ANDREW L URBAN is a journalist and author. Since 2013 he has been writing about wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system and the role of the State in its fair and just administration of the law. His book Gladys provides the broader context in which this controversial ICAC investigation pilloried Gladys Berejiklian with questionable justification. Read on for an extract.
ABOUT THE BOOK
Is anything permissible in the pursuit of political corruption and does the end justify the means?
The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) investigation into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s conduct exposed questionable government processes and raised questions about transparency and accountability of political figures.
Should she have disclosed her relationship with then-secret boyfriend MP Daryl Maguire, and did she breach the public trust though a conflict between her public duties and personal life?
Unlike criminal courts, ICAC does not provide the protections offered those charged with a crime, nor the exoneration process that an acquittal or successful appeal offers. Guilt of corrupt behaviour by accusation is a real and constant danger, as history shows. Wrongful accusation delivers a grave injustice and in the case of a corruption ‘watchdog’ a public investigation amounts to a wrongful accusation, given that the investigation is not a finding.
Andrew L Urban has been writing about wrongful convictions in the criminal justice system and the role of the State in its fair and just administration of the law since 2013. In Gladys he provides the broader context in which this controversial ICAC investigation pilloried Gladys Berijiklian with questionable justification – and arguably not in the true spirit of exposing political corruption as the public understands it. It includes detailed excerpts from the ICAC Act and the investigation, Gladys’ resignation from politics, and how she stayed strong through it all and retained her fans and followers.
A NEW DAWN, A NEW DAY, A NEW LIFE
The universe can sometimes display a wry sense of humour. The day (December 10, 2021) that a chirpy Gladys Berejiklian told Ben Fordham on 2GB Breakfast that she was not going to contest any parliamentary seat and would instead be ‘going in a different direction’ to start a new life outside politics, the NSW government (which she would officially leave on December 30, 2021) was running a tourism promotion TV campaign. The underscore was a play on ‘NEW’ from the name of the State, in a gutsy arrangement of the rousing song, Feeling Good:
It’s a new dawn
It’s a new day
It’s a new life
And I’m feeling good
‘I’m a very positive person …’ she told Fordham. ‘I’m ready to start a new chapter of my life …’ It could have been a moment from Soundtrack to My Life by Gladys Berejiklian.
Gladys had rung in at 08:11 to wish Ben well on his last day for the year and thank him and everyone who had shown her great support and kindness. The radio interview followed a couple of weeks of public jostling while Prime Minister Scott Morrison, former Prime Minister Tony Abbott and others, had been wooing Gladys to consider standing for the seat of Warringah, to dislodge (supposedly) Independent Zali Stegall. Others had raised the uncertainty around the still pending findings of the earlier ICAC investigation, citing the potential problems if it found Gladys corrupt (however marginally and however wrongly in the view of her supporters). It would not be a political advantage, with all her political adversaries feasting on the Daryl Maguire affair and its consequent effects. Never mind the discomfort that she and her new boyfriend, Arthur Moses, might have to endure on a personal level. (A couple of months later, Midnight Oil fan Moses dragged Gladys along to their concert at the Qudos Bank Arena.)
‘She also builds and fosters loyal and dedicated teams who really go above and beyond for her.
Half an hour earlier in the same 2GB program, Fordham spoke to Dominic Perrottet who succeeded Gladys as NSW Premier … and when prompted by Fordham about calls for reforms to ICAC, it was a guarded, politically bland Perrottet who agreed that many government agencies need to be regularly reviewed, ‘and the ICAC is no different’. But he was careful to praise the ICAC for having done ‘a very good job over the course of its life…’ It was political cover that does not withstand scrutiny, but what else was the Premier to say on breakfast radio? The agency’s darkly patchy history might make the morning listeners splutter into their cereal.
Whatever fateful coincidence was arranged by the universe, the two calls on 2GB were certainly relevant to each other. Fordham probing Perrottet about ICAC reforms, followed by Gladys in her post ICAC, ‘new dawn’ mode, behaving like a punching bag that bounces right back.
The universe moved quickly. Just two months after that radio chat, by Friday, February 11, 2022, Gladys had officially said ‘Yes’ to Optus. Optus CEO Kelly Bayer Rosmarin announced her appointment to the newly created role of managing director of enterprise, business and institutional. There was probably a meeting or two and a private conversation prior to the announcement…. We might infer that in fact Optus had snatched Gladys from the market place as soon as Gladys had become available.
‘Gladys is a proven leader who demonstrated her renowned strength, leadership, discipline, and composure in successfully guiding Australia’s largest state through one of the biggest challenges in its history while earning the support and gratitude of the community for her tireless contribution,’ Ms Bayer Rosmarin said in a statement.
‘She also builds and fosters loyal and dedicated teams who really go above and beyond for her.’
‘I believe she will be a game-changer for Optus.’
Notably, the appointment was made well before the ICAC released its report on the investigation into Daryl and Gladys.
Then, on April 10, the 2022 Federal election was called, for May 21. As the candidates lined up to seek votes, Gladys was back in politics – campaigning with her mate and close former colleague Andrew Constance for the seat of Gilmore. Constance posted a photo with the caption: ‘Great to have a true friend of mine down to say thank you to for incredible leadership of our region ! Love Glad,’ Constance served as the New South Wales Minister for Transport and Roads in the second Berejiklian ministry from April 2019 until October 2021. He announced his resignation from State Parliament two days after Gladys resigned.
But it was on Wednesday May 4, 2022 that Gladys made her first sort-of-official but diplomatically silent appearance (in deference to her employer, Optus) on the political stage, at a function to support North Sydney’s so called ‘embattled’ member Trent Zimmerman, fighting to retain his seat. His support for Gladys from the podium was amplified by that of former PM John Howard, the highest profile guest at the event. As they mingled, Gladys was seen and heard responding to another guest with a remark that a question about the then pending ICAC report apparently prompted, when she replied cheerfully ‘no, not yet …it might be another year before we know…but I’m getting on with my life.’ Cue the song – Feeling Good …