A political eulogy to Gladys Berejiklian
I am somewhat partial to Ms Berejiklian, the 45th premier of New South Wales, Australia, who announced her resignation today after leading the state since January 2017.
Ms Berejiklian has been a consistently popular premier, winning support across party lines. She has certainly been an asset for the Liberal Party, and has done well for the state.
A great number of big-ticket infrastructure projects were realised under her premiership. These include the Sydney Metro, which opened in 2019, a dramatic expansion of Sydney’s light rail network including an extension of the Inner West Light Rail — started under the preceding Labor government — as well as two new lines opening in 2019 & 2020 respectively, the South West Rail Link which opened in 2015, the Newcastle Light Rail which opened in 2019 and the Western Sydney Airport which is currently under construction. Further projects, including expansions of the metro and light rail networks, are now under way. Sydney’s rail network was revitalised with far-reaching improvements to capacity & reliability and the commissioning of a new fleet of suburban trains. Other efforts are underway in regard to intercity and regional rail.
With Gladys Berejiklian as premier and Dominic Perrottet as treasurer, New South Wales enacted a sovereign wealth fund, the NSW Generations Fund, to fund future infrastructure spending. This was made possible by the government’s fiscal responsibility, overseen by Berejiklian and Perrottet:
The NGF is a debt retirement fund for tomorrow that supports the State’s triple-A credit rating; and a fund for today that improves wellbeing of local communities through participatory budget projects.
The unprecedented strength of the NSW balance sheet means the Government can seed the NGF with $3 billion sourced from the State’s balance sheet reserves.
Ms Berejiklian guided the state well through COVID, albeit with the occasional and forgivable error in judgement, avoiding both the great loss of life seen in other countries and the length of lockdowns seen in Victoria and elsewhere internationally. Case numbers, prior to the emergence of the Delta strain, were kept low and life remained largely normal, as was the case in the country as a whole — most of the time. The state has weathered Delta, and calls to the Commonwealth government by Ms Berejiklian and others in her government stressing the need for more vaccines for the state paid off. New South Wales has already eased some restrictions and is set to truly open up from this month.
For his part, the opposition leader, Chris Minns, pledged Labor’s support during the events of Delta. Later, after she announced her resignation, he remarked that “For all our disagreements, I never doubted Gladys’ dedication to New South Wales, or her work in the service of it. I thank her for her service.”
An emissions reduction target of fifty percent over 2005 levels by 2030 was unveiled in the days leading up to her announcement. It’s fitting, given the extent of public support for action on climate issues. The plan, which involves technology and investment by the private sector, was achieved with the “full support of the NSW Liberals and Nationals who form the state government.”
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian said the updated plan, which drives down emissions through a series of initiatives including a renewable energy drive, was slated to attract $37 billion in private investment by the end of the decade making NSW “Australia’s first trillion-dollar state”.
The decision to resign was not one that Ms Berejiklian wanted to take, but she made it in the interest of the state. Of course, what’s mentioned in this article is far from all that has been accomplished during her premiership. She has performed well as premier, and New South Wales has benefited for it.