Gladys Berejiklian leading contender to be next New South Wales (Australia) premier

Gladys Berejiklian leading contender to be next New South Wales (Australia) premier –


There are two contenders to take over from Barry O’Farrell as NSW (New South Wales) Premier after his resignation, but Liberal party sources claim the numbers remain “very fluid”.

Mr O’Farrell, who resigned on Wednesday morning after giving misleading evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, has called a Liberal party room meeting for next week.

At this early stage, Treasurer Mike Baird is being touted as the leading contender. A member of the left faction, Baird also enjoys the support of many in the right thanks to his position on privatisation of public assets.

But the question is whether Transport Minister Gladys Berejiklian will run. Ms Berejiklian has always been touted as O’Farrell’s favoured successor. It is understood she has told colleagues she has yet to make up her mind.

As a long time warrior of the left, there is a view the right could actively seek to destabilise her premiership.

However, another source dismissed this view. “The numbers are all over the place,” the source said.

“The issue is what will provide stability for the government. This is not just factional. Everyone’s going to be looking at what’s best for the state”.

 Here is the profile of Gladys Berejiklian

The woman who has determinedly climbed the ladder of the NSW Liberal Party, wrangled the notoriously troublesome transport portfolio and could become the state’s first female Liberal premier has always played down her own success.

“I’m a bit of a quiet achiever,’’ she told Fairfax Media in a candid interview in 2011. ‘‘I’ve never tried to be one of the boys; I just do my own thing and, in good time, the results show.”

Berejiklian, now 43, grew up on Sydney’s north shore and is of Armenian heritage – her parents met in Sydney after migrating to Australia in the 1960s. In her maiden speech to parliament, she said her parent’s migrant background and her upbringing instilled what she now recognises as ‘‘core Liberal values’’.

‘‘For me, the essence of liberalism is having the opportunity to pursue and achieve your life goals, irrespective of your background, and then give something back to society by ensuring that this opportunity is created for others,’’ she said.

“I strongly believe that governments should strive to achieve the liberal principle of equality of opportunity as opposed to the Labor Party’s ideological position of equality of outcome.’’

She joined the Liberal Party in 1991 when she was just 21 and served as one of the earliest female presidents of the Young Liberals, holding the position from 1997 to 1998.

She was enthusiastic and ambitious about playing an active role in the party from a young age. While still at university, she was determined to gain a junior part-time job in the office of Peter Collins, who was state member for Willoughby at the time and would go on to become Liberal leader. According to a 2011 Fairfax profile, Berejiklian faxed him continuously for three weeks until he caved in.

“She made herself indispensable,” Collins said. “And shot up pretty quickly. She ‘got’ politics from the day she walked into my office.”

Berejiklian worked in banking until she was elected to parliament in 2003, in the seat of Willoughby. Campaign posters focused on her first name ‘‘Gladys’’ as opposed to her surname.

She held a number of minor shadow portfolios before being promoted to to the shadow transport ministry in 2006.

She was a stand-out performer in opposition and retained the transport portfolio when the Coalition was elected in a landslide in 2011.

The high esteem in which she is held by Barry O’Farrell was made clear during the ABC broadcast on the election night, when O’Farrell famously declared he was ‘‘only talking to Gladys’’.

‘‘You’ve done a great job through this campaign, you’ve done a great job as shadow minister, you’ll be a great Minister for Transport,’’ he declared on live television.

As Minister for Transport, Berejiklian has managed the difficult portfolio without any major hiccups. She is forging ahead on the expansion of light rail through the inner city and eastern suburbs and has committed billions to a new train line through to the north-west. The Opal card, which she is rolling out across the public transport system, was a contract signed by Labor in 2010.

She has managed to avoid confrontations with transport unions in her time in office, despite privatising the operation of Sydney’s ferries and attempting to reform the rail system.

She has long been considered O’Farrell’s preferred choice for a successor, when the time came, but whenever she has been asked about her ambitions for the leadership she has played it down.

“I don’t think I’m as good as people think I am,’’ she told Fairfax in 2011, appearing to confirm O’Farrell’s view that ‘‘her weakness at times is that she sells herself short”.

Sean Nicholls and Josephine Tove

The Sydney Morning Herald

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