'Very sad': PM criticises ICAC over Gladys Berejiklian resignation

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Prime Minister Scott Morrison has spoken publicly for the first time about the dramatic resignation of NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian

The premier suddenly resigned on Friday under a cloud of corruption, announcing the decision just hours after the state's Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) revealed it was launching an investigation into a potential breach of trust by the premier. 

Ms Berejiklian will be questioned over grants awarded to community organisations while allegedly being involved in a secret relationship with a member of her government who at the time represented electorates where the grants were directed.

She will quit NSW parliament once a by-election can be held for her seat.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said he was "very sad" to see his Liberal colleague step down from the top job in NSW politics. 

"I am totally grateful for the work that Gladys has done as premier. I worked very closely with her over a very long period of time, back when she was treasurer and even before that," he told Sunrise on Tuesday morning. 

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks to the media during a press conference to announce her resignation on Friday. Source: Getty
NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian speaks to the media during a press conference to announce her resignation on Friday. Source: Getty

"I join with the many thousands, if not millions of people from New South Wales, who are very sad that she has had to step down."

Mr Morrison's government has for years resisted a strong anti-corruption body at the federal level of politics, and took a shot at the independent watchdog in NSW which is now investigating Ms Berejiklian.

"You have got to have processes that assume people are innocent before they are thought to be guilty. 

"That is a real problem," he said.

"It is not a model we have ever contemplated at a federal level ... We have a set of arrangements at a federal level that can be built upon, but certainly not going down that path."

Mr Morrison promised a federal version of ICAC in late 2018 but to date no legislation has been tabled by the federal government. 

"I'm sure there are millions of people who saw what happened to Gladys Berejiklian and understand that was a pretty good call not to follow that model," Mr Morrison said. 

Could Gladys Berejiklian run for federal politics? 

Earlier this week, The Guardian reported that senior Liberal figures approached Ms Berejiklian to run for the federal seat of Warringah, previously held by former prime minister Tony Abbott. 

It was a possibility the prime minister would not discount on Tuesday morning, saying she still had a lot to offer public life.

"I know she has a lot more to contribute, there are many ways I'm sure she can do that," he told the program. 

"I'm sure she will set out what she would like to do next but I'm quite certain the people of New South Wales would love to see her contributing in one way or another."

Flowers and signs are left by members of the public for Gladys Berejiklian outside her Northbridge office. Source: Getty
Flowers and signs are left by members of the public for Gladys Berejiklian outside her Northbridge office. Source: Getty

Host David Koch continued to prod. 

"So, when she is ready, you will have a chat and say what you think of Canberra?" he asked.

"That is really up to Gladys about what she wants to do next," Mr Morrison continued.

"We have a proper selection process in our party, and there are many different ways, they don't necessarily need to be in the Parliament. But I respect Gladys taking the time."

NSW Transport Minister Andrew Constance is also leaving state politics for a run at the federal level and has strongly backed the idea of Ms Berejiklian doing the same. 

On Monday, NSW deputy premier John Barilaro also suddenly resigned

Conservative-aligned state treasurer Dominic Perrottet is tipped to take over the top job as premier, but challengers remain.

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