SENATOR KRISTINA KENEALLY
DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE
SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS
SHADOW MINISTER FOR IMMIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP
SHADOW MINISTER FOR GOVERNMENT ACCOUNTABILITY
SENATOR FOR NEW SOUTH WALES
FRIDAY, 1 OCTOBER, 2021
SUBJECTS: Gladys Berejiklian, resignation, ICAC
JIM WILSON, 2GB DRIVE PRESENTER: I want to bring in someone who knows exactly what it's like to lead this state not only as a Premier, but as a female Premier. Kristina Keneally led New South Wales from 2009 until 2011. Now she's a Federal Labor Senator with plans to run in the seat of Fowler in Western Sydney, and she's on the line this afternoon. Senator Keneally, welcome back to Drive.
KRISTINA KENEALLY, DEPUTY LABOR LEADER IN THE SENATE, SHADOW MINISTER FOR HOME AFFAIRS: Good to be with you, Jim.
WILSON: What's your reaction to the announcement earlier this afternoon?
KENEALLY: Well, I think a lot of people in our State will be quite surprised by this, they might be confused, and they might be quite disappointed. I mean, you're right to go through the concerns and the matters that ICAC will be investigating. And I would agree with Kate McClymont that I don't think they've done this lightly. They must have serious questions that they want to put to the Premier and a serious reason to hold these public hearings.
But I have to say for the people of New South Wales, and particularly the people of Southwestern Sydney, who've been just suffering through this third outbreak, this crisis is really quite real. Schools are still shut, businesses are still shut, families are doing it tough. And, you know, I just think today, this is another kick in the guts to the people of New South Wales who've been looking for some assurance that this COVID crisis is going to be over soon.
WILSON: Just the timing of it too, Senator. I mean the fact that we're in the middle of a pandemic. We're about to come out of lockdown and go through the roadmaps and regain some freedoms and try to get back to some sort of normality in our lives. ICAC's timing. Do you think it was an error as on behalf of the timing, considering what we're going through?
KENEALLY: You know an anti-corruption body like ICAC has to follow the evidence and they have to make decisions in accordance with that, so I don't think any of us would want an ICAC that can just make, what would be ultimately a political decision about whether or not to investigate, if they suspect there is corrupt activity. So, I understand why people are feeling frustrated and disappointed and perhaps angry that the State Government has been plunged into these circumstances. But that's not on ICAC. And while it's not up to us here this afternoon to you know, make determinations about the accusations that have been levelled against Ms Berejiklian, I also don't want an ICAC shying away from, what they must have is evidence that causes them some serious concern.
WILSON: I mean you make a fair point. I mean, everyone should have the presumption of innocence until proven guilty. Why do you think she resigned rather than stepping aside pending the outcome of the inquiry? Or is that simply going to take too long?
KENEALLY: Well, there are some historical precedents here, Neville Wran stood aside when he was the Premier and there wasn't an ICAC then. But when there were some charges levelled against him, once he was cleared of those, he came back. You know, it really is a decision that only Gladys Berejiklian can explain.
But I think the people I've heard from this afternoon, the people who are, if I read it and read some of the commentary online, you know, people really are just so disappointed and frustrated and you know, I get that at one level, I have myself paid tribute to Gladys Berejiklian and some of the tough decisions she took to help people get through this pandemic. But in recent months, I have to say I would agree with some other concerns folks have raised about the uneven impact in the way that particularly communities in Southwestern Sydney, have suffered through this third wave.
But you know all of that aside, the real issue here now and I think Kate McClymont nailed it, that ICAC doesn't make these decisions lightly. They must have some serious issues that they want to investigate.
WILSON: One thing's for certain the feedback this afternoon, the open line number, the text line, our emails, and this is with Joe Hildebrand and going into drive this afternoon with myself is that she is unbelievably popular. And, you know, I think that whoever they elect as the new leader, the Coalition on Tuesday morning, it is a very, very tough act to follow and I reckon if you're Chris Minns right now, the Opposition Leader, I know the election is not until 2023 but you'd be fancying your chances about whoever they go for.
KENEALLY: Well, whoever steps in and this is part of the, I think the frustration people feel right now, is that they don't know who's leading their state. They don't know who was going to lead their state and whoever the Liberal Party ultimately elects it maybe someone they're not expecting to lead the state. And so, it will be an enormous task that sits in front of them, it’s always an enormous job being the Premier of New South Wales, but particularity at this time.
WILSON: Senator, thank you for your time this afternoon.