But a question from Lisa Wilkinson on a completely unrelated matter led to a surprising answer from the Premier – and left viewers confused and divided.
NSW has recorded 3075 confirmed cases of coronavirus with 47 lives lost – both figures are Australia’s highest when it comes to the pandemic. Although, on Sunday, the state recorded just one new case.
During the Sunday Project interview, Ms Berejiklian spoke on a range of issues, including conceding the state had “made mistakes”, particularly around the docking of the COVID-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.
RELATED: Follow the latest coronavirus updates
What raised eyebrows though was her response to questions from Wilkinson about whether politics was a “boys club”.
The Premier refused to answer, 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 wasn’t letting the subject go. She mentioned that former deputy Liberal leader Julie Bishop had said that 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.
If you want change to be effective, asked Wilkinson, shouldn’t you call it out when it’s happening?
Ms 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.”
Ms Berejiklian was asked if she had seen one of the most famous speeches in Australian political history – then Prime Minister Julia Gillard’s 2012 “misogyny speech”.
Ms Gillard directed her speech at opposition leader Tony Abbott and memorably said: “I will not be lectured about sexism and misogyny by this man; I will not”.
An ABC News video of the speech has been watched 3.4 million times – but apparently not by the NSW Premier.
“I don’t see the speech; I saw the commentary”.
She refused to say if she was “cheering for”, as Wilkinson put it, for Ms Gillard or Mr Abbott’s during the speech.
“I respect any woman who speaks her mind, as do I any man who speaks their mind”.
Shock jock Alan Jones has on numerous occasions being accused of misogyny, not least against Ms Gillard. He has given Ms Berejiklian a tough time on his show.
She said she “respected anyone that gets to the top of their profession”.
But was she “appalled” at some of Jones’ previous comments, asked Wilkinson?
“We need to have complete consistency and call this out at all times, at all levels. I think people tend to use gender politics, in whichever way, for motives which aren’t always pure.”
Some viewers were astounded Ms Berejiklian said she hadn’t watched Ms Gillard’s famous speech, there was disbelief that could really be the case.
Others side it was “frustrating” she hadn’t commented more on sexism in politics. One viewer said her answers were a “coward’s response”.
But on social media some comments were not complimentary of Wilkinson’s line of questioning either. One said it was “cringe”.
Gladys Berejiklian didnt watch Gillards misogyny speech!!! This is an amazing interview by Lisa Wilkinson!
— Paul Karp (@Paul_Karp) May 17, 2020
Drives me to frustration when women in power refuse to comment about gender gaps, as though ignoring it makes things better for the women who don’t have their privilege. #TheProjectTV
— Isobel Ardent (@isobelardent) May 17, 2020
As if she hasn’t watched Julia Gillard’s speech. Ridiculous statement. #TheProjectTV
— tina pratt (@tmc071) May 17, 2020
While I respect NSW Premier @GladysB on many issues, I found her interview on #TheProjectTV tonight very confusing, as she refused to answer so many questions. Sadly, it made her come across as … a politician. #auspol #nswpol
— Peter Murphy (@PeterWMurphy1) May 17, 2020
@Lisa_Wilkinson interview with Gladys was just so cringe. Tried so hard to bait her into a man hating dialogue. Give it a rest Lisa, there’s faux outrage here. #TheProjectTV #auspol #qanda @theprojecttv #corona
— Lopez_o1 (@Lopezo110) May 17, 2020
MADE MISTAKES AROUND COVID-19
When it came to the coronavirus crisis, Ms Berejiklian was on more comfortable ground – even if questions continue to be raised over aspect of the state’s response.
Asked by Wilkinson if she thought NSW has “screwed up” the disembarkation of the Ruby Princess that saw 700 people with COVID-19 dock in Sydney, Ms Berejiklian conceded it 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.”
Ms Berejiklian said avoiding a second wave was top of 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.”
She said any thought of balancing the state budget was out: “That’s just not going to happen”.
When Wilkinson asked at what time she had been getting to bed, given the pressures of the crisis, Ms Berejiklian said the difficulty wasn’t that.
“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.”