Sun, 17 May, 2020

Lisa Wilkinson’s tough question for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

Lisa Wilkinson’s tough question for NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian

It was an interview that was largely focused on how New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian handled the coronavirus crisis.

But a question from Lisa Wilkinson on a completely unrelated subject led to a surprising answer from the Premier – and left viewers confused and divided.

NSW has recorded 3074 confirmed cases of COVID-19 with 47 deaths – both of these numbers are the highest Australia has seen during the pandemic.

Sitting down with the Sunday Project, Berejiklian addressed a number of issues, even admitting that the state had “made mistakes”, referring to the docking of the coronavirus-infested Ruby Princess cruise ship.

She said she also found it difficult to sleep given the “life and death” decisions her government had to make and her top fear was a second wave.

What raised eyebrows though was her response to questions from Wilkinson about whether politics was a “boys’ club”.

Though, the Premier refused to answer the question, saying she “chose not to comment on those matters”.

“I want people to reflect on my performance as the Premier and as the leader.”

But Wilkinson didn’t back down. She mentioned that former deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop had said many men in politics seemed to be suffering from “gender deafness” when it came to women, but that she only said that after she left politics.

Wilkinson pushed the question that if a change had to be made, shouldn’t you call it out when it’s happening?

Berejiklian said she “disagreed” with the statement.

“I think the best way to deal with those stereotypes and those comments is to do a good job, in your job. If I do a good job as a Premier, the stereotype about what leadership looks like changes.”

But viewers at home were not happy. Some said it was “frustrating” she hadn’t opened up more on sexism in politics with one person saying her answer was a “coward’s response”.

Others thought Wilkinson’s line of question was “cringe”.

When it came to the coronavirus crisis, Berejiklian found it easier to answer the questions – even if she was being asked how the state responded.

She admitted the disembarkation of the Ruby Princess ship wasn’t the state’s finest moment.

“There no doubt mistakes have been made during this process and not just on that issue – quite a few. A lot in NSW, a lot elsewhere.”

But the Ruby Princess wasn’t solely NSW’s fault, she said.

“State governments have never been involved in border protection. This was a new phenomena for us. That incident did change the federal-state protocols around border protection and what each jurisdiction needs to do.”

Berejiklian said avoiding a second wave was top on her list of worries.

“On the Richter scale of my concern, from one to 10, it would be a 10. Not so much of the ferocity of a second wave but because we've been lulled into a sense of complacency.

“The virus is as dangerous; is as deadly. You feel very guilty when you've had to shut down the economy and people have lost their jobs.”

Then the questions got personal, with Wilkinson asking what time Berejiklian had been going to bed, given the pressure of the situation.

But the Premier said going to sleep wasn’t the hard part.

“The difficult thing is staying asleep because the mind's always going.

“I used to say to my colleagues, ‘don't stress unless it's life and death’. In a pandemic, it is life and death.

“I never used to worry about my health and mental health but I do now because I have to make decisions that will affect a lot of people.”

She stressed, however, that it wasn’t the Government that should be praised for making tough decisions – it was the public for following through with them.

“I think we have coped more than we thought. I didn't think I'd cope without seeing my sisters and my parents; but you do.”