Gladys Berejiklian’s answers to ICAC counsel Scott Robertson have tested the patience of the commissioner at the corruption inquiry into the former NSW premier.
Ms Berejiklian was answering questions about a pet project of Daryl Maguire’s – the Riverina Conservatorium of Music – when ICAC Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl SC suddenly intervened.
Ms McColl said she got the impression Ms Berejiklian ‘did turn turn your mind to whether you should disclose that at the time.’
‘I don’t think I did, commissioner,’ Ms Berejiklian replied.
‘Never crossed your mind?’ asked Ms McColl.
Ms Berejiklian then launched into a long-winded, 77 word answer saying ‘it was nothing I needed to disclose because it was in my personal life and we do not share anything in common apart from that close personal relationship.
‘We lead separate lives. I did not feel it was at a state which the threshold for me was would I introduce them to my parents? My sisters?
‘Was I confident it was going to be something to last the distance of time? I didn’t feel that.’
Ms McColl said: ‘That feels like you took a fairly intense process of analysis, Ms Berejiklian?’
‘Perhaps not at those specific times though,’ said Ms Berejiklian.
It comes as audio was played of Daryl Maguire telling Ms Berejiklian he had been called to be a witness to the ICAC for the first time, ‘so that’s exciting’.
Ms Berejiklian gave him some advice: ‘Two rules: be honest and listen to your lawyer.’
Earlier, Ms Berejiklian’s successor as NSW Premier, Dominic Perrottet, was sensationally been dragged into the inquiry.
A tapped phone call played to a defiant Ms Berejiklian featured her speaking about funding projects in Mr Maguire’s seat of Wagga Wagga and saying of Mr Perrottet: ‘He does just what I ask him to.’
During the call, Mr Maguire said he ‘heckled’ the then treasurer Mr Perrottet and said he would have a ‘f**king riot on your hands’ if his electorate did not get funding for projects including Wagga Wagga Base Hospital and Tumut Hospital.
Mr Maguire recalled that Mr Perrottet had told him there was no money in the budget for those projects but there was money for a planned crack down on graffiti.
Ms Berejiklian responded: ‘I’ll fix it’.
She called back later and said: ‘I’ve already got you the Wagga hospital … I just spoke to Dom (Perrottet), and I said just put the 140 in the budget.
‘And he said ‘no worries’ – he just does what I ask him to.’
Mr Maguire: ‘It’s meant to be 170.’
Ms Berejiklian: ‘Whatever it is, 170 … he’s putting it in whatever it is OK.’
Mr Maguire: ‘Like we would lose Wagga … we would f***ing lose and they would campaign like you wouldn’t believe and we would have nothing to defend ourselves with, a hole in the ground, I can’t believe they didn’t even do it. That idiot I spoke to, he’s (blanked out) nephew.’
Ms Berejiklian: ‘To be honest it’s Brad’s (health minister Brad Hazzard) fault for not being on top of who needs what.’
Mr Maguire: ‘I said to Brad, I’ve been to them, they asked me for the list…’
Ms Berejiklian: ‘Can you please not get yourself worked up again because all you do is shout at me sometimes.’
Mr Maguire: ‘The Tumut bomb fire, the Tumbarumba bomb fire going, I’ve got all those God damn issues going …. he’s got that f**king bushfire happening in Tumbarumba and there’s no money for Tumut hospital… hello, guys, this is the key to win the God damn vote up there…’
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left) was recorded on a tapped phone call saying Dominic Perrottet (pictured right) ‘does what I ask him to’. At the time of the call, Ms Berejiklian was the NSW Premier and Mr Perrottet was the Treasurer. Since then, Mr Perrottet has succeeded her as premier
Ms Berejiklian added: ‘We’re giving Wagga more money than ever before,’ she said. ‘I just got you the one hundred and seventy mill … you can’t tell me you’ve been hard done by.’
She said she had got Mr Maguire that money ‘in five minutes’ but he would need to speak to Health Minister Brad Hazzard about Tumut Hospital because she wouldn’t fix everything for him.
Mr Perrottet and Mr Hazzard are not accused of any wrongdoing.
Mr Maguire was pushing for between $500,000 and a million dollars for that hospital.
A stressed-looking Gladys Berejiklian arrived at the ICAC on Friday morning – breaking her silence outside court
Mr Robertson asked Ms Berejiklian about a September 2017 deal ‘which would give (Mr Maguire) enough money to pay off his debts of $1.5 million’.
‘Did you suspect that Mr Maguire was or may have been engaged in corrupt conduct?’ he asked.
‘I did not,’ Ms Berejiklian replied.
‘How did you think a Member of Parliament was capable of earning a commission something in the vicinity of $1.5 million in relation to a land deal … It didn’t cross your mind that it was somehow unusual or strange that a sitting Member of Parliament would think that they could earn $1.5 million in relation to a land deal in or around Badgerys Creek,’ Mr Robertson asked.
‘I did not pay too much attention to that because he was always talking big and I didn’t pay too much attention to that, but I’d trusted him as a colleague and as a close personal friend and I never thought that he was doing anything untoward,’ she replied.
‘Why did you believe that 1.5 million dollars might be able to be earned by Mr Maguire,’ Mr Robertson asked.
‘I have no recollection of what the context was of that telephone conversation but my general response is I never suspected that he was doing anything untoward,’ she replied, adding that she always assumed Mr Maguire ‘was very aware of his disclosure requirements,’ said Ms Berejiklian.
Mr Scott persisted with his line of questioning. ‘It was at least not regarded as sufficiently strange that you decided to make any notification to this commission or an agency (that) was answerable to you?’
‘That’s correct,’ said Ms Berejiklian.
In another call played to the commission, Ms Berejiklian also called Mr Maguire ‘hokis’, an Armenian term of affection, but also said that sometimes he shouted at her.
Ms Berejiklian’s parents are both Armenian immigrants to Australia.
A defiant Ms Berejiklian told the Independent Commission Against Corruption she would not have revealed her secret relationship to Daryl Maguire to her colleagues even now.
Opening evidence on Friday, ICAC counsel assisting Scott Robertson began with a killer question.
‘If you were able to have your time again would you disclose your close personal relationship with Mr Maguire?’ Mr Robertson asked.
Ms Berejiklian responded she didn’t feel it was a commitment she could share with her parents, Arsha and Krikor, or her sisters.
‘I didn’t feel there was a sufficient significance to be able to do that in terms of significance.’
It comes after a stressed looking former premier arrived for her highly anticipated appearance at the corruption inquiry into her secret love affair with Daryl Maguire.
Ms Berejiklian said that she did not ask Mr Maguire for the key to her house that she had given to him back.
Mr Robertson asked Ms Berejiklian why she supported a multimillion-dollar proposal for the state government to pay for an upgrade of the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) gun club when Treasury said the submission did not demonstrate a net benefit to the state.
ACTA is based in Wagga Wagga and the project was strongly supported by Mr Maguire.
At the time of the proposal in December 2016 Ms Berejiklian was NSW treasurer and chair of the government’s expenditure review committee (ERC).
‘The bush was on fire in terms of their attitude to the government,’ Ms Berejiklian said. ‘We’d just lost a seat to the Shooters Party.’
Her view was that supporting the gun club proposal project would have ‘kept a portion of the community pleased’ and the government was keen to show it wasn’t ignoring the bush.
Asked if her support for the proposal could have been influenced by her relationship with Mr Maguire, Ms Berejiklian said: ‘It could have been part of the consideration but the … strongest consideration was the consequence of the Orange by-election.’
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured top right) is being questioned at ICAC by counsel assisting Scott Robertson (pictured top left)
In another tapped called tendered into evidence, Ms Berejiklian told Mr Maguire of her plan to fire a public servant.
They were discussing a proposal for the NSW government to give millions of dollars to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in his electorate of Wagga Wagga.
‘I can’t stand that guy. His head will be gone,’ she said.
Mr Maguire told her that she should not do so until the bureaucrat, whose name has not been released, fixed the conservatorium proposal.
‘Tell him to fix it, and then after he fixes it, I’m sacking him,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
Mr Robertson, for ICAC, asked if she delayed sacking a person so they could finish work on one of Mr Maguire’s pet projects.
‘That person is still in the public service today,’ she replied.
Mr Robertson put it to Ms Berejiklian that ‘one of the factors as to why you decided not to sack that individual immediately was that Mr McGuire wanted him to fix his conservatory … do you agree?’
She replied: ‘I can’t say that was the main reason.’
‘So it is possible it was at least one reason,’ asked Mr Robertson.
‘It could be one of the reasons, yes,’ said Ms Berejiklian.
Earlier, in a testy exchange, Mr Robertson asked Ms Berejiklian about her understanding of proceedings.
‘Are you having some difficulty with my questions? I am trying to frame them in a precise way as well so you can answer them yes or no.
‘Are you having some difficulty understanding my questions,’ he asked.
Ms Berejiklian replied: ‘Mr Robertson, I’m just concerned that you are skewing the fact that all of my colleagues rightfully deserve my attention and my advocacy and my support for things that mattered in their communities.’
‘Skewing or not, you understand that your role as a witness is to direct yourself to the questions that are being asked, you understand that?’ Mr Robertson responded.
‘Yes, I do,’ she replied.
‘You have senior counsel to represent you who have an opportunity to ask for clarification. You understand that, don’t you?’
‘I do, yes.’
Mr Robertson asked why Ms Berejiklian why she didn’t declare her close personal relationship with Mr Maguire ‘with a view to avoiding any perception of favouritism, to use your phrase, in relation to Mr Maguire?’
‘We didn’t share finances, we didn’t live together, I was not confident in his level of commitment. I did not regard him as a member of my family, and I did not regard there to be any impact on my public responsibility and I did not think the relationship had a sufficient status for me to disclose it and had I been in a (situation) where I’ve thought it was significant enough I would have, but I didn’t have confidence, didn’t have confidence that was against case,’ she replied.
Outside the hearing, Ms Berejiklian said she will tell the Independent Commission Against Corruption she will ‘strenuously stress’ that she has always put the interests and her ‘love and support’ for the people of NSW first.
Her day at ICAC has finally come – after six months of private hearings, two weeks of public hearings and 500 pieces of evidence.
Speaking to the media, she thanked the public ‘for the amazing support’
‘It’s been very very deeply appreciated at a very difficult month. I’m looking forward to fulfilling my obligations and appearing before this inquiry.
‘I will strenuously stress again – as I have every day of my life in public office – my love and support for the people of this great state has always been the forefront of any decisions I’ve made in public life.’
Ms Berejiklian said she had not been listening to proceedings at ICAC over the past two weeks.
‘All I will say is my love and passion for everything that is great about New South Wales remains the case. I’ve been buoyed by the public support I’ve seen. Every decision I’ve taken in public life has always been in the public’s best interests, and the interests of the people of this state.’
But she will be regretting having spoken so openly last year about her ‘close personal relationship’ with Daryl Maguire a year ago after she admitted the disgraced MP was her secret boyfriend at a previous Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry.
Shortly after shocking the state with her revelation, the then-NSW Premier seemingly spoke candidly about her doomed love affair with Mr Maguire with 2GB’s Ben Fordham, radio presenters Kyle and Jackie O and Sunday Telegraph gossip columnist Annette Sharp.
The interviews appeared to engender public sympathy for Ms Berejiklian – but they came back to bite her on Thursday when the counsel assisting the ICAC, Scott Robertson, threw them back in her face with devastating results.
Gladys Berejiklian gave selected media interviews after admitting her secret relationship with Daryl Maguire at a previous ICAC hearing
On Thursday morning, Ms Berejiklian’s legal team launched a last ditch application to have evidence from Mr Maguire kept private at the corruption inquiry into the former premier.
Sophie Callan, a barrister acting for Ms Berejiklian, told ICAC Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl, SC, who is presiding over the inquiry, that ‘hallmarks or indications at the level of commitment’ in the relationship with Mr Maguire should not be aired publicly.
ICAC counsel Scott Robertson said the application should be refused. ‘A public inquiry is to be held in public,’ he said.
He added that having a private session would risk it ‘becoming a public inquiry in name only’.
Mr Robertson argued that the hearing should be able to publicly delve into the nature of the relationship between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire because the former premier openly gave interviews to the press after a previous ICAC hearing a year ago about how she planned to marry him.
Daryl Maguire, the former secret boyfriend of Gladys Berejiklian, said the couple talked about getting married and having a baby
Gladys Berejiklian (centre) with Kyle (right) and Jackie O (left) of KISS FM
What Gladys Berejiklian said outside ICAC on Friday morning
‘Can I just say good morning everybody. Thank you for the amazing support the public has given to me. It’s been very very deeply appreciated at a very difficult month.
‘I’m looking forward to fulfilling my obligations and appearing before this inquiry.
‘I will strenuously stress again – as I have every day of my life in public office – my love and support for the people of this great state has always been the forefront of any decisions I’ve made in public life.
‘I haven’t been listening to proceedings.
‘All I will say is my love and passion for everything that is great about New South Wales remains the case. I’ve been buoyed by the public support I’ve seen.
‘Every decision I’ve taken in public life has always been in the public’s best interests, and the interests of the people of this state.
Ms Berejiklian told the Kyle and Jackie O radio show that while revealing details about her personal relationship had been ‘humiliating and embarrassing’, it had made her feel ‘more human’.
‘I’m actually starting to feel even stronger after it all… It’s made me feel more human and vulnerable than I’ve ever felt before,’ she told the breakfast show hosts.
Responding to Sandilands’ question about whether she had ever ‘dabbled’ in a same sex relationship, Ms Berejiklian said: ‘I haven’t and I didn’t. Not that there is anything wrong with that.’
Sandilands said he understood why she’d want to keep the relationship private, given ‘secret sex is the best sex’, but the premier was hesitant to comment on the intimate details of her former relationship.
Ms Berejiklian told 2GB’s Ben Fordham she lacked experience in intimate relationships after dedicating so much of her life to politics.
‘It’s fair to say that on average I would probably have less experience than the average person, but that’s an excruciating thing to talk about,’ she said.
‘I’ve always been focused on my job and my work and my family and I haven’t really had time for a lot else to be honest…
‘It wasn’t a normal relationship, he wasn’t my boyfriend. I certainly hoped he would be, but it wasn’t sufficiently substantial. I didn’t want to introduce anyone to my close network unless I knew,’ she said.
‘I was certainly in love with him… but no, he wasn’t my boyfriend.’
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s day at ICAC has finally come
Ms Berejiklian told the Sunday Telegraph that ‘I’m still trying to process it. I feel like it’s someone else living this … It’s like I’m the main protagonist in a movie. It’s like I’m the feature and the film is going to end and my life is going to go back to normal but it will never be normal again.’
‘It was hard to define because it wasn’t of a sufficient status,’ she says ambiguously. ‘It wasn’t a traditional type of relationship.’
In a general press conference, she said ‘Without question I stuffed up in my personal life and I accept that.
‘It’s very difficult for someone in my position to have a private and personal life and I’m very upset at what has transpired. But I want to make this assurance to the people of New South Wales I have always put the public first.’
She added: ‘I want to state at the outset that had I known then what I know now clearly I would not have made those personal decisions that I did.
‘I trusted someone that I’d known for a long time and I feel really – really let down. I trusted him for a long time.’
There was little ambiguity at ICAC yesterday, when Mr Maguire gave evidence that he and the then premier had discussed getting married and having a child.
Perhaps if Ms Berejiklian had left her words at ICAC speak for themselves and not done media interviews afterwards in an attempt to save her job as NSW premier, the public might not have found out yesterday just how close and personal her relationship with Mr Maguire actually was.