While journalists and politicians congratulated Gladys Berejiklian, the scandal she resigned over is extremely serious.
The reaction to Gladys Berejiklian’s resignation has been a puzzling one. Journalists from both sides of the political spectrum have mourned her, the ABC’s Emma Alberici offered the outgoing Premier her “best”, opining that “politics, like media, is bloody rough.” Peta Credlin asked in her column, “why Gladys, not Dan (Andrews)?”.
We have lost one of our best Premiers today. Gladys has been a dedicated reformer and dynamic builder. She led the State bravely and tirelessly through the bushfires and the pandemic. Thank you Gladys.
— Malcolm Turnbull 💉💉 (@TurnbullMalcolm) October 1, 2021
But let’s not drag our eyes from the prize. Gladys resigned due to an ongoing ICAC investigation, and what’s more, the allegations are extremely serious, and according to who pursued her, shockingly brazen.
“We now have it in black and white that the Premier was approving project after project after project,” said Greens MP David Shoebridge, who lead the parliamentary inquiry into Gladys Berejiklian’s grants scheme.
“From her office, some $141 million dollars worth of projects were approved — all to savour the political advantage of the Government of the day, all in response to requests from her Government MPs.
At a press conference earlier in November 2020, Shoebridge told reporters that the information’s release finally allows the NSW people to see the truth about Berejiklian’s role in the $250 million grants scandal.
“All year, the Premier has been ducking and weaving about her role in $141 million in grants. Documents were shredded; documents were deleted.
“After being forced to produce these documents, having undertaken a forensic document recovery process, we now see that the Premier had a central role in the approval of these projects. In black and white, them recommending the approval of some $141 million worth of council grants which overwhelmingly went to coalition seats.
We’ve been told by ICAC in evidence to the Public Accountability Committee, that that kind of process, where you identify the project and then you work backwards and ensure that the guidelines can be amended to fund the projects you already identified – and then you have senior ministers putting pressure on bureaucrats to ensure they’re approved, that, on the face of it, is corrupt conduct.
“We also get an insight as to how this secret slush fund was delivered. It’s very clear that only government MPs knew about the secret slush fund. And they had a private line to the Premier’s office, to deliver hundreds of millions of dollars in public money in the nine months leading up to the state election.
“This is how you buy an election.
“This is how you bodgey-up the guidelines for public grants funds, to literally buy an election. And right at the heart of it, despite all her ducking and weaving, despite all her denials, is the Premier of NSW.
“It’s time the Premier told the truth about what she knew, and when she knew it.
“We now have the documents that show she was being advised by her staff to recommend over $140 million worth of council grants in that short nine months leading up to the state election. We only got this through the persistence of the upper house; through the work of the Public Accountability Committee that I chair, and through the work of the Upper House in ordering the Government to go through and recreate the documents they deleted and shredded.
“If the scandal wasn’t bad enough, what we also see is a backwards process in terms of these grants. What we see is that the government identified hundreds of millions of dollars of projects they wanted to fund, and then they worked backwards and bodgeyed-up the guidelines in order to have them approved.
“This is some of the worst cases and worst excesses of misuse of public money, and misuse of the grants process.
“We’ve been told by ICAC in evidence to the Public Accountability Committee, that that kind of process, where you identify the project and then you work backwards and ensure that the guidelines can be amended to fund the projects you already identified – and then you have senior ministers putting pressure on bureaucrats to ensure they’re approved, that, on the face of it, is corrupt conduct.”
“I think that’s what we see here – over $250 million in public money being handed out like it’s the Premier’s own, like it’s the Liberal Party and National Party’s own money.
“This is public money. And the Greens will not stand for this abuse of public process and abuse of public money, and we will continue to work to get to the truth of it.”