Wed. Jan 26th, 2022

Prime Minister Scott Morrison and senior Liberals openly call on former New South Wales Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian to run as the party’s candidate in Warringah in next year’s federal election.

Ms Berejiklian abruptly stepped down as her state’s prime minister in September after being named the subject of an investigation by an independent commission against corruption (ICAC).

But liberals have quietly spoken to her about a slump in federal politics, believing she could be the party’s best chance of regaining the once-secure seat in Warringah, currently held by independent Zali Steggall.

Despite the astonishing evidence and wiretapping presented at the ICAC survey, the Liberals have been encouraged by polls published in nine newspapers last month suggesting that Mrs Berejiklian’s “likeability” had returned after her performance at these hearings.

Sir. Morrison seems to have taken up this feeling, and recently launched an extraordinary attack on the ICAC, comparing the watchdog to a “kangaroo court” that had “done over” Mrs. Berejiklian.

Today, he continued his criticism, saying that the former prime minister had been the victim of a “pile-on” and was a person of “great integrity”.

“I think it’s a great option if Gladys wants to line up, but it’s up to her,” he told reporters.

The prime minister repeatedly addressed questions about the ICAC inquiry itself, which examines whether Mrs Berejiklian broke public confidence and said he would “let the people decide”.

“There is no hint of criminal behavior from Gladys Berejiklian, no one whatsoever,” he said.

“Gladys was put in a position where he actually had to step down and there was no finding of anything.

Gladys Berejiklian addresses the media
Gladys Berejiklian has until next month to decide if he wants to run in Warringah.(ABC News: Rani Hayman)

Ministers express support for Berejiklian

Earlier, Finance Minister Simon Birmingham said he would “love” to see Mrs Berejiklian run for the seat, saying she had shown “extraordinary leadership” in public office.

“Gladys has been my friend for decades and I know she has an enormous and incredible talent, but that’s entirely her call,” he told ABC News Breakfast.

Environment Minister Sussan Ley said voters were shocked by the former prime minister’s treatment during the ICAC inquiry and the public hearings on her relationship with the disgraced former state MP Daryl Maguire.

“What I trust [are] voters’ reactions, “she said.

“And I was actually quite surprised by the number of people [who] came to me and said they really did not like this and that was how they described the process. And it was pretty awful.

“And did it have to play out like that on our TV screens? I don’t think so.”

The Liberals lost Warringah for the first time in the 2019 election when Steggall, a former Olympic skier, won the seat and defeated former Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

Heading into the 2022 election, both sides believe the election will be incoherent due to the varying effects of the pandemic on states and territories and will come down to hand-to-hand combat in certain seats.

The coalition must hold all of its 75 seats and gather at least one more to govern in its own right, while offsetting expected losses in WA and Victoria.

Labor enters the election with theoretical 69 seats, meaning it would be necessary to win another seven to form a majority government.

The opposition hopes to make integrity an election issue as the government’s commitment to establish a federal corruption watchdog remains delayed.

It is not yet clear when ICAC will complete its investigation, but Ms Berejiklian has until next month to decide whether she will run.

Federal Labor leader Anthony Albanese said speculation about Ms Berejiklian was “becoming a bit absurd”.

“I note this continued obsession with the media with a Prime Minister who is still the subject of cases under the ICAC,” he said.

“I think people need to allow these processes to go their way.”

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