What Gladys Berejiklian’s media attention tells us about the lack of women in power

Gemma Ferguson dives into the recent Berejiklian scandal, and what it tells us about the lack of women in power, especially in politics.

If you’ve opened social media, watched the news, or read a newspaper recently, chances are you’ve heard about the latest Gladys Berejiklian scandal. In short, a recent ICAC (Independent Commission Against Corruption) investigation revealed Gladys had an on-again/off-again relationship with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire. The pair began their relationship in 2015, which was only recently ended in August this year.

Daryl resigned in 2018 after immense public pressure called for him to step down. This was the result of a separate, prior ICAC investigation that found he had been engaging in backdoor payoffs and illegal property dealings. Personally, I’d never heard of him before this, and, despite all of his unlawful behaviour Daryl doesn’t seem to be getting half the hate Gladys is.

Look, I’ll be the first to admit I’m not a fan or Gladys or her party. However, as a woman, I do admire the tenacity she’s displayed as NSW Premier. There aren’t many women this high on the political ladder, and she’s had a rough run; leading the state through devastating bushfires and now a global pandemic – not to mention how tough it must be to work alongside ScoMo.

However, I do understand that she’s not innocent in all of this. There’s nothing I’d love more than to see Gladys, and her whole party, held accountable for their actions, but, did she actually make any major mistakes in this case? While hiding the relationship is shady as hell, Gladys insists she knew nothing about Daryl’s wrongdoing (although this wouldn’t be the first time a politician has lied to the Australian public). Despite her claims of having no prior knowledge of Daryl’s dealings, a number of people are continuing to call for Gladys’s resignation. C’mon, we’ve all dated crappy guys, does Gladys really deserve this much uproar for her partner’s illicit behaviour?

There has been some support for Glady’s, but, former Director of Public Prosecutions for NSW, Nicholas Cowdery, told the Sydney Morning Herald, “I really do think that she should stand aside as Premier until such time as the ICAC report is made and we have a full assessment of the evidence.”

And here’s the part of his statement that really ticked me off, “she allowed her heart to rule her head.”

You’ve got to be kidding? When has a man ever been accused of being too emotional? Sure, Barnaby Joyce can get his press secretary pregnant. And isn’t it funny how nobody hounded Anthony Albanese for comments while he was signing divorce papers earlier this year?

But I guess boys will be boys, and they can’t help how they feel, so we just shouldn’t push the issue. If only the uterus-owners of the world could put their hormone-driven emotions aside and exhibit the high-quality professionalism that men do, right?

No wonder we’ve only ever seen one female Prime Minister run this country. We keep saying Australia needs our own Jacinda Ardern but, honestly, I’m not sure we deserve one.

To add insult to injury, the ICAC accidentally leaked sensitive details of the relationship between Gladys and Daryl. The transcript from a closed hearing, where Daryl spoke about the nature and extent of his relationship with Gladys, was published online in mid-October. It was live, for all to see, for over half an hour. The ICAC eventually removed it and released a suppression order, saying that anyone who accessed the confidential information is not allowed to publish, copy, or describe it anywhere. But it seems to be a case of “too little, too late”, in my opinion, once it’s out there it’s never truly erased. Or is that just what we tell young women when warning them about the dangers of the online world, all while subtly slut-shaming and victim-blaming them? Funny how that works.

Again, I’m not Gladys’s biggest fan, and, as the investigation continues, she may be found guilty of more than just her poor taste in men. But the scrutiny she’s undergone so far has been a reflection of her gender, not her actions.

Though, there is some good news to come out of all of this. Since the ICAC have been successful in uncovering this instance of political wrongdoing, it has revived calls for a Federal ICAC. The push for a national corruption watchdog has recently gained momentum. And while the Libs are still making excuses to avoid establishing the new body, there’s hope that recent events will push them to change their minds.

Feature image: Madelyn Gardiner, Yak Media Designer.

Disclaimer: this is an evolving news story and we expect more evidence to come to light as it progresses. 


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