The regressive state

14 December 2021 | Posted In: #141 Summer 2021,

With Gladys gone, NSW has the most conservative premier since World War II. Christopher Kelly reports.

The writing, apparently, had been on the wall for some time. At least on the walls of the NSW parliament. When the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) decided to expand its investigation into former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire and set its sights on premier Gladys Berejiklian, it was a matter of, not if she’d stand aside, but when.

The when eventually came on Friday 1 October, shortly after ICAC announced it would be examining whether Berejiklian breached the ministerial code of conduct when, as treasurer, she facilitated the approval of multimillion-dollar grants to her expartner’s electorate — the allegation being that Berejiklian used her position to bestow financial favours upon her secret boyfriend and his “dodgy” associates. Throughout the 11-day public inquiry, Berejiklian steadfastly maintained her innocence. Nothing to see here. It will be months — maybe longer — before the outcome of ICAC’s deliberations will be known.

Following Berejiklian’s resignation during which she stated she had “always acted with the highest level of integrity” — her allies in the press paid tribute to and expressed sympathy for the soon-to-be former-premier. Gladys, it seemed, had been “fouled”. The fact that she was being scrutinised by the state’s integrity body was nothing but a blip in an otherwise glorious parliamentary career. The PM, meanwhile, lauded Berejiklian’s “heroic” qualities, while the frontrunner to replace her, treasurer Dominic Perrottet, said: “Today is an incredibly sad day for NSW.”

As it turned out, it was an incredibly happy day for Mr Perrottet who won the leadership ballot “emphatically”.

Others weren’t as thrilled with the result. Even before the party vote, the very idea of a premier Perrottet was met with dismay by some.

NSW Greens MP Jenny Leong tweeted that the former treasurer’s appointment would be “horrifying for so many women, members of diverse communities and those who fear the rise of religious conservatism infecting our democracy and politics”. Writing in the Sydney Morning Herald, the Reverend Dr Stephanie Dowrick warned that “rights to full social inclusion for marginalised groups remain vulnerable . . . threatened by an authoritarian perspective”. Another Greens MP, Cate Faehrmann, described Perrottet’s nomination as “a step backwards” for NSW.

Dominic Perrottet’s views are certainly at odds with many residing in what is considered to be Australia’s most progressive state. The 39-year-old is, after all, a vigorous acolyte of the Libs’ far-right faction and a rigidly conservative Catholic whose deeply held religious beliefs help forge his political ideology.

No surprise, then, that the member for Epping has voted against abortion rights and marriage equality. Perrottet has also opposed laws forcing priests to disclose confessions of child abuse, saying “the confessional seal is sacrosanct for every priest in every penitent no matter what sins are confessed”. A climate change sceptic, Perrottet called action to save the planet a “gratuitous waste”. As for welfare, Perrottet is quoted as saying that government should stop “throwing money” at the vulnerable as it encourages divorce.

Upon winning the premiership, Perrottet — a father of six (with another on the way) — declared himself a premier for families. Whether that includes rainbow families is unclear. Although previous statements suggest not. Ahead of the 2017 marriage equality referendum, Perrottet said: “marriage is about every child’s fundamental right to grow up with their own mum and dad”.

On the day of his election as the state’s youngest premier, Perrottet said: “People should judge people on who they are and what they say — not on what they believe.” Unfortunately, we know all too well who Perrottet is, what he says, and what he believes.

  • Read ISV magazine in full here