There’s no point being a hardworking, diligent politician if all that hard work and diligence is directed towards bad results.
During the last 10 years, Gladys Berejiklian, the soon-to-be-former New South Wales premier, has been a major player in the Liberal-National Party government that has absolutely smashed NSW in every way imaginable.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has called on her to appear before it on October 18. Its investigations into her started last year.
Berejiklian started as a minister for transport and, against all expert advice, pushed for the metro-isation of the North West rail link. Most experts agreed that it was one of the worst decisions in Sydney rail history, a “breaking of gauge” that will have negative consequences for public transport for generations.
The only reasons for this decision were to facilitate the privatisation of the rail network, give a leg-up to property developers, and weaken the Rail, Tram and Bus Union (RTBU).
Nobody from Newcastle should ever forgive Berejiklian for ripping up the rail line into that city, forcing passengers to get out and change onto light rail at Wickham. I’m sure the Newcastle Herald journalist that she insulted and belittled for asking a reasonable question about the business case won’t forget.
She approved the WestCONnex toll road as transport minister. Described by Chris Standen in a 2018 The Conversation article as “the biggest waste of public funds for corporate gain in Australia’s history”, WCX is also a toxic climate crime that locks in more generations of tolls, road trauma, harmful air and noise pollution, and the physical inactivity and sprawl associated with car dependency.
During this time, Crown Casino, aka Packer’s Pecker, was approved and finally the former premier Barry O’Farrell was brought down in the course of an ICAC investigation.
Did Berejiklian work hard to speak up against these things? Or, did she work hard to make sure they went ahead?
During former premier Mike Baird’s tenure, she became treasurer and, no doubt, played a big part in another tranche of bad, if not corrupt, decisions: lock-out laws that ruined Sydney’s night life, forced council amalgamations, wasteful stadium rebuilds, anti-protest laws, drug dogs and strip searches, public housing selloffs, the $30 billion sell-off of electricity poles and wires and, in fact, selling off of anything not actually bolted down.
Did Berejiklian work hard to speak up against these things, or did she work hard to position herself to become premier when Baird resigned in 2017?
When premier, how hard did she work to over-rule Sydney Opera House management to allow horse gambling ads to be projected onto the sails? How much hard work was involved in rorting the $100 million in council grants in Coalition-held electorates? Did she work hard to return water flows to help communities in the Menindee Lakes during the fish kills?
Under Berejiklian’s watch, a Select Committee recommendation that parliament implement all outstanding recommendations from the 1991 Royal Commission into Aboriginal Deaths in Custody didn’t get further.
Over the five years with former partner Daryl Maguire MP, did she bother to ask the most simple question: was he was involved in corrupt dealings?
Did she work hard to stop the Ruby Princess docking at Circular Quay last year, or as hard as any of the countless medical professionals during the COVID-19 crisis of the last 20 months? Or as hard as any of us ordinary working people trying to get by during a global pandemic?
Did she work hard to destroy historic Willow Grove in Parramatta as soon as the health restrictions rendered the Green Ban ineffective?
We should not judge Berejiklian by how hard she worked without thinking dispassionately about the end effect of that work. By any thoughtful accounting, she was extremely competent at ramming a neoliberal agenda down our throats, all to benefit the Coalition’s corporate mates.
[Andrew Chuter is an activist with Fix NSW.]