EXPLAINER

Explainer: Why is there so much political chaos across state lines?

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is facing calls to resign after her testimony at the ICAC. Picture: Getty
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is facing calls to resign after her testimony at the ICAC. Picture: Getty

It's safe to say that now probably isn't the easiest time to be a premier or chief minister.

Political controversies are following the leaders of NSW and Victoria with a chorus in both states calling for resignations of their respective premiers, while the leaders of Queensland and the ACT are facing upcoming elections in a matter of days.

In a year where political rule books have been thrown out the window due to coronavirus, 2020 has continued to deliver a highly volatile environment for multiple leaders across multiple jurisdictions.

What's happening in NSW?

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian is facing increasing pressure to resign from the state's top job after she admitted to an inquiry she had a "close, personal relationship" with a disgraced MP who was the subject of a corruption probe.

The Premier told the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday she had a five-year relationship that was kept secret with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Mr Maguire has been the subject of of a four-week public inquiry held by the ICAC investigating whether he used public office for his own financial gain.

The disgraced MP resigned from the government in 2018 following a separate probe by the ICAC that heard he had sought payments to help broker deals for property developers.

Ms Berejiklian told the inquiry on Monday she had been in a relationship with Mr Maguire for five years, just after the 2015 state election, and had been friends for 15 years. A series of intercepted phone calls between Mr Maguire and the Premier were played at the hearing, which detailed their relationship and revealed Ms Berejiklian knew the former Wagga Wagga MP was receiving commissions on property deals as far back as 2014.

Speaking at a press conference after giving evidence, Ms Berejiklian said she had "stuffed up" her personal life. "Hands down, this has been one of the most difficult days of my life," she said.

"If I had done something wrong I would be the first one to do that [resign]. If I had done something wrong I would be the first one to consider my position. But I haven't."

Is Gladys likely to resign?

Publicly, Ms Berejiklian has had support from her deputy, NSW Treasurer Dominic Perottet, along with several high-profile ministers including Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Health Minister Brad Hazzard.

However, since giving testimony at the ICAC, there have been growing calls for Ms Berejiklian to stand down from her role.

NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay said the Premier should resign, arguing she knew about Mr Maguire's dealings and did nothing to stop it.

"This isn't about her personal life. It's about her professional behaviour - reckless misjudgment, a blind eye to corruption and a complete disregard for integrity in government," she said.

Ms Berejiklian on Tuesday faced a vote of no confidence due to the controversy.

If she resigned, it wouldn't be the first time a premier stepped down following testimony to the ICAC.

In 2014, then-premier Barry O'Farrell resigned after admitting he had accepted a $3000 bottle of wine from the chief executive of Australian Water Holdings, which was the subject of a separate inquiry.

What about Victoria?

It wasn't a good day on Monday either for Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews, after his top public servant, Chris Eccles, resigned from his position.

The head of Victoria's Department of Premier and Cabinet stood down after phone records revealed he spoke to Victoria's head of police on the day the state's ill-fated hotel quarantine system was set up.

A blame game has begun over who made the decision to use private security guards in hotel quarantine, which likely led to the state's deadly second wave of coronavirus cases and lockdown measures.

While Mr Eccles told a government inquiry into the hotel quarantine fiasco he had no recollection of a conversation with the head of police, phone records prove otherwise.

It's the second major resignation in the wake of the inquiry, after Victoria's former health minister Jenny Mikakos stepped aside over the handling of hotel quarantine.

The resignations has also prompted Victoria's opposition to move a no-confidence motion against Daniel Andrews.

While there has been wide public support for the lockdown measures in Victoria, critics have been calling for Mr Andrews' resignation over the lockdown.

Add to that the news lockdown measures aren't expected to be rolled back as quickly as anticipated due to a steady number of coronavirus cases, it hasn't been the easiest time for Victoria's leader.

Aren't there also elections coming up?

As if political scandals in two states in the middle of a pandemic weren't enough, two states will go to the polls this month in tightly contested elections.

ACT residents will vote this Saturday, while those in Queensland will cast their ballot on October 31, with coronavirus and the subsequent recession a leading issue in both contests.

ACT Chief Minister Andrew Barr will be seeking another four years, while Canberra Liberals leader Alistair Coe has been campaigning to end 19 years of Labor Party rule in the national capital.

Due to the electoral system, an outright majority of any one party in the Legislative Assembly is rare, but experts say the final result will come down to one or two seats.

Those in the Sunshine State will vote just a fortnight later, with current polls showing current Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk having a slim lead over LNP leader Deb Frecklington.

Formal campaigning has been under way for almost two weeks, but there have been no shortage of scandals.

On Tuesday, it was reported the LNP referred Ms Frecklington to the state's election watchdog over a series of fundraising events that could have broken Queensland electoral laws which prohibit property developers from donating to election campaigns.

While it appears no donations were made from developers at the events, the presence of developers at the fundraisers caused alarm bells for the party.

This story Why is there political chaos across state lines? first appeared on The Canberra Times.

Comments