NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian survives no-confidence votes after defending relationship with Daryl Maguire

Vote in state’s upper house defeated on casting vote of John Ajaka, the Liberal president

A no-confidence motion against Gladys Berejiklian in the state’s upper house has been defeated on the casting vote of the president, giving the New South Wales premier an important symbolic victory in her battle to hang on to the Liberal leadership.

The initial vote was 20-20 but John Ajaka, the Liberal president, used his vote to defeat the motion.

“I must vote and at my discretion give reasons,” Ajaka said. “In my view, there is no possibility of further discussion … I will cast my vote in the negative.”

Berejiklian on Wednesday also survived a no-confidence motion in the lower house, where the Coalition has a majority, by 47-38 votes.

The defeat of the motions was a small boost for the premier who had spent the day stridently defending her close personal relationship with Daryl Maguire, the former MP for Wagga Wagga.

Appearing at an anti-corruption watchdog hearing on Wednesday, Maguire admitted he used his position as an MP and parliamentary secretary to make money for himself and his associates. He acknowledged he turned his Parliament House office into the part-time headquarters for a private business network he silently directed called G8wayinternational.

But there was almost no mention of the premier and the relationship at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing. The only reference came late in the day when Maguire agreed he had tried to organise a meeting for a property developer with the planning minister, Rob Stokes, and with Berejiklian. Both refused.

In question time, Berejiklian again faced questions about why she did not report Maguire to Icac while she was in a relationship with him from 2015 until a month ago.

Berejiklian appeared at Icac on Monday where she was played wiretaps of their conversations in which Maguire told her he was close to clinching various deals and would soon receive a large payment. At one point Berejiklain said: “I don’t need to know that bit.”

When Icac announced it was investigating Maguire in 2018, Berejiklian removed him from the Liberal party and demanded he resign.

The opposition leader, Jodi McKay, in parliament on Wednesday said the phone intercepts between Berejiklian and Maguire during 2017 and 2018 showed she knew he was taking secret commissions from developers.

McKay asked why it was acceptable to take secret commissions from developers when donations were banned from them under the state’s donations laws.

“At no stage have I turned a blind eye to what people were doing,” Berejiklian insisted. “At no stage have I neglected to put the people of NSW first.”

McKay reminded her that she had responded “congrats” and “great news” to Maguire’s updates on various business deals he was trying to pull off during their taped conversations.

“Unlike you, I reported it [suspicions of corruption] to Icac,” an emotional McKay said as Liberal MPs called out the names Obeid, Tripodi and Roozendaal across the chamber.

All three Labor MPs faced corrupt conduct investigations before Icac. Eric Roozendaal was cleared over allegations that he had received a discounted car. Eddie Obeid was found to have acted corruptly in relation to three other matters. Joe Tripodi was found to have engaged in corrupt conduct in relation to Australian Water Holdings.

Berejiklian said she was prepared to consider reforming the rules that allow MPs to have other business interests while a parliamentarian if Labor supported the move.

MPs are permitted to run businesses, invest or earn income from other sources but they must make a disclosure on the pecuniary interest register. Maguire did not disclose his interests.

Labor argues that while he was parliamentary secretary for Anzacs and counterterrorism he had a further obligation under the ministerial code of conduct to give that disclosure to the premier. Berejikilian has said that was only required “in certain circumstances”.

The premier faces more parliamentary sitting days on Thursday and next week and Maguire will be in the witness box at Icac for at least another day on Thursday.

Colleagues are continuing to support the premier and she is continuing her daily press conferences focused on the Covid response.

Contributor

Anne Davies

The GuardianTramp

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