Gladys Berejiklian has made a dramatic first appearance on the federal election campaign trail after quitting politics following a corruption inquiry last year.
The former premier of New South Wales attended a Liberal Party event on Tuesday night to support North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman as he fights to keep his at-risk seat in the upcoming election.
She was embraced by former prime minister John Howard, who was also in attendance, before appearing to be caught on microphone referencing her ICAC investigation.
‘No, not yet. It might be another year before we know, but I’m getting on with my life,’ she told people in attendance.
Gladys Berejiklian attended a Liberal Party event on Tuesday night to support MP Trent Zimmerman as he fights to keep his at-risk North Sydney seat in the upcoming election
Ms Berejiklian was full of smiles at the Liberal event on Tuesday night, grinning for pictures alongside Mr Zimmerman, Mr Howard and others in attendance.
Mr Howard gave Ms Berejiklian a huge hug after arriving, before starting his speech by thanking her for being present.
‘I do want to especially welcome, Gladys Berejiklian,’ the ex-PM said.
Mr Zimmerman also singled out the former NSW premier and former member for Willoughby, noting it was the ‘first political event’ she’d been to since leaving office.
‘She actually said she was a little bit anxious re-emerging in North Sydney,’ he said as Ms Berejiklian blushed.
Ms Berejiklian smiles for a picture alongside North Sydney MP Trent Zimmerman and a Liberal staffer
Ms Berejiklian was embraced by former prime minister John Howard, who was also in attendance, before appearing to be caught on microphone referencing her ICAC investigation
Ms Berejiklian in February was appointed managing director of enterprise and business for telecommunications giant Optus, after rejecting offers from Prime Minister Scott Morrison to run as the Liberal candidate in the Sydney Northern Beaches seat of Warringah.
Ms Berejiklian hinted in December that she would be moving into the private sector after a tumultuous period steering the state through the Covid pandemic.
She resigned from office after the Independent Commission Against Corruption investigated claims she prioritised funding to projects in Wagga Wagga, represented by her ex-partner and now ex-MP Daryl Maguire.
‘I’m going in another different direction and I’m looking forward to the opportunities next year brings,’ she told Nine radio last year.
‘I’m looking forward to a much less public life.’
Gladys Berejiklian has shaken off the high-profile life of politics and is now working a 9-5 office job alongside everyday Australians at telco giant Optus
One of the Optus’ executives, Mac Harris, shared an image alongside Ms Berejiklian in March as she reintegrates into regular life as a desk jockey.
The former premier sported a simple pink blazer and black pants in her new position.
‘This just happened, I got to meet our new MD, Enterprise, Business & Institution,’ Mr Harris posted to LinkedIn.
‘Such an inspiring leader who I admire greatly for her Challenger Spirit. First time I’ve ‘fan personed’ at Optus.’
The Liberal Party had been hoping to convince her to run for the seat of Warringah, a key electorate currently held by independent MP Zali Steggall.
The telco’s CEO said in a statement in February that Ms Berejiklian would be a ‘game-changer’ for their department in charge of business customers.
‘Gladys is a proven leader who demonstrated her renowned strength, leadership, discipline, and composure in successfully guiding Australia’s largest state through one of the biggest challenges in its history while earning the support and gratitude of the community for her tireless contribution,’ Kelly Bayer Rosmarin said.
‘She also builds and fosters loyal and dedicated teams who really go above and beyond for her.’
‘I believe she will be a game-changer for Optus. In bringing our business-focused teams together under this newly created role I truly believe that our collective energies can deliver superior customer outcomes in market segments that continue to be dominated by the incumbent.’
The former NSW premier will look to help Optus close the gap on market leader Telstra.
‘I am excited and proud to join an organisation that impacts the lives of millions of Australians every day and prides itself in providing outstanding customer service,’ she said.
‘I look forward to working with Kelly and the Executive Team of Optus who are providing inspiring and innovative leadership in the telco sector.’