sacked him “he was angry”, she stayed in touch “from a compassionate position”.
Have there been tears?
“Privately, absolutely. Don’t make me, Ben.”
Was it just a slow news day or is this what classifies as “investigative reporting” these days? I mean, how does this in any way prove that Berejiklian “has the mettle for the top job”? Somewhat surprisingly, this was subsequently re-tweeted by Peter FitzSimons. But his tweeps seemed to be not taking the bait with the most liked reply stating:
It's appalling that the real issue has been forgotten. The Premier perjured herself in an ICAC hearing and turned a blind eye to corrupt. End of story. She should resign.
— Teresab (@TeresabDB62) October 20, 2020
Hear, hear! Maybe FitzSimons should’ve taken a look across at his better-half’s twitter feed. Because she seemed to have her finger on the issue long before anyone else had…
The dilemma Berejiklian’s cabinet colleagues now face:
The behaviour u walk past is the behaviour u condone…and if the Premier was at least aware of Maguire’s rorts & corrupt property deals & DIDN’T report him, just how much corruption is going on in NSW gov?#ICAC #Maguire
— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) October 16, 2020
When Premier Berejiklian insists she separates her private & public lives, there’s one simple test:
— Lisa Wilkinson (@Lisa_Wilkinson) October 15, 2020
Just remember people, Barry O’Farrell went for a whole lot less.
[Photo: Steven Saphore]