NSW election: Gladys Berejiklian absent from Dominic Perrottet campaign despite Labor winning
While she might be considered a near saint within Liberal circles, Gladys Berejiklian largely withheld her miraculous popular touch from Dominic Perrottet during his electoral hour of need.
Ms Berejiklian, who quit politics under a corruption cloud over her links to ex-boyfriend Daryl Maguire in 2021 but remained admired over her handling of the Covid pandemic, was a notable absentee from much of the NSW election campaign.
She was considered so popular that retiring Health Minister Brad Hazzard likened her to Catholic saint Mother Teresa on Saturday night, saying it was too hard an act to follow for Mr Perrottet, who led the Liberals to an electoral thumping after 12 years in power.
Ms Berejklian, who now works as an executive for telco giant Optus, noticeably skipped her old party’s campaign launch and all other election events.
Her sole appearance during the campaign was posing for a photo with former NSW deputy premier Stuart Ayres and his wife federal Liberal Senator Marise Payne on March 15 after the trio had dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
Former Premier Gladys Berejiklian was a notable absentee during the NSW election campaign.
Mr Ayres, who took the fall for the scandal surrounding former Nationals leader John Barilaro claiming a plumb trade posting in New York, posted the photo to social media.
Despite his close friendship with Ms Berejiklian, the happy snap wasn’t enough for him to hold his marginal Sydney seat of Penrith, which was claimed by Labor on Saturday night.
Paradoxically, the photo only served to highlight the awkward relationship between Mr Perrottet and Ms Berejiklian with the media asking the now former premier on March 16 if he was miffed his predecessor seemed to be keeping her distance from him.
‘Not at all,’ Mr Perrottet snapped.
‘It’s great to have Glad as part of the campaign and as I said yesterday she was a great premier of NSW and to see her campaigning in Penrith I know it will make a real difference.’
When asked if he would like Ms Berejiklian to campaign with him in his own Sydney seat of Epping, Mr Perrottet awkwardly attempted to shrug off the suggestion.
‘If Gladys came to Epping that would say something,’ he said, pointing out his seat, unlike Penrith, wasn’t marginal.
Mr Perrottet asserted that Ms Berejiklian had been a ‘great supporter of mine’ and that they had a ‘close’ relationship, although party insiders say they have not kept in contact since she left politics.
Ms Berejiklian’s sole appearance was on social media posted by former Liberal deputy leader Stuart Ayres with his wife Liberal Senator Marise Payne after the trio had dinner at a Chinese restaurant
These sources say a rift developed between Mr Perrottet and Ms Berejiklian over the daily press conferences she held during the Covid period.
Reportedly Mr Perrottet refused to attend the conferences as he felt they made the government look like a one-woman-band.
‘Some ministers within the government took the incredibly misinformed view she was conducting the press conference – at which she repeatedly came under intense fire – to promote herself,’ the Daily Telegraph quoted a source as saying.
‘The reality was she believed it had to be done and was the best way forward for the state and its constituents.’
When asked during a televised debate whether the watchdog Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) had treated Ms Berejiklian unfairly Mr Perrottet said ‘no’.
This contrasted with former prime minister Scott Morrison’s staunch defense of her as he called her treatment ‘an absolute disgrace’.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (pictured center with wife Helen) said he accepted full responsibility for seeing the Coalition fail to win a fourth term of office in NSW
In his concession speech on Saturday night, Mr Perrottet bracketed Ms Berejiklian with other former Liberal premiers Barry O’Farrell and Mike Baird as the giants whose ‘shoulders’ he had stood on.
‘Each of those leaders has left an indelible mark on our great state,’ he said.
‘Their legacies are strong, and New South Wales is a much better place for their leadership.
‘From my perspective, I couldn’t have asked for better examples of leaders to learn from. I want to thank my Coalition colleagues for all of the support they have shown me as premier of this state and during the campaign.
Mr Perrottet, who announced he was standing down from the Liberal leadership, said he took full responsibility for the thumping defeat.
Although counting continues, Labor looks set to cruise past the 47 seat majority it needs to form government in its own right and could claim up to 50 electorates.
ICAC’s findings on its investigation into Ms Berejiklian, who insists she did nothing wrong, are yet to be released.