Man of the hour: Scott Robertson (pictured on Friday) carefully, precisely and doggedly questioned Gladys Berejiklian on Friday
With a deadpan expression and a patient but almost robotic questioning technique, Scott Robertson is not the sort of lawyer you might see in a Netflix crime show or a Hollywood movie.
But he is now something of a media star after his grilling of Gladys Berejiklian at Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings was beamed to thousands of Australians on Friday.
Speaking slowly and in monotone, Mr Robertson remained calm and precise as he relentlessly grilled the former NSW premier about her relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire.
At one stage he asked the ex-NSW premier the same question ten times in a row when she failed to clearly answer if she considered Mr Maguire as part of her family.
‘You regarded Mr Maguire as part of your family, is that right?’
When Ms Berejiklian said she didn’t feel she needed to put the relationship ‘on the public record’, he curtly responded ‘we’ll let the lawyers argue about the law’ and asked the same question again and again.
‘What’s the answer to my question then? Did you or did you not regard Mr Maguire as part of your family?’ he said.
Mr Robertson enjoyed a rare verbal flourish when Ms Berejiklian denied treating Mr Maguire differently to other colleagues.
‘Are you seriously saying that Mr Maguire approached you about projects in the exact same way as all your other colleagues,’ he said.
But he swiftly continued to question the premier in his characteristic monotone.
It’s a technique the lawyer has honed over 12 years since being admitted to the NSW bar in 2009.
According to his online profile he has degrees in economics, international studies and law from the University of Adelaide and also did a Masters’ degree in law at Oxford University which he completed in 2007.
Former NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian arrives at the corruption hearing on Friday
He specialises in commercial, construction and public law, but likes to challenge himself him by ‘appearing in jurisdictions in which he is not a regular and in matters raising difficult or novel points of law or equity.’
Mr Robertson is the counsel assisting the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption as it investigates whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her secret ex-boyfriend and former Wagga Wagga MP Mr Maguire between 2012 and 2018.
It is also probing her role in multi-million dollar government grants to a gun club and conservatorium of music in his electorate.
Ms Berejiklian insists she has done nothing wrong and has ‘always acted with integrity’.
On Friday Ms Berejiklian’s successor Dominic Perrottet was dragged into the corruption inquiry.
A tapped phone call played to a defiant Ms Berejiklian on Friday featured Ms Berejiklian 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.
In the call, 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) … He just does what I ask him to.’
She 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.’
Ms Berejiklian 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 Maguire was pushing for between $500,000 and a million dollars for that hospital.
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’.
A stressed-looking Gladys Berejiklian arrived at the ICAC on Friday morning – breaking her silence outside court
‘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?’ he 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’.
The tone of Friday’s hearing was set at the very beginning when Mr 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.’
Then Mr Robertson was off – slowly grinding away at Ms Berejiklian’s answers, and by doing so, the Premier’s reputation.
Mr Robertson’s grilling is expected to continue on Monday.
What is ICAC investigating?
Whether Ms Berejiklian:
1. Engaged in conduct between 2012 and 2018 that was ‘liable to allow or encourage the occurrence of corrupt conduct’ by former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, with whom she was in a close personal relationship between 2015 and 2018
2. Exercised her official functions dishonestly or partially by refusing to exercise her duty to report any reasonable suspicions about Mr Maguire to the ICAC
3. Exercised any of her official functions partially in connection with two multimillion-dollar grants in Mr Maguire’s electorate, to the Australian Clay Target Association Inc and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.