Just weeks away from what’s sure to be a roiling State Council meeting, the realisation is dawning that Gladys Berejiklian is not the party leader Liberals are looking for. Anger is also growing, especially amongst socially conservative members, with the feeling they were deceived into helping her get elected only to implement radically ‘progressive’ policies much of the party opposes.
It was not the leadership of Gladys Berejiklian which remarkably wrested likely government from the New South Wales Labor Party at that election. Far more significant was a simple question from Senator Eric Abetz which resulted in the resignation of Labor Leader, Luke Foley, over alleged interactions with a female journalist. Labor was forced to find a new leader mere months away from the state election. All Berejiklian needed to do was a Bradbury and not fall over.
Yet just another handful of months after the election, Premier Berejiklian’s autocratic leadership and singular ambition has been brightly projected everywhere except the Sydney Opera House by her incompetent handling of the single most contentious social issue of our age, the sanctity of life.
It appears she is not satisfied to just be the first elected female Premier in New South Wales’ history, but to be immortalised at any cost as the Premier who legalised abortion and euthanasia and who removed biology from birth certificates. There was no discussion or debate of these immensely contentious issues during the very recent election campaign. There has been no motion in favour of them popularly supported and passed at a Liberal Party State Council.
The New South Wales conservative voters and Liberal Party members who helped elect her are now wondering how they effectively got a Daniel Andrews “mini me” obsessed with upheaving institutions, instead of a leader uniting right of centre ideas in a broad church.
So far out of literally Left field is this policy that it was first introduced by a Greens MP in 2017 and defeated. Now cooperating with an obscure MP but also from the hard left, Gladys Berejikilian’s government greased the wheels for his socially radical private member’s bill being rushed through Parliament as fast as humanly possible; avoiding consultation, scrutiny and debate.
Premier Berejiklian was embarrassed into delaying the lower house vote on legalising abortion for any reason (and at any stage, merely with the agreement of two abortionists) after outrage in her own party room at the undue haste. Liberal MP Matthew Mason-Cox believes the Premier had broken trust within the party room by giving the upper house inquiry just five days to consider the extreme legislation. Revealingly, a five-month inquiry was established into animal cruelty about the same time.
Doubtlessly the collaborators saw the massive public pushback against near identical legislation in Queensland, including failed attempts to legislate and protest rallies and marches attended by many thousands of people – people who are the least likely in the whole nation to protest anything.
NSW voters and party faithful are entitled to feel cheated and ignored by the Berejiklian government, as the only people consulted by the secret committee drafting the bill were pro-abortion lobbyists. Nearly 14,000 public submissions have since been received by the upper house inquiry.
Instead of the debate being solely about the morality of violating fundamental rights set out in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights for “all members of the human family” (which science is dispassionately clear on), the debate has shifted to include the character and competence of Gladys Berejiklian as a leader.
The NSW government is approaching a crisis of leadership. The Deputy Premier, John Barilaro has written to his colleagues asking why the National Party should continue to support a Berejiklian government. It’s not just social policy, but economic policy, jobs and environment where the current Liberal Party and Coalition Leader is leaving the centre right feeling betrayed. Policies prioritising trees and animals over people seem better at home on the Left.
Certainly Gladys Berejiklian has severely overestimated her authority and backing in the party room. Clearly she has underestimated the political liability of treating the NSW voters and coalition partners with such contempt by cynically gambling they will forget her multiplying betrayals before the next election.
Does the now divided Liberal Party have a plan to differentiate itself from the Labor/Greens Coalition, and can they save the Liberal/National Coalition? It only remains now to be seen if Liberal Party members will be muzzled at the State Council and if Gladys Berejiklian can retain the confidence of her Parliamentary colleagues until the next election.