Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian rules out running for federal seat of Warringah

Former politician says ‘I want my life to change’ and will pursue a private-sector career, despite Scott Morrison urging her to contest seat

Gladys Berejiklian says she is bound for the private sector and will not contest the federal seat of Warringah at the coming election, despite the urgings of Scott Morrison.

The former New South Wales premier told Sydney’s 2GB radio on Friday morning she didn’t have any appetite to contest the seat but had considered taking on the independent Zali Steggall out of “respect” for the prime minister “and so many other colleagues who really asked me to consider this”.

“It’s not something that I want to do,” Berejiklian said.

She had no appetite to contest Warringah “or any other federal seat, for that matter”, she said, and was looking forward to stepping out of the limelight: “I’m going in a different direction and I’m looking forward to the opportunities that next year brings.”

Berejiklian said she had considered running in response to appeals from her federal colleagues but only “for a very short period of time, and then obviously [I] let them know that it’s not something I want to pursue”.

“I want my life to change,” she said.

She resigned as premier in September after the Independent Commission Against Corruption revealed it was investigating whether or not she broke the law by failing to report a reasonable suspicion of corruption on the part of her ex-lover, the former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

Despite being caught up in an Icac investigation, federal Liberals were of the view Berejiklian would have a chance of unseating Steggall, the high-profile independent who defeated the former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2019.

A Guardian Essential poll published on Tuesday found NSW voters remained sympathetic to the former premier.

Berejiklian faced an Icac grilling in November. She has denied any wrongdoing. People close to the former premier say she never had any real interest in running in Warringah. Berejiklian and Morrison are not close.

Guardian Australia revealed the approach to Berejiklian in October. Having mounted a public campaign to persuade her to run, Morrison changed tempo this week, telling reporters she had “suffered terribly” as a result of the Icac hearing and may choose not to run.

After Berejiklian confirmed that on Friday, the prime minister said she had been “a dear friend over a long period of time”.

“She’s made a decision to go forward into a new chapter of her life and Jenny and I wish her all the best with that,” Morrison said. “She’s been a great friend to Jen and I as we’ve worked together to combat the pandemic.”

Morrison said the Liberal party had “great female candidates” for the coming federal election and contended that Berejiklian had “blazed a trail”. Professional women had been inspired to come forward for public life as a consequence of “Gladys’s achievements”, he said.

He added that Berejiklian was “off to blaze a new trail now”.

“I know she will continue to provide tremendously strong support to me and my team,” Morrison said.

The Liberal party is worried about a voter backlash in its metropolitan heartland. Independent candidates focused on achieving climate action and establishing a federal integrity commission will run against Liberal moderates in Wentworth, as well as in North Sydney, Mackellar, Goldstein and Flinders.

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The independents contesting metropolitan Liberal-held seats are all professional women. Liberal believe it will be difficult to unseat Steggall in Warringah in the absence of a high-profile candidate.

Malcolm Turnbull this week gave a full-throated endorsement to the climate-focused independents running for election, characterising the looming political contests in Liberal party heartland as a “very, very healthy development”.

The former prime minister’s endorsement of the political insurgency threatening the Morrison government’s parliamentary majority comes as the Climate 200 organisation – which is bankrolling independents challenging Liberal incumbents in their urban heartlands –has amassed an election war chest of more than $4m.


Katharine Murphy Political editor

The GuardianTramp

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