Prime Minister Scott Morrison has lauded the “heroic” qualities of Gladys Berejiklian, who has resigned as NSW premier after the launch of a corruption investigation into her.
Mr Morrison led the tributes to Ms Berejiklian on Friday as the pair gave simultaneous news conferences.
“Gladys is a dear friend of mine. We’ve known each other for a long time,” he said.
“She has displayed heroic qualities, heroic qualities as the premier of NSW.”
He said she had been trusted and respected by the people of NSW.
“I find her to be a person of integrity, and a person that works hard for her state.”
Mr Morrison said he would continue to work closely with the next premier after reeling off a list of senior state ministers the federal government had collaborated with on pandemic issues.
“I would expect nothing other than an absolute continuity of the pace and the leadership that we’ve seen from NSW.”
Ms Berejiklian has resigned as state Liberal leader and will leave parliament when a byelection for her seat of Willoughby can be held.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether she breached public trust in awarding grants to several community organisations between 2012 and 2018.
It relates to Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire.
Another tribute for the departing premier came from the man considered the front-runner to replace her: NSW Treasurer Dominic Perrottet.
“Today is an incredibly sad day for NSW,” he said.
“I would like to offer my gratitude and thanks to Gladys Berejiklian for the leadership and strength she has shown throughout her career and especially during one of the most challenging periods any leader could ever encounter.
“Over the coming days, I will be talking to my family and colleagues about how I can best serve the people of NSW.”
Other contenders for the NSW Liberal leadership reportedly include Jobs and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres, Planning Minister Rob Stokes and Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean. Transport Minister Andrew Constance is also reportedly in the mix.
NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro said Ms Berejiklian had led the state “through some of its darkest days”.
“Everyone has the right to defend their name and I wish Gladys all the best for her future,” he said.
There were also tributes for Ms Berejiklian from federal politicians on Friday, including Deputy Prime Minister Barnaby Joyce. He said there were many reasons for her resignation but creating clear air for her colleagues was one of the most prominent.
“Politics is a brutal profession and today has been especially hard for the premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian,” he said.
“It is very sad to lose such an outstanding individual, whose decency has been evident since she was first elected to the seat of Willoughby.”
The Nationals leader said Ms Berejiklian had done an exceptional job.
Federal Opposition Leader Anthony Albanese said Ms Berejiklian had higher integrity standards than Mr Morrison.
“It is now more than 1000 days since Scott Morrison promised to have a national anti-corruption body,” he said.
“Well tick tock, Mr Morrison. We need a national anti-corruption commission, one with teeth, one that operates independently of government, is able to conduct its own inquiries.”
Victorian Labor Premier Daniel Andrews noted his close working relationship with Ms Berejiklian.
“I find her to be a person of integrity and a person that works hard for her state and has been a very important partner for us,” he said.
Former federal treasurer and NSW MP Joe Hockey said the resignation was an “absolute tragedy”.
“She has been the best political leader Australia has seen in years, taking the state through drought, bushfires and COVID,” he tweeted.
“ICAC again pulls down a fine premier for something other than corruption.”
The ICAC’s public hearings will begin on October 18. It said in a statement on Friday that it would investigate whether Ms Berejiklian “exercised public functions” in a position of conflict between her public duties and private relationship with Mr Maguire, revealed in late 2020.