Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he suspects former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian won’t run in the upcoming federal election, despite a major push for her to do so from the Liberal party.
Mr Morrison, who said Ms Berejiklian had “suffered terribly” in the aftermath of a corruption probe into her conduct as premier, has renewed his support for her potential federal politics tilt.
As support for Ms Berejiklian’s potential bid to run in next year’s election continues to grow, Mr Morrison once again said on Wednesday that he believed Ms Berejiklian would make a “significant contribution” should she decide to run for the Sydney-based seat of Warringah.
But, Mr Morrison said he suspected Ms Berejiklian ultimately “may choose not to go ahead here”.
“I don’t find it surprising at all that if you had someone of Gladys Berejiklian’s calibre wishing to go forward, that I in any way wouldn’t be anything other than welcoming of that,” Mr Morrison said.
“But if she doesn’t wish to, I equally respect that decision… I can totally respect that if she didn’t want to go ahead, then that would be totally her choice about what she wants to do and the contribution she wants to make going forward.”
Ms Berejiklian is under investigation by the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption to determine whether she breached the public’s trust or had a conflict of interest during her secret relationship with former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire as early as this month
It is also considering whether she failed in her duty to report suspected corruption, and whether she encouraged that sort of behaviour by turning a blind eye.
Mr Morrison said Ms Berejiklian had “suffered terribly” during the ICAC process.
“I think (the things that were aired publicly) was just awful to watch, terrible,” Mr Morrison said on Wednesday.
“I can totally respect her choice about what she wants to do and the contribution she wants to make going forward.
“Do I think she would make continued strong contribution? Of courser I do. I think people right across NSW would agree with that.”
Ms Berejiklian has yet to make any public comments about whether she is considering running, after nominations for preselection were extended.
Earlier, former prime minister John Howard and NSW Liberal heavyweight Bruce Baird have both offered messages of support to Ms Berejiklian to contest Tony Abbott’s old seat.
But, Mr Baird – who directly encouraged the former premier to run – voiced some concern about the risk of nominating Ms Berejiklian while she is under investigation by the ICAC.
According to Nine Newspapers, Mr Baird – the father of former premier Mike Baird and a former federal MP – conceded there were some “downsides” to any potential bid.
“The concern is if the report that comes down is more adverse than people are expecting,” he said.
Mr Howard told The Daily Telegraph he would “of course support her running if she chose to do so”.
Incumbent Warringah MP independent Zali Steggall told the ABC earlier this week it was “extraordinary and wrong” of Mr Morrison and senior government ministers to be “undermining and calling into question” the work of the ICAC.
“This is really important work that is being done on behalf of the public to hold government to account, to pull back the curtain and make sure there is no corruption,” she said.
“They are calling into question the importance of that work, and even calling into question the motivation of doing that work, which I think borders on defamatory.
“We should be seeing leadership to call for more accountability, not undermine accountability.”
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