Gladys Berejiklian (//; born 22 September 1970) is an Australian politician serving as the 45th and current premier of New South Wales and the Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, offices which she assumed on 23 January 2017 following the resignation of Mike Baird. She has been a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 2003, representing the seat of Willoughby.
|45th Premier of New South Wales|
|Assumed office |
23 January 2017
|Preceded by||Mike Baird|
|Born||22 September 1970|
Manly, Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
|Residence||Northbridge, Sydney, New South Wales|
|Education||University of Sydney|
University of New South Wales
Before becoming Premier, Berejiklian was the Treasurer of New South Wales and Minister for Industrial Relations in the second Baird government, and Minister for Transport in the O'Farrell and first Baird governments. She was also the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party between 2014 and 2017. On 23 March 2019, she was re-elected as Premier of New South Wales when the Liberal-National Coalition won the 2019 state election.
Berejiklian was born in Manly Hospital, Sydney, the eldest of three daughters born to Armenian immigrant parents, Krikor and Arsha. Her grandparents were orphaned by Turkish soldiers in the Armenian genocide in 1915. Berejiklian spoke only Armenian until she was five years old, when she began learning English. She has remained involved in the Armenian-Australian community, serving a term on the Armenian National Committee of Australia. In 2015, she attended a commemoration ceremony in Yerevan for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian genocide.
Berejiklian attended North Ryde High School, which became Peter Board High School from 1986, a public, co-educational school in North Ryde. She was a member of Girl Guides and continues to support the organisation. She has a Bachelor of Arts (1992) and a graduate diploma in international studies (1996) from the University of Sydney and a Masters in Commerce from the University of New South Wales (2001). She joined the Liberal Party in 1993 and was president of the New South Wales Young Liberals from 1997 to 1998, being the third female president in its history. She also served as a Delegate to State Council (1996–2003), Urban Representative of the NSW Liberal Party State Executive (1997–2003), Campaign Director for State seat of Willoughby (1999) and Chair of Convention Committee (2002). Berejiklian also worked for Peter Collins and Senator Helen Coonan and the Commonwealth Bank as general manager, Youth Retail Banking and Government & Industry Affairs.
Berejiklian won Liberal preselection for Willoughby in 2003 when former Opposition Leader Peter Collins, who had represented the Willoughby area since 1981, decided to retire. Willoughby has historically been a comfortably safe Liberal seat even by northern Sydney standards; counting its time as Middle Harbour, it has been held by the Liberals, their predecessors or a conservative independent for all but one term since 1927. However, she faced a spirited challenge from Pat Reilly, the longtime mayor of the City of Willoughby, who nearly took the seat on Labor preferences. Ultimately, Berejiklian won by 144 votes, with the Liberals suffering a swing of 10.9 points. The swing was large enough to drop the Liberal margin over Labor to 7.2 percent, the closest "traditional" two-party margin in the seat or its predecessors since 1984. However, Berejiklian easily saw off a rematch with Reilly after picking up a healthy swing of 14.5 points, enough to revert Willoughby to its traditional status as a comfortably safe Liberal seat. She has not faced a serious challenge since, with Labor often being pushed into third place.
Berejiklian joined the front bench in 2005 as Shadow Minister for Mental Health and was appointed to the opposition front bench portfolio of Transport by Peter Debnam in 2006. Following the 2007 State election, she was given the shadow portfolio of Citizenship by Opposition Leader O'Farrell in his Shadow Ministry.
O'Farrell Government (2011–2014)
Following the election of the O'Farrell government at the 2011 state election, Berejiklian was appointed Transport Minister on 3 April 2011. The major achievements in her term as Minister for Transport include the extension of the Sydney Light Rail Dulwich Hill Line from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill; the phased introduction of the Opal card; and commencement of construction of the North West Rail Link. She was also Transport Minister at the time the NSW government stopped trains running to Newcastle Station, which now terminate at Wickham. She also ended Transit Officers as a railway law enforcement agency abolishing the function and transferring responsibility to the NSW Police. The former rail corridor has now been re-zoned by Newcastle City Council and a proportion of that land is expected to be sold.
Baird Government (2014–2017)
On 17 April 2014, Mike Baird was elected Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, and hence Premier, following the resignation of Barry O'Farrell. Berejiklian was elected as Baird's deputy. In a subsequent ministerial reshuffle, in addition to her existing responsibilities, on 23 April 2014 Berejiklian was sworn in as the Minister for the Hunter.
Berejiklian was appointed as Treasurer of New South Wales and Minister for Industrial Relations following a cabinet reshuffle announced on 1 April 2015 by Premier Baird, after the 2015 state election. As Treasurer, Berejiklian oversaw New South Wales's return to surplus. This was the first time New South Wales had been declared debt-free in more than 20 years. She also oversaw the part-privatisation of the state's electricity network.
Premier of New South Wales (2017–present)
Following the resignation of Mike Baird as NSW Liberal leader and Premier on 19 January 2017, Berejiklian announced her intention to succeed him as the leader of the Liberal Party, and hence to become the 45th Premier of New South Wales. Baird endorsed Berejiklian as his successor, declaring that she would be "an outstanding Premier... No doubt about it." A deal was struck between the moderate, centre-right, and right factions of the Liberal Party, facilitating the moderate Berejiklian's rise to the leadership, with conservative Dominic Perrottet as her deputy. The next day, ministers Andrew Constance and Rob Stokes—Berejiklian's only serious leadership challengers—decided not to contest the leadership, and instead opted to endorse Berejiklian. This left Berejiklian to take the leadership unopposed at the ensuing leadership contest held on 23 January. She was duly sworn in as Premier later that day, becoming the second woman to hold the post. The first was Labor's Kristina Keneally, who served in the position from 2009 to 2011.
In October 2018, Berejiklian permitted advertising for The Everest stakes to be projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House (a move spearheaded by radio broadcaster Alan Jones), drawing widespread condemnation and criticism from many in the community, with a poll declaring that 80% of respondents opposed this decision.
Berejiklian led the Coalition into the 2019 state election, becoming the third woman to take a major party into an election in NSW. With polls showing the race at a knife-edge, the Coalition suffered a swing of six seats, cutting its numbers down to 48 seats, a majority of two. This made Berejiklian the third woman to lead a party to a victory at a state election in Australia, after Anna Bligh and Annastacia Palaszczuk from Queensland, and the first non-Labor woman to lead a party to a state election victory in Australia.
In August–September 2019 Berejiklian expressed support for the Reproductive Health Care Reform Bill, a private member's bill aimed to decriminalise abortion in New South Wales. Berejiklian allowed a conscience vote on the bill in her party. Many conservative parliamentarians of the Liberal Party opposed the bill. Three of these parliamentarians, MP Tanya Davies and Legislative Council members Matthew Mason-Cox and Lou Amato, "expressed dissatisfaction with Berejiklian's handling of the bill". They had repeatedly asked Berejiklian to "intervene to stop the "fast-tracking" of the bill and establish a joint select committee into the legislation reform". However, their requests were rejected by Berejiklian. On 16 September 2019, the trio announced they would hold a party leadership spill motion against Berejiklian the following day. Senior ministers, including conservative ministers who opposed the bill, backed Berejiklian and condemned the actions of the trio. The right-wing faction of the party also clarified that they did not sanction the spill. The trio called off the spill the next morning, after the trio claimed to have received "further concessions" on amendments to the bill, meaning their amendments would be considered in the debate in the Legislative Council. The bill eventually passed Parliament with amendments on 26 September 2019 and came into force as the Abortion Law Reform Act 2019 on 2 October 2019.
In October 2020, as part of her evidence to an Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry, Berejiklian admitted that she had been in a "close personal relationship" with Daryl Maguire from 2015 until August 2020. Maguire had been a fellow Liberal MP until a previous inquiry had heard that he had sought inappropriate payments, leading to his resignation in 2018. As a result, a vote of no-confidence was taken in parliament. She survived the vote in the lower house with 47–38, and in the upper house with 21–20, after a deciding vote from the Liberal president.
Berejiklian has faced scrutiny for her actions during the COVID-19 pandemic in New South Wales in 2021, which some have argued had an impact on the pandemic across Australia. In June 2021, Berejiklian resisted calls to enact a lockdown in Sydney, which, according to some media outlets, resulted in wide community transmission and over 20,000 cases of the highly transmissible Delta variant of SARS-CoV-2 in the community. Subsequent plans to reopen when 50% of the eligible population were vaccinated against COVID-19 were highly criticised by the public and did not go ahead. The decision to not prevent residents of Sydney regional and interstate travel resulted in the spread of COVID-19 to other states, including Northern Territory and Western Australia. Berejiklian provided little clarity[according to whom?] about which businesses can remain open and failed to answer questions if Louis Vuitton stores were essential and therefore could remain open. After weeks of media questioning[weasel words] and increasing coronavirus cases, the government released a list of authorised workers. On the day the authorised workers list was released the Local Government Areas (LGAs) of concern which already had the toughest restrictions in NSW had further restrictions such as night curfew put in place. The discrepancy in enforcement between different suburbs in the LGAs of concern, seemingly unrelated to the levels of transmission, attracted controversy. Berejiklian also faced criticism when she cancelled daily press briefings as coronavirus cases, hospitalisations and deaths were predicted to peak.
Berejiklian regularly attends events of the Armenian Apostolic Church. Since June 2021 she has been dating lawyer Arthur Moses SC, who represented her at a corruption hearing into her former boyfriend Daryl Maguire.
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