Revelations about Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s secret relationship with disgraced MP Daryl Maguire have shocked the state after her appearance at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
Ms Berejiklian is not accused of any wrongdoing but her relationship with Mr Maguire has raised questions about her judgment, with Labor now calling for her scalp.
The Labor Party has indicated it may move a vote of no confidence in her leadership on Tuesday.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay said Ms Berejiklian had “turned a blind eye to corruption”.
The Premier told reporters today that she had “stuffed up”.
“I’m human, and I stuffed up in my personal life. And for someone who’s extremely private and extremely cautious and very conservative in the way she leads her life, it’s been very difficult to have to have that out on full display,” she said.
So how has one of Australia’s most scandal-free Premiers been drawn into a relationship that could see her leadership destroyed?
WHO IS DARYL MAGUIRE?
The man the Premier described as her “numero uno” in a private phone call, was a Liberal MP for Wagga Wagga who also served as government whip under former Premier Barry O’Farrell from 2011 to 2014.
Father-of-two Daryl Maguire, 61, was forced to resign in 2018 after appearing at a corruption inquiry into the former Canterbury Council.
Evidence was presented that Mr Maguire was trying to broker property deals, connecting developers with large investors including those in the Chinese community.
In August 2018, a call was played of Mr Maguire speaking with former councillor Michael Hawatt that mentioned a “mega big” client who wants “two or three DA approved projects right now”.
Mr Maguire went on to talk about the amount of commission the councillor might receive.
At the time, Ms Berejiklian released a statement that she was “shocked” at hearing Mr Maguire’s testimony and announced he had resigned from his position as parliamentary secretary for the centenary of ANZAC, counter terrorism, corrections and veterans.
However, some have noted that she continued to maintain the relationship despite demanding his resignation.
Mr Maguire initially sat on the crossbench after resigning his Liberal membership but later quit his role as a MP as well.
On Monday, Ms Berejiklian told reporters that she was “extremely angry” with Mr Maguire and had acted without hesitation once details of his actions were known.
“I did not hesitate,” she said. “I sacked him from the parliamentary party. I forced him onto the backbench … I engaged the help of others because he wouldn’t resign from parliament, for him to resign from parliament. That was my public responsibility.”
However, when it came to her personal life, Ms Berejiklian said she couldn’t not support him has a friend.
“His son-in-law died the day I sacked him, and I carried a bit of guilt about those circumstances,” she said.
She said “from a compassionate position” she couldn’t bring herself to stop being his friend during that time.
“I’d known him for 15 years. He lost his career, his friends, he lost everything and he was in a very dark place,” she said.
“Imagine if one of your best friends had done something horrible. On compassionate grounds, would you care about their welfare if they were in a dark place and had lost everything?
“I just felt that I could not stop being his friend, rightly or wrongly.”
However, she admitted that if she had known then what she knew now, she would have had nothing else to do with him.
“I did not know the extent of what he was alleged to have done,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian said she finally broke off all contact with Mr Maguire in September after ICAC revealed it was conducting further investigations into his dealings.
“When I was asked to support this inquiry, it became apparent to me that I should have absolutely no contact any more with that individual,” Ms Berejiklian said.
She said their last conversation was on September 13.
WHY DID SHE KEEP RELATIONSHIP A SECRET?
The Premier said she had known Mr Maguire for 15 years and that a “close, personal relationship” had begun around the time of the 2015 election.
Asked if he was still married at the time the relationship began, Ms Berejiklian said: “That’s a matter for him but my understanding was that he was separated”.
Despite being close for around five years, she said: “I do not know to this date the truthfulness about how he felt about me”.
Ms Berejiklian told reporters on Monday afternoon that she hadn’t even told her family or close friends about the relationship.
“I wasn’t sure about its future to be honest,” she said.
“I did not regard it as sufficient status at that stage to be able to make that public, or in fact tell people closest around me.”
WHAT IS THE INQUIRY ABOUT?
Two years after Mr Maguire appeared at the ICAC inquiry into Canterbury Council, which has still not concluded, the former MP became the subject of a separate inquiry.
The commission is now looking into Mr Maguire’s behaviour and whether he misused parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or those close to him.
Specifically the commission will investigate whether he sought to “monetise his position as a Member of Parliament, Parliamentary Secretary and Chair of the NSW Parliament Asia Pacific Friendship Group”.
It was this inquiry that Ms Berejiklian was called to give evidence at on Monday.
Private phone calls were played between the Premier and Mr Maguire during which he talks about his financial interests, and on two calls Ms Berejiklian says she doesn’t need to know certain information.
“I don’t need to know about that bit,” she says in one call.
Ms Berejiklian denied she was trying to avoid being told anything she would need to act on and told the inquiry that she would have reported Mr Maguire if she knew anything was wrong.
She described Mr Maguire as a “big talker” and said she was not always paying attention during her calls with him.
When asked whether she had ever acted or declined to act in her official role to help Mr Maguire, she said “absolutely not”.
During the press conference she told reporters she didn’t have any interest in Mr Maguire’s business dealings.
“I didn’t care too much about his interests, because it was his responsibility to disclose them,” she said.
She said parliamentary secretaries were allowed to have business interests as long as they disclosed them.
“When you’ve known someone for a long time and you put your trust in them, you assume they’re doing the right thing.”
WILL GLADYS BE FORCED TO RESIGN?
The Premier told reporters on Monday she did not intend to resign saying “I haven’t done anything wrong”.
“I have always made sure the public interest is first and foremost paramount in every single thing that I do,” she said.
“Whilst I have made this mistake in my personal life, I intend to serve the people of NSW to the best of my ability. That’s what I’ve always done. I’ve sacrificed my life to public office, and I’m proud of that.”
Ms Berejiklian said Mr Maguire had not been able to get any personal benefit.
“He had a go, quite a few many times, but nothing transpired,” she said.
“I’m pleased to say the process has held up, because nobody was able to gain a benefit from trying to get around the process, from trying to influence, from trying to cajole. That did not occur.”
Asked whether Mr Maguire’s conduct had been raised with her previously, she said: “there is no record of my office having received any information about that … so that was not brought to my attention”.
During the press conference Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Health Minister Brad Hazzard both backed Ms Berejiklian’s leadership.
Mr Perrottet said the Premier was somebody of the utmost integrity and honesty, who had put the people of NSW first and foremost.
“She’s somebody that has not taken a day’s leave over the course of this last year – a year which has been incredibly difficult for the people of our state,” he said.
“I know – whether it’s been through the bushfires, the floods, the drought, and this pandemic – that we could have no leader better than Gladys Berejiklian to take our state through this difficult time.
“I know every single day that she is somebody who is selfless, and she is somebody who is focused on one thing, and one thing only – and that is the betterment of our people.”
However, some have pointed out that former Premier Barry O’Farrell resigned after he fronted ICAC and appeared to forgot about receiving a $3000 bottle of wine.
Ms Berejiklian said Mr O’Farrell had actually contacted her and said “stay in your job”.
While Ms Berejiklian said she was confident she had the support of her colleagues, whether the support is enough to save her job is unclear.