Premier’s end-of-year report card

Regardless of the recommendations from ICAC lawyers scheduled to be put forward tomorrow on the conduct of disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, one-time cherished "hawkiss" of Premier Gladys Berejiklian, this writer is giving the now under-siege Premier an "A" on her 2020 report card.

Back in early January when my family and I were cut off by bushfire on the far south coast, left without power, internet, phone reception, updates from the RFS Fires Near Me app, fuel, ATM service and groceries, watching the world burn around us while well-intentioned but often hapless fellow citizens tried to fill the seismic void left by unprepared and largely absent government, Berejiklian was working hard to pull herself up from a probable "C-".

That's all I'm inclined to give a politician on any given weekday, to be fair. I don't share the broader media's fascination with them and find them to be a generally uninspiring, self-interested and pallid bunch.

JANUARY: Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: Monique Harmer
JANUARY: Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Emergency Services Minister David Elliott with Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons. Picture: Monique Harmer

Therefore it takes a tsunami of dedication, courage, effective action, compassion, selflessness and humility for a politician to get my attention.

It was going to take all of this and more for Berejiklian to work herself up the report card rankings.

An exceptional "A" was unthinkable.

But then NSW was plunged into its third State of Emergency in what is now called our "Black Summer".

The state and federal governments and RFS clashed over appropriate responses, as PM Scott Morrison faced unrelenting criticism over his leadership and bungled PR stunts. Exhausted firefighters waited for the relief that often didn't come and local and American firefighters perished in the flames. Throughout it all, the Premier knuckled down alongside RFS Fire Commissioner Shane Fitzsimmons to manage what is now regarded as one of worst disasters in the state's history. She showed real tenacity and character, fast moving from a C- to a C+.

Not once did she publicly falter as other politicians did.

MARCH: Berejiklian looks on as NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant updates the media on COVID-19. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins
MARCH: Berejiklian looks on as NSW chief health officer Dr Kerry Chant updates the media on COVID-19. Picture: AAP/Dean Lewins

Andrew Constance - the local member representing my family in the bushfire-ravaged seat of Bega - went from one teary interview to the next, hardly a picture of composure, in an anguished display that went on and on, angering as many people as it moved, this writer most definitely in the former category.

Then in February came the COVID-19 pandemic that would batter our economy and community, inciting fear and panic and leading to the death of 55 NSW citizens.

The hardworking and tireless Berejiklian once again proved she was more than equipped to tackle the long uncharted days ahead as the nation's most populous state was forced into shutdown and out again, schools were closed and reopened, families were wrenched apart and jobs lost, the Sydney CBD crippled and the Berejiklian and Morrison governments pointed fingers at each other over the worst outbreak of coronavirus in the state - one that followed the decision to let passengers from the cruise ship Ruby Princess disembark in Sydney on March 19.

APRIL: At a press conference at RFP headquarters. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett
APRIL: At a press conference at RFP headquarters. Picture: AAP Image/Joel Carrett

A Berejiklian-ordered inquiry ultimately found NSW Health responsible. That took guts - her C+ became a B.

All the while the fiscally savvy Premier, who was state treasurer under former premier Mike Baird, kept urging her counterparts in neighbouring states to open their borders to save the Australian economy.

July came and went - and with it the one-year anniversary of Berejiklian's last holiday. She'd made the A grade.

By the time ICAC's inquiry into her trusted friend Maguire's misuse of public office and parliamentary resources was upon her in September and October, the strain of the past year was writ plain on her face.

DECEMBER: It has been a tough year for leaders across the country. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
DECEMBER: It has been a tough year for leaders across the country. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

Yet she faced up and confirmed - in a frank and honest admission befitting the most powerful woman and premier in the country, and, say some, most successful leader of regional government in the world - a five-year relationship with Maguire. Her halo slipped a little. She was fallible after all. But that is all that has yet been proved that has diminished her.

The media would have a field day with the admission and the incredible accidental release by ICAC of unredacted transcripts offering further detail on the couple's secret relationship.

To this day, Berejiklian maintains she has done nothing wrong and I find it impossible to believe a woman with a record for such excellence would knowingly compromise her career or her constituents.

Sadly, a decision by the Premier to not self-isolate after a COVID test in November - something that might test any workaholic - has cost her an "A+" ranking.

The decision proved the Premier is incapable of putting her own wellbeing before the job and perhaps is also incapable of taking advice from those who love her best.

Something to work on next year, Glad.

Originally published as Premier's end-of-year report card