Gladys Berejiklian had been told by a leading lawyer that she was on solid ground legally to stay on as NSW Premier but she still resigned hours after receiving the advice.
Ms Berejiklian consulted Sydney barrister Bret Walker SC as she scrambled with her closest Liberal colleagues in late Thursday night meetings to determine whether she was able to stay on as premier.
Despite being told she was justified in staying on, and having agreed with key ministers in a Thursday night meeting that she would not resign, the 51-year-old ‘s outlook had changed by Friday morning and she then elected to step down as premier and an MP.
The decision came after the NSW anti-corruption watchdog, the Independent Commission Against Corruption said it was investigating claims against her.
Ms Berejiklian said she had ‘no option’ but to resign on Friday after an announcement the anti-corruption watchdog would investigate her
Victor Dominello (pictured left) was among Ms Berejiklian’s closest allies that she called for crises talks on Thursday night in an effort to save her leadership
On the Thursday night, Ms Berejiklian had called together her three key supporters within the ministry – Energy Minster Matt Kean, Customer Service Minister Victor Dominello and Health Minister Brad Hazzard – for crisis talks.
The group was given advice by Mr Walker that she remained on safe legal ground to stay on as premier despite the investigation, an anonymous source involved in the discussions told The Australian.
Mr Kean was the first minister called by Ms Berejiklian after she had been informed by ICAC on Thursday that she was a person of interest in inquiries that centred on how much she knew about the dealing of her former partner and resigned minister Daryl Maguire.
Mr Kean had been on the phone with his partner – letting the private number go to voicemail on three occasions – and then received a text, the newspaper confirmed.
‘Matty, call me – urgently,’ the message from the premier read.
Energy Minster Matt Kean (pictured) was the first colleague Ms Berejiklian called on Thursday after being warned ICAC would investigate her
The premier and her three ministers spent much of the night on a conference call – including seeking legal advice – playing out different scenarios that would allow her to continue as party leader.
One such scenario involved her temporarily standing down, with the ministers convincing Ms Berejiklian that her popularity would allow her to survive the fallout, as she had done in 2020 after she appeared at a previous ICAC hearing.
Thursday night’s conference call ended with the four in agreement Ms Berejiklian would stay on and fight despite the investigation impeding the government’s post-Covid recovery agenda.
However, by Friday morning when the group reconvened at the premier’s Sydney CBD office her resoluteness appeared to have diminished, a source confirmed.
After ICAC publicly announced the investigation, Ms Berejiklian almost immediately called a press conference.
A downcast Ms Berejiklian fronted reporters that afternoon looking drawn and emotional.
‘I’ve had to make a difficult decision overnight. It pains me to announce that I have no option but to resign from the Office of Premier,’ Ms Berejiklian said on Friday.
Flowers and signs are left by supporters outside her Northbridge office on the weekend (pictured)
‘ICAC has chosen to take this action during the most challenging weeks of the most challenging times in the state’s history,’ she said.
‘Resigning at this time is against every instinct in my being and something which I do not want to do.’
Her shocked fans came out in force over the weekend.
Both Ms Berejiklians Northbridge office and her home became a sea of flowers and signs voicing support.
While more than two dozens petitions appeared online demanding that she stay on as premier – one receiving nearly 70,000 signatures as of Monday afternoon.
On Monday her deputy John Barilaro also resigned saying he has been ‘thinking about this for a while’.
Mr Barilaro’s exit was unconnected to the departure of Ms Berejiklian, but related to his defamation action against a YouTube personality.
Ms Berejiklian’s replacement as NSW Premier looks likely to be treasurer Dominic Perrottet, with the appointment to be confirmed by a meeting of the Liberal party room on Tuesday.
Ms Berejiklian’s supporters were out in force on the weekend (pictured) with an online petition receiving nearly 70,000 signatures