Gladys forced to defend relationship with Maguire
The former premier of NSW, Gladys Berejiklian will appear before ICAC on Friday, where the onus will be on her to demonstrate that she did not exhibit a conflict of interest during the process for the awarding of grants to the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga.
During the period when these grants were processed Ms Berejiklian is alleged to have been in a close personal relationship with the member for Wagga, Daryl Maguire.
On Tuesday, Ms Berejiklian’s former chief of staff, Sue Cruikshank, told ICAC that in 2018, after Mr Maguire had admitted to corruption at a public ICAC hearing, the premier had rung her and told her that she had had an historic relationship with Mr Maguire.
Last week and earlier this week former colleagues of Ms Berejiklian, former premier Mike Baird, current deputy premier Stuart Ayres, and former deputy premier John Barilaro, testified that Ms Berejiklian had failed to disclose her relationship but that at no time had she exhibited any special support or influence in relation to the Wagga projects. In fact she had always supported the consensus view, even when it had entailed rejection of the ACTA project.
On Thursday, Daryl Maguire gave evidence about his relationship with Ms Berejiklian. This was preceded by a motion by the premier’s lawyers asking that this evidence be heard behind closed doors. However, counsel assisting ICAC, Scott Robertson, pointed out that Ms Berejiklian had given interviews to the Nine newspapers in which she had disclosed intimate personal details of the relationship, so there was no point to privacy now. The application was refused.
During his evidence, Mr Maguire said that the relationship with Ms Berejiklian had lasted from 2014 to 2019. He said that from 2015 the relationship had been close and that he and Ms Berejiklian had holidayed together and discussed having a child. However, h declined to confirm that he and Ms Berejiklian had informally discussed the grants process for the Wagga projects.
However, in the course of cross-examination Mr Robertson played a phone intercept of Mr Maguire talking to Ms Berejiklian during which she said Wagga was going to get “bags full of money”.
She will no doubt be asked about this on Friday.
There appears to be little doubt that Ms Berejiklian breached the ministerial code of conduct by failing to disclose her relationship with Mr Maguire.
However, there appears to be some doubt as to how long that relationship persisted. If ICAC finds that she breached the code, the former premier may suffer some reputational damage, but it will be very limited. Beyond that, the fact that she has resigned means that there can be no further sanction.
Beyond that, it is not clear that Ms Berejiklian has been guilty of any breach of public trust in dealing with any matters involving her public duties.
Nor has ICAC produced any evidence that she was aware of any reportable corruption on the part of Mr Maguire.
Depending on the former premier’s evidence on Friday, she should be exonerated of anything resembling corruption and go on to live a long life of service to the public without significant blemish.