Saturday, October 24, 2020

When Gladys met her Arfur Daly … many will forgive the Premier for her dud boyfriend

When Gladys met her Arfur Daly ... many will forgive the Premier for her dud boyfriend

Gladys’s dud was an Arfur. On Wednesday he fronted up to the ICAC and admitted using his parliamentary office to peddle his own business which “ultimately”, if not initially, was used to sell access to the “highest levels of government”.


Yet the outpouring of support for Gladys is a warning shot across the bows of those who think they can push her out of the way.

There isn’t a woman around who hasn’t been sucked in by a dud or had a friend or a daughter who has. And who might have heard the warning bells, in this case Daryl Maguire’s constant if elliptical references to financial deals she should have asked about but didn’t because she didn’t want to upset her man, or thought it was a case of masculine boasting she would choose to overlook (it turns out she was right on the boasting).

I have never been sure about how much solidarity there is between women but there clearly is on the dud front.

It is, of course, possible to parry with this: that the distinction between Gladys Berejiklian and other humans is that she is a political leader who is somehow required to leave her heart in its carry case and obey only her head. There’s a decent argument that she should not have assumed proper processes would be followed and instead demanded he make the appropriate disclosures. That she should not have divided her private from her public self. That is what public life means – there is no private.


No doubt her extraordinary diligence (and success) in leading the country’s largest and most complex ecosystem and economy through the bushfires and the pandemic has earnt her a level of trust few in public life could dream of, providing considerable ballast as her ship has rocked. For how much longer will depend on the calculations of her challengers and the backbench.

Other than the prurience of those who don’t take kindly to this modern-day Elizabeth I proving not to be their virgin queen, the real point about the Premier’s answers is they provided no further evidence of Maguire’s criminality. There was no gotcha-moment, either in revealing some further malfeasance or incriminating herself. The intercept conversations were great theatre, but it is difficult to see that a court of law would find the words, “I don’t need to know about that bit” evidence of anything convictable.

However, Berejiklian is not without shortcomings and the ICAC must be very disappointed by the Premier’s obvious lack of attention during phone calls; they’re not alone. As a minister, I was disappointed too, occasionally. Calls from the Premier meant I either got 1000 per cent razor-sharp attention, if she thought it mattered, or umming, erring and off-topic comments signalling she was reading something or wasn’t interested.

Finally, to the most astonishing news, that the Premier stayed in the relationship for two further years after the first round of ICAC revelations. That it took private hearings in August to convince her to leave. It may have been the shock of learning just how many failed attempts there were to get rich quick, or perhaps it was the transcript of an exchange between Louise Raedler Waterhouse and Maguire in November 2017, Exhibit 260, that turned the lady.

Waterhouse was asking for advice on how to approach the government about a land problem at Badgery’s Creek. She was complimentary of the Premier, not so her adviser. Speaking of the woman he loved, Maguire offered this advice: “You write her a letter now. Dear Premier, lovely to see you, you gave a great speech.” Then he advised “Rub, rub the ego” and, as dud boyfriends frequently do, he finished with this fatal overreach: “And then, then she will then give it a tickle from up top”.

I reckon Gladys read that bit and said, “Well f— you!” In love, it’s always personal.

Pru Goward is a former minister in the Berejiklian government.

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