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PM opens the door for Gladys to switch to the federal arena

Politics

Prime Minister Scott Morrison has labelled the investigation into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian as shameful and welcomed the idea of her making a tilt for the federal seat of Warringah.

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Speculation has increased Ms Berejiklian would put her hand up for Liberal preselection to run against Zali Steggall in the northern Sydney electorate after the independent won it off former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2019.

Morrison dismissed concerns Berejiklian would be tainted by an investigation from the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption over whether the former premier failed to disclose a relationship with Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire when awarding grants to his electorate.

She has also been accused of turning a blind eye to Maguire’s corrupt conduct.

Berejiklian resigned as the premier on October 1 after ICAC revealed she was being investigated.

The resignation was in line with the government’s ministerial standards which outline the expectation for a minister subject to an investigation by law enforcement or an integrity agency.

Morrison said there was no suggestion of criminal conduct and has consistently described the commission’s public hearings as a kangaroo court.

“We have seen plenty of recordings of private conversations detailing intimate things that were paraded around in the media,” he told reporters in Sydney on Monday.

“What was that about? Was that about shaming Gladys Berejiklian? I thought that was awful. I don’t call that justice.

“The way that Gladys Berejiklian has been treated has been shameful. She is a person of great integrity.”

Morrison said she would be a welcome addition to the federal Liberal team if she decided to run.

Berejiklian previously ruled out running for Warringah before the ICAC probe concluded but has since walked back her comments to Liberal insiders as she weighs up her options.

Liberals quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald said the ICAC investigation would have no bearing on her decision to run, and that federal members did not care about the outcome.

The Liberal preselection for Warringah has been pushed back to January 14 to give Berejiklian time to consider her position.

The counsel assisting the commission is due to hand down its report into the Maguire inquiry – through which Berejiklian was questioned – on December 20.

Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese would not be drawn about Berejiklian’s integrity despite framing the government’s dragging of its feet over a federal anti-corruption commission as a key election issue, saying the investigation should be allowed to run its course.

“I make this point: the former premier before the former premier (Mike Baird) was also talked about as a candidate for Warringah for some period of time and the speculation has changed there,” he said.

“I await the speculation about (1988-92 NSW Premier) Nick Greiner running for Warringah because he could come back from the New York Consul General position.

“It doesn’t matter who the candidate is for Warringah.

“This is a bad government, which is why Scott Morrison is … worried not about winning seats back off an independent, he’s worried about more seats going independent.”

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