If any other Australian leader had given the sort of evidence Gladys Berejiklian did to the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday, they'd probably have been out of their position by the end of the day.
The NSW Premier was protected, in the immediate term, in part because the disclosures about her five-year secret relationship with the disgraced former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire seemed so bizarrely out of character with her unsullied past and apparent conservatism in her private life.
Also, she has been a highly competent premier, especially during COVID-19. The pandemic fireproofed her.
Her political performance this year is certainly one reason the Prime Minister is standing with her. As Scott Morrison has said repeatedly, NSW has set the "gold standard" during the coronavirus crisis.
But Berejiklian's personal and political reputation should not obscure the seriousness of her actions, or rather her inactions, in relation to Maguire.
She didn't just make a bad judgment about a suboptimal boyfriend, which can be written off as having "stuffed up" her personal life. She made a series of decisions that were inappropriate.
When in 2015 she changed the nature of her relationship with the then-member for Wagga Wagga from friendship to a "close personal" one, she failed to disclose this to colleagues.
Her supporters say her private life is no one else's business. If her relationship had been with the plumber down the street who was unconnected with government, that would be absolutely correct. It's another matter when those involved are a senior minister, who then became premier, and one of her party's MPs.
The Premier could affect the fortunes of the MP; the MP could use the relationship, even if undeclared, to further his own interests by suggesting he could deliver access.
As Berejiklian has said, there is nothing wrong per se with two members of parliament having a personal relationship. But, given the position of one of them, in this case it should have been put on the record - at least to cabinet colleagues.
When Maguire fell foul of ICAC in 2018, Berejiklian should have belatedly admitted to the relationship, informing senior colleagues, so there would be no time bombs. Certainly she should immediately have broken off the connection with Maguire, rather than continue it until this year, when he was back in ICAC's sights.
Most compromising, however, is the material captured by phone taps of Maguire's conversations with Berejiklian.
Maguire told her of his lobbying for developers. The activities referred to might not have been illegal - Berejiklian makes the point MPs are allowed to engage in business - but for any premier they would be very uncomfortable.
Berejiklian certainly seemed uncomfortable and on two occasions said "I don't need to know".
She explains her apparent dismissiveness of what Maguire was saying as boredom with his big-noting that mostly came to nothing. It sounded, however, more like she did not want him to give her information she preferred not to receive.
In evidence on Friday, Maguire, questioned about land near Badgerys Creek, admitted he "limited the information" he gave her if he believed it could "cause her difficulties", in terms of conflict of interest. He agreed there were bits of information about his activities she didn't want to know.
Imagine the reaction if Morrison had given such evidence as Berejiklian did, or had been embarrassed by such tapes.
The line that everyone makes mistakes in their private life - "people have all made personal decisions I'm sure they regret, that's human", Morrison says - won't wash.
Berejiklian can be forgiven for initially being taken in by Maguire. But persisting with the relationship after he was found out is surely harder, if not impossible, to justify, regardless of her explanation he was in a "very dark place". After all, she removed him from the Liberal Party and pushed for his resignation from Parliament in 2018.
To maintain that different, tougher standards are applied to women leaders may often be true, but it doesn't fit this instance. If anything, she is being given a softer run.
Morrison has said it would be "a bit of a numpty of a decision" to replace her.
Malcolm Turnbull praised her integrity, said she'd excelled in leadership this year, and observed: "Let's be frank - leaders of her calibre are not easily found."
If the point is the alternatives wouldn't do as good a job, that might be a valid argument on strictly utilitarian grounds (although if she survives, this scandal will make it much more difficult for her to govern effectively).
Yes, she'd be hard to replace. But this shouldn't be confused with a clear-eyed view about the ethical shortcomings in her behaviour over Maguire.
In recent decades we've seen declining trust in political institutions. The pandemic has led people to reattach to these institutions and all Australian leaders - Morrison and premiers - have seen their ratings rise.
What we don't yet know is whether trust in general will again plummet when the pandemic subsides.
If politicians seem to be holding their noses when there's the whiff of impropriety or corruption in the air, they are trifling with the public's trust in them and in the political system. They're treating the electorate with disdain.
The ICAC hearings have reinforced the case for a federal integrity body. But the reactions of Liberal politicians show why they want it relatively toothless.
It is not being suggested Berejiklian, whose leadership hangs by a thread, has personally engaged in wrongdoing; her ICAC appearance was as a witness in an investigation into Maguire's alleged wrongdoing.
But on what we've heard this week, she has fallen short of the standards that should be expected of a premier. Federal and state colleagues who are defending her are being tribal or expedient or both.
- Michelle Grattan is a press gallery journalist and former editor of The Canberra Times. She is a professorial fellow at the University of Canberra and writes for The Conversation, where her columns also appear.