Gladys Berejiklian (born 22 September 1970) is an Australian politician serving as the 45th and current Premier of New South Wales and the Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, offices which she assumed on 23 January 2017 following the resignation of Mike Baird. She has been a member of the New South Wales Legislative Assembly since 2003, representing the seat of Willoughby.
Before becoming Premier, Berejiklian was the Treasurer of New South Wales and Minister for Industrial Relations in the second Baird government, and Minister for Transport in the O'Farrell and first Baird governments. She was also the Deputy Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party between 2014 and 2017. On 23 March 2019, she was re-elected as Premier of New South Wales when the Liberal National coalition won the 2019 state election.
Early years and background
Berejiklian was born in Sydney, the eldest of three daughters born to Armenian immigrant parents, Krikor and Arsha. Her grandparents were orphaned in the Armenian Genocide in 1915. Berejiklian spoke only Armenian until she was five years old, when she began learning English. She has remained involved in the Armenian-Australian community, serving a term on the Armenian National Committee of Australia. In 2015, she attended a commemoration ceremony in Yerevan for the 100th anniversary of the Armenian Genocide.
Berejiklian attended North Ryde High School, which became Peter Board High School from 1986, a public, co-educational school in North Ryde. She was a member of Girl Guides and continues to support the organisation. She has a Bachelor of Arts (1992) and a graduate diploma in international studies (1996) from the University of Sydney and a Masters in Commerce from the University of New South Wales (2001). She joined the Liberal Party in 1993 and was president of the New South Wales Young Liberals from 1997 to 1998, being the third female president in its history. She also served as a Delegate to State Council (1996–2003), Urban Representative of the NSW Liberal Party State Executive (1997–2003), Campaign Director for State seat of Willoughby (1999) and Chair of Convention Committee (2002). Berejiklian also worked for Peter Collins and Senator Helen Coonan and the Commonwealth Bank as general manager, Youth Retail Banking and Government & Industry Affairs.
Berejiklian supports the Australian republican movement.
Berejiklian won Liberal preselection for Willoughby in 2003 when former Opposition Leader Peter Collins, who had represented the Willoughby area since 1981, decided to retire. Willoughby has historically been a comfortably safe Liberal seat even by northern Sydney standards; counting its time as Middle Harbour, it has been held by the Liberals, their predecessors or a conservative independent for all but one term since 1927. However, she faced a spirited challenge from Pat Reilly, the longtime mayor of the City of Willoughby, who nearly took the seat on Labor preferences. Ultimately, Berejiklian won by 144 votes, with the Liberals suffering a swing of 10.9 points. However, Berejiklian easily saw off a rematch with O'Reilly after picking up a healthy swing of 14.5 points, enough to revert Willoughby to its traditional status as a comfortably safe Liberal seat. She hasn't faced a serious challenge since, with Labor often being pushed into third place.
Berejiklian joined the front bench in 2005 as Shadow Minister for Mental Health and was appointed to the opposition front bench portfolio of Transport by Peter Debnam in 2006. Following the 2007 State election, she was given the shadow portfolio of Citizenship by Opposition Leader O'Farrell in his Shadow Ministry.
Following the election of the O'Farrell government at the 2011 state election, on 3 April 2011 Berejiklian was appointed Transport Minister. The major achievements in her term as Minister for Transport include the extension of the Sydney Light Rail Dulwich Hill Line from Lilyfield to Dulwich Hill; the phased introduction of the Opal card; and commencement of construction of the North West Rail Link. She was also Transport Minister at the time the NSW government stopped trains running to Newcastle Station, which now terminate at Wickham. The former rail corridor has now been re-zoned by Newcastle City Council and a proportion of that land is expected to be sold.
On 17 April 2014, Mike Baird was elected Leader of the New South Wales Liberal Party, and hence Premier, following the resignation of Barry O'Farrell. Berejiklian was elected as Baird's deputy. In a subsequent ministerial reshuffle, in addition to her existing responsibilities, on 23 April 2014 Berejiklian was sworn in as the Minister for the Hunter.
Berejiklian was appointed as Treasurer of New South Wales and Minister for Industrial Relations following a cabinet reshuffle announced on 1 April 2015 by Premier Baird, after the 2015 state election. As Treasurer, Berejiklian oversaw New South Wales's return to surplus. This was the first time New South Wales had been declared debt-free in more than 20 years. She also oversaw the part-privatisation of the state's electricity network.
Premier of New South Wales
Following the resignation of Mike Baird as NSW Liberal leader and Premier on 19 January 2017, Berejiklian announced her intention to succeed him as the leader of the Liberal Party, and hence to become the 45th Premier of New South Wales. Baird endorsed Berejiklian as his successor, declaring that she would be "an outstanding Premier... No doubt about it." A deal was struck between the moderate, centre-right, and right factions of the Liberal Party, facilitating the moderate Berejiklian's rise to the leadership, with conservative Dominic Perrottet as her deputy. The next day, ministers Andrew Constance and Rob Stokes—Berejiklian's only serious leadership challengers—decided not to contest the leadership, and instead opted to endorse Berejiklian. This left Berejiklian to take the leadership unopposed at the ensuing leadership contest held on 23 January. She was duly sworn in as Premier later that day, becoming the second woman to hold the post. The first was Labor's Kristina Keneally, who served in the position from 2009 to 2011.
In October 2018, Berejiklian permitted advertising for The Everest stakes to be projected onto the sails of the Sydney Opera House (a move spearheaded by radio broadcaster Alan Jones), drawing widespread condemnation and criticism from many in the community, with a poll declaring that 80% of respondents opposed this decision.
2019 New South Wales state election
Berejiklian led the Coalition into the 2019 state election, becoming the second woman to take a major party into an election in NSW. With polls showing the race at a knife-edge, the Coalition suffered a swing of six seats, cutting its numbers down to 48 seats, a bare majority of two. This made Berejiklian the third woman elected as a state premier in Australia, after Anna Bligh and Annastacia Palaszczuk from Queensland, and the first non-Labor woman to lead a party to a state election victory in Australia.