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Gladys Berejiklian determined to tough out scandal of secret relationship with disgraced former MP

Written by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has admitted having a secret intimate relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire, which she only ended recently, despite his being forced to quit state parliament in 2018.

Berejiklian’s explosive appearance on Monday at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption saw her personal life embarrassingly exposed, her political reputation thrown under a cloud, and her future put on the line.

ICAC, which is investigating whether Maguire sought to monetise his position as an MP between 2012 and 2018, heard damaging taped phones conversations between him and Berejiklian in which he spoke extensively of his lobbying on behalf of developers. He also talked about his concerns over his huge debts, which he said amounted to $1.5 million.

Daryl Maguire walking, followed by press

AAP

Maguire, who was a parliamentary secretary and member for Wagga Wagga, was forced to quit in 2018 after an earlier ICAC inquiry, which heard recordings of him seeking payment to help broker a deal with a Chinese property developer. This prompted a byelection that the Berejiklian government lost to an independent.

The premier’s colleagues and observers of NSW politics are gobsmacked at the revelation of Berejiklian’s “close personal relationship” with Maguire. There had been no whisper until her disclosure of it on Monday morning.

The relationship began in 2015 and lasted until after she gave evidence privately to ICAC in August.

After her evidence, Berejiklian told a news conference late Monday: “I stuffed up in my personal life”. But she said she wouldn’t consider resigning from her position because she had done nothing wrong.

She said she had trusted Maguire, whom she had known for 15 years, but she had not told her family or friends of their relationship because it didn’t have “sufficient status”.

Berejiklian said she had sacked Maguire from the Liberal party and engaged others to press him to leave parliament. But she hadn’t broken with him earlier because he was “in a very dark place”. “I didn’t feel that I could stop being his friend during that time, rightly or wrongly, on compassionate grounds.”

She told reporters she always applied the “highest level of integrity” in doing her public job.

The phone taps indicated Maguire was considering whether to resign at the 2019 election if he was in a financial position to do so. Berejiklian admitted to the hearing that she had thought if that happened, they could be in a position to make their relationship public.

In one of their phone conversations, Berejiklian said to Maguire: “You will always be my numero uno.” She told the hearing this showed “in my personal life I placed importance on how I felt about him”.

Berejiklian repeatedly stressed to the hearing she had taken no interest in Maguire’s financial affairs or his business activities, although he constantly referred to them in the phone conversations.

She said he was always talking about deals, but they then fell through. She always thought Maguire had made the appropriate disclosures.

On one occasion, she flagged to him that her chief of staff planned to call him to tell him a minister visiting China would raise a business matter Maguire was involved in.

In some calls she sounded anxious to distance herself from the details.

In one phone conversation, Maguire referred to “my little friend” and said, “you know my little friend?” Berejiklian replied, “Not really. I don’t need to know.”

In relation to a deal involving land owned by Louise Waterhouse, from the racing family, near Badgerys Creek, Maguire asked if she had received an email from Waterhouse. When she said no, he said, “You will, she’ll send you an email. She’s really pissed off now, you know, about the airport. They’re all passing the buck.”

In September 2017 he told her, “It looks like we finally got the Badgerys Creek stuff done … I’ll make enough money to pay off my debts, which will be good.” He added, “Can you believe it, in one sale?”

In a subsequent conversation about the deal, Berejiklian said, “I don’t need to know about that bit.”

The hearing went into private session twice to listen to tapes which were considered too private to be played publicly.

Berejiklian stressed to ICAC she would never compromise her public position: “I would never turn a blind eye to any responsibility that I had to any wrongdoing that I saw.”

She emphasised she was an independent woman with her own finances. “Anybody else’s finances would be completely immaterial to me,” she said.

He colleagues are standing by her, at least at the moment. The NSW Opposition said she should resign. Maguire gives evidence on Tuesday.

This article by Michelle Grattan, Professorial Fellow, University of Canberra, originally published on The Conversation is licensed under Creative Commons 4.0 International(CC BY-ND 4.0).

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