Our pollies lost a lot of paint over the year
From poorly timed holidays to a cruise ship COVID debacle, Anna Caldwell ranks NSW's biggest political prangs, dings, and just plain wrecks of 2020.
1. THAT moment on the ICAC witness stand
"Ms Berejiklian have you ever been in a close personal relationship with Mr Maguire?"
The October 12 exchange between ICAC counsel assisting Scott Robertson and Gladys Berejiklian is now such a watershed moment in NSW politics, it is a conversation starter - "where were you when you found out about Gladys?"
Like the death of Princess Diana, or 9/11, the unravelling of the Premier's reputation for being a stickler for the rules has become a where-were-you moment in NSW political history.
Let's be clear on one thing. This was never about the Premier having a secret boyfriend. The shock and horror goes to questions of ministerial standards and integrity. The unravelling only continued in the weeks afterwards where the Premier, so set in her own belief she never put a foot wrong, refused to answer entirely valid questions about what she knew and when she knew it about Maguire's alleged corruption.
The spin from the Premier and her backers of a naive woman duped was not just a car crash moment for Gladys, but one for women everywhere. The suggestion Ms process-driven, rules-following Berejiklian had the wool pulled over her eyes by Dodgy Daryl because she was too loved up will not just be a 2020 car crash but one for the hall of fame.
Of course, car crashes can have heroes too and so special mention to Robertson whose unflinching interrogation unearthed the biggest story of the year.
2. The Minister for beach pads' interview pontificating on the joys of sea air
Now known as the Minister for Pearl Beach, Don Harwin's flight of fancy to the central coast at peak isolation stations was a big old blunder. It was only made worse by his bumbling interview with The Daily Telegraph on his beach house lawn, explaining that he preferred the fresh air of the sea and the room to stretch out in his beach pad which his pricey Potts Point apartment just didn't afford.
Oh, and he'd let Gladys know where he was too.
The very same Gladys who had been out with Police Commissioner Mick Fuller telling everyone to not do exactly that. Harwin gets the prize for the most out of touch political interview of 2020. And a side note, a most valuable player award here for Fuller who seemed to be the only person who understood you can't tell the public to do one thing and let a footloose Minister do another.
3; Looking the other way while 2700 Covid-exposed holiday makers wandered off the Ruby Princess
The biggest NSW bungle of the pandemic, made worse only by Gladys Berejiklian trying her darnedest to blame the Feds for
She told reporters and her own party room that it was definitely, positively, absolutely the fault of those border force folk in Canberra. Interesting take, but the official report months later laid "inexcusable and unjustifiable" failings a the feet of NSW health and linked more than 900 COVID-19 cases and 28 deaths to the ship.
4. Constance's Canberra craving - derailed by the c-word
Move over Mal Meninga, 2020 brought a new candidate for history's shortest political campaign. Andrew Constance went out all guns blazing to bring his special brand of "I'm above politics" to Canberra in his brief (that's generous) tilt for Eden Monaro. In less than 24 hours, he'd dropped out. But the true car crash moment was blaming news that his colleague John Barilaro had been caught calling him a four letter expletive beginning with C. It seemed to be the political version of the dog ate my homework excuse and none of Constance's colleagues really bought the reasoning. The sad truth is that if you can't cop a four-letter word in politics, you're in the wrong career, and we know Constance is made of tougher stuff than that.
While we're on Constance, a special mention for ordering 10
ferries which don't pass under bridges with passengers seated on the top deck.
5. Ministerial Nudity in Potts Point
In any other year, a naked families minister knocking on his neighbours' doors would be rewarded with the prefix "former" in front of their title. But Gareth Ward's colleagues think he's a like a cat with nine lives and the biggest beneficiary of the pandemic. Saved by the COVID news cycle, Ward lives to fight another political year but that story of "reeking of alcohol" and two Potts Point nudie runs on the same night will be the stuff of political legend.
6. COVID goody-two-shoes in chief failing to isolate after a test
Gladys Berejiklian failing to isolate after a COVID test still defies belief, even in 2020 when nothing much seemed to make sense. Berejiklian had staked her entire reputation on being a "stickler for process". She even used the self-descriptor when she was protesting allegations of impropriety post ICAC. Then, suddenly, she wasn't anymore - having a COVID test after losing her voice then promptly proceeding to carry out meetings as usual.
Capped off with a train wreck interview with Nine's Karl Stefanovic where she twirled her umbrella and smiled sweetly while struggling to admit she'd broken the rules, it's a moment the Premier would rather forget but no one else will.
No one's durs come out unscathed here. Not even the koalas. Safe to say the likes of John Barilaro, Rob Stokes, Paul Toole have no interest in so much as partaking in the sampling of a Caramello Koala over the holidays for the traumatic reliving of their botched attempt to balance the rights of koalas and landowners.
8. The perils of loyalty and live TV
Poor Stuart Ayres did the honourable thing one hectic week in November, filling in for his waylaid colleague Matt Kean on ABC's weekly political talk fest Q&A. It just so happened this also coincided with news of Berejiklian's disregard for the rules of COVID test. Ayres, ever a loyal lieutenant, tried in vain to defend the indefensible for his leader. In the process dangerously rewrote the COVID rules, saying people without symptoms don't need to isolate post test. Sometimes loyalty gets you nowhere guys.
9. Mark Speakman's ill-fated attempt into drug reform
The Attorney-General briefly seemed to think he was the Minister getting high when he told his cabinet colleagues that NSW should let drug users off with a warning in the first instance in a dramatic softening of the state's drug laws. Cue angry conservatives and if there's one indisputable factional rule of NSW politics it's that there ain't no blow-up like a conservative blow-up.
10. One way flight to political error
Scott Morrison's frolic to Hawaii in what can only be described as the Worst Possible Time wasn't enough to deter NSW emergency services Minister David Elliott from taking his own trip to London just after Christmas. Morrison could have told him how that movie ended, with Elliott having to turn back around basically at the airport as NSW burnt.
11. Whingeing in cabinet about your grades
Everyone knows whingeing about your marks in school gets you nowhere, but in her years of political experience Local Government Minister Shelley Hancock seems to have forgotten. Turns out she wasn't too happy with her grade of "Z" in the Cabinet report card published in Friday's Daily Telegraph. So much so, Hancock apparently saw it fit to use a NSW cabinet meeting to have a whinge about it.
Hancock announced to her colleagues that the grades were unfair and proclaimed she and fellow failed student Harwin only received such a low grade because "we don't talk to journalists". Never mind the fact that she was slow off the mark about the debacle of the Central Coast Council despite ongoing warning signs which should have spurred earlier action. We could consider upgrading you from Z to W for whinger, but the better option would be for you to impress on policy.
Better luck next year.
Originally published as Our pollies lost a lot of paint over the year