Flat White

Gladys Berejiklian is not a victim

6 October 2021

6:58 PM

6 October 2021

6:58 PM

Not everyone buys into the whole, ‘poor Gladys betrayed by a dodgy boyfriend’ line. No one should… 

As Premier, Gladys Berejiklian was the most powerful person in New South Wales for many years. Anyone in possession of that much responsibility loses the ability to play the wilting violet card at the last hour. To suggest that she was dragged around like an accessory is an insult to her history within the Liberal Party as a predatory factional player. 

Besides, it’s not as if Berejiklian has kept her paws perfectly clean. 

The Sydney tram project that no one asked for was signed under Berejiklian’s watch. Sydney notoriously loathes trams and previously ripped them up, preferring to put actual roads through the central business district. The delayed and over-budget light rail project was particularly scorned as it ran parallel to an existing train line, offering nothing except a major disruption to retailers along Pitt and George street. 

Essential delivery warehouses and access points were either destroyed or put on restricted time limits, creating chaos for businesses operating along Sydney’s most expensive retail strip. Hundred-year-old shops were lost in the process – robbed of customers by boarded-up walkways. Many considered it a vandalisation of the thriving shopping area which culminated in a finished product of nightmare traffic conditions, reduced access, and bloody ugly trams. Outrage over the project reached fever pitch when commemorative ancient fig trees were felled along Anzac Parade to make way for the light rail. For weeks, residents chained themselves to trees in an attempt to save a piece of Sydney’s living heritage – to no avail. 

No one has forgiven the Liberal state government for these chainsaw projects. 

Speaking of trashing historically significant monuments, Berejiklian spent years defending the hated plan to move the Powerhouse Museum from inner-city Ultimo to Parramatta. The Powerhouse Museum was not only a resource for locals, it served as a major cultural fixture and tourist attraction. Its unwanted relocation was set to cost in excess of $1.6 billion and would destroy not only the Powerhouse Museum, but two heritage-listed properties at the new site in Parramatta. 


All of this happened in the shadow of Berejiklian’s plot to tear down and rebuild two stadiums. Public fury eventually forced her to abandon the $810 million plan to upgrade the ANZ Sydney Olympic Stadium. The $730 million rebuild of the Allianz Stadium at Moore Park went ahead with its scheduled demolition despite being dubbed ‘pointless’. 

In case you were wondering, no – no one cares about the carbon footprint of these Goliath infrastructure projects. 

Despite all of the above, none of it stuck to Berejiklian thanks to a soft press and unusually forgiving political atmosphere from a Liberal Party that knew very well it didn’t have a better candidate. After Mike Baird’s departure, Berejiklian was left to hold the fort unopposed. 

Australians pre-Covid did not spend time scrutinising politicians. In fact, most people preferred never to hear from them between elections. It was an ambivalent political atmosphere that suited Berejiklian and sustained her premiership. 

Those days are gone. 

Covid and its relentless press conferences have turned Australia into a hyper-politicised hellhole similar to the US where politicians and health bureaucrats are treated like pseudo celebrities. 

Once humans latch onto someone as a ‘celebrity’ the mob become fascinated with the whole side-show of their personal lives. It doesn’t matter if you’re a prince, a premier, or a prime minister – your life decisions become fodder for the public in exchange for fame. 

Even so, women have more sympathetic leeway in the dating scene. It is unclear whether this is a relic of several thousand years of female victimhood or merely a convenient political tool.  

When it came to her own execution, some onlookers insisted that Berejiklian was ‘just another woman destroyed by the patriarchy’.  

Rubbish. 

Berejiklian could have done what many men before her have and refused to surrender her position. There was no law that said she must resign as premier – it was a choice – her choice. 

By leaving swiftly, she did so with her reputation intact (future ICAC proceedings notwithstanding). 

Politicians that ‘go easy’ are usually rewarded with silence from their peers. New South Wales will forget about her disastrous record and remember her only as a tough woman unseated by a misadventure of the heart. 

Alexandra Marshall is an independent writer. This is an edited version of a piece available at her blog. If you would like to support Alexandra’s work, shout her a coffee over at Ko-Fi.

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