Resignation shows integrity but it’s too little, too late
The resignation of former NSW Premier, Gladys Berijiklian was indeed an act of integrity. To fall on her sword when she could have just stepped aside pending the outcome of the ICACinvestigation, spoke of her courage and want to “do the right thing”.
The reason behind the resignation, however, was not.
It would have been in those ‘unseen’ moments in her relationship, when she consciously chose not to listen to her own gut instinct and internal integrity radar and speak up, and knowingly allow disgraced MP Daryl Maguire to do what he did, as long as she wasn’t involved, and she wasn’t made aware of it.
The former premier set standards for her government from the day she took office. The press conference announcing her resignation showed courage to meet those standards, while honouring of the people of her state. But she knew if she stayed and tried to defend her actions, that would create a cloud around all her government’s achievements.
The premier’s PR engine initially managed news of her relationship with Maguire well. Tell the truth, get out in front of the story. However, when she said in a press conference earlier in the year when the story originally broke, that this was just a case of ‘putting trust in the wrong person’, the die was cast.
ICAC is a wholly independent corruption watchdog and investigates actual breaches and not her ‘intention’ to do the right thing. In this case, it was her failure to act in the face of questionable activity.
Which brings us again to the issue of Integrity. It was once defined by CS Lewis as “doing the right thing even when no-one is watching.” We are all human and we all make mistakes, sometimes saying and doing dumb things in the name of love. The problem here is one of public trust – and the expectations of the office which the former premier held.
The issue is that she ‘turned a blind eye’ to Darryl Maguire’s transgressions and then her own integrity boundaries being stretched by her ex-partner. These omissions meant that the former premier herself would inevitably come under scrutiny. It is for this reason that public trust had been broken. That moment of hearing Maguire’s plans, something must have twisted inside her gut saying, “I don’t need to hear this…” and her own integrity radar was pinging that lines were being crossed, and she couldn’t be part of it. You can’t ‘un-hear’ that. It was too late.
ICAC should not “sit on” allegations until it is more convenient to begin proceedings – COVID isn’t going anywhere soon. And while ICAC’s job is never going to be a popular one, they are doing what they are paid to do. For Berejikilian, her integrity at this stage remains mostly intact but she leaves office with the inglorious honour of being the third NSW premier to fall to the watchdog’s investigations.
CLICK HERE to read the article on The Canberra Times