NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has sensationally announced she will be resigning after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) confirmed it will hold a public inquiry into a potential breach of public trust.
She called the decision "extremely difficult" and said it could not occur at a worse time as the state juggles a daunting Delta outbreak with reopening from lockdown.
Ms Berejiklian, who appeared close to tears at times, questioned the timing of ICAC's decision during the state's "most challenging time in the state's history".
"That is ICAC's prerogative," she said.
She will also quit NSW parliament. She will do so once a by-election can be held for her seat.
"Resigning at this time is against every instinct in my being and is something I do not want to do. I love my job and I love serving the community," Ms Berejiklian said.
“I have been given no option following the statement that has been issued today."
She said continuing in the role would prove to be too much of a distraction as the state navigates its way through a vital stage of the pandemic.
Ms Berejiklian declined to take questions from the media.
The anti-corruption watchdog announced earlier on Friday it was investigating whether Ms Berejiklian was in a position of conflict between her public duties and private relationship with former MP Daryl Maguire.
She will be questioned on grants awarded or promised to the Australian Clay Target Association in Wagga Wagga and to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga when Mr Maguire was the local member.
The public hearing will commence on October 18.
Berejiklian reveals 'only regret'
Ms Berejiklian told reporters she has "always acted with the highest level of integrity" and said she must follow the standard she set fellow ministers in which they should resign until their name is cleared if facing such investigations.
Ms Berejiklian, 51, has been Premier of NSW since 2017. She will remain in the role until her successor is appointed.
She said her "only regret" from her tenure is not being able to finish the state's transition to a Covid normal life.
"Finally, thank you again for giving me the honour of being your Premier. Thank you very much," she finished.
Ms Berejiklian is not the first Liberal premier to resign over an ICAC inquiry. Barry O'Farrell famously stepped down in 2014 after failing to declare a $3,000 bottle of wine he had received.
Scott Morrison calls Berejiklian 'heroic'
Prime Minister Scott Morrison addressed Ms Berejiklian's resignation at a press conference in Canberra where he announced the commencement of international travel next month.
He paid tribute to her saying she held "heroic" qualities.
"Gladys is a dear friend of mine. We've known each other for a long time," Mr Morrison told reporters in Canberra.
"She has displayed heroic qualities, heroic qualities as the premier of New South Wales."
He said she had been trusted and respected by the people of NSW.
"We have been working closely together as governments," Mr Morrison said.
"I would expect nothing other than an absolute continuity of the pace and the leadership that we've seen from New South Wales."
Former New South Wales Auditor-General Tony Harris said he welcomed her resignation but said he was "disappointed" she did not acknowledge the gravity of allegations put against her.
"The way the Premier described her departure, that she always acted with integrity, that she always acted in the interests of the state, are demonstrably wrong in my view," he told the ABC.
Mr Harris said he believes the Liberal party will appoint Treasurer Dominic Perrottet as the next premier.
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