Former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire sought “guidance” from Gladys Berejiklian over the $1.5m personal debt he was seeking to pay off through a number of business deals now at the centre of a corruption investigation.
But Maguire told the independent commission against corruption he couldn’t recall how much he told the New South Wales premier, with whom he had been in a secret “on again off again” relationship for several years, other than confirming the couple had discussed “general problems I was having in life”.
“I may have raised it [the debt], seeking some guidance and reassurance about, you know, what I was doing,” Maguire told Icac on Thursday.
“I only have a few friends that you can raise those things with and I would have run it past her.”
The second day of Maguire’s evidence to Icac’s investigation into whether he had misused his position as an MP for his own financial benefit was interrupted by an extended private session called for by the counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, to discuss what he called information which “trespasses on matters of considerable personal privacy”.
The previously secret relationship, Robertson said, was relevant to the inquiry, but the Icac should not be “a public trial as to the nature and extent of the relationship”.
In a strange turn of events, Robertson returned late in the afternoon to declare the hearing would be cut short to resume on Friday after what he described as “another matter, a separate matter” arose behind closed doors.
“The issue that has caused a number of hours of delay ... was not the issue I was addressing before lunch,” Robertson said.
A “separate issue” had arisen, Robertson said, which then led to another issue, “which is causing me to make the application I’m now making which is to adjourn the matter to 10am tomorrow”.
Later on Thursday, despite the commission’s concerns about “personal privacy”, an unredacted transcript of the morning’s proceedings was accidentally published online.
The ABC found the transcript but said it was legally prevented from sharing the details given Icac’s chief commissioner had issued a direction restricting the publication.
Earlier in the day, Robertson had been seeking to grill Maguire on the extent to which the former MP had described his allegedly improper activities to Berejiklian.
The inquiry heard, for the second time, an intercept of a phone call between the two in which he told her that he hoped the sale of a parcel of western Sydney land owned by racing heir Louise Waterhouse would net him somewhere in the vicinity of $1.5m.
“It looks like we finally got the Badgerys Creek stuff done ... I’ll make enough money to pay off my debts, can you believe it?” Maguire told the premier on the call.
Berejiklian responded: “I can believe it.”
After the intercept was played, Robertson put it to Maguire that the nature of Berejiklian’s response suggested she was familiar with his involvement with Waterhouse’s attempts to sell the land, and asked whether they had previously discussed it.
But Maguire told the inquiry he couldn’t recall how much, if anything, he had told her.
“Presumably you might have told her Ms Waterhouse had some relevance to what you call the ‘Badgerys Creek stuff’?” Robertson asked in one exchange.
“Perhaps, yes,” he replied.
Robertson asked whether his evidence was “perhaps, or yes?”, to which Maguire responded: “I’m not sure, I’m just not sure.”
A day after Maguire made damaging admissions that he had attempted to “monetise” his parliamentary office and “use his status” as a politician for his own financial gain, Robertson spent much of the time grilling the former MP on his relationship with property developers. He twice admitted to being a “door opener” for developers and business people to gain access to public servants and politicians.
Of the western Sydney land deal, the former Wagga Wagga MP admitted he had hoped that by linking Waterhouse with a number of potential investors he would receive a commission. He had later been told as much, he said, by one of the business associates he introduced the racing heir to.
During another phone call intercept Maguire’s business associate, William Luong, told the MP he believed he had found a buyer for the land willing to pay $330m.
“That’s pretty good going,” Maguire said.
The inquiry also heard that Maguire had regularly agreed to do favours for developers, including Joseph Alha, a Sydney property developer with whom he had a longstanding friendship.
“I’ve assisted a number of developers,” Maguire told the inquiry.
Maguire balked at his regular attempts to organise meetings with ministers and department staff for developers being characterised as a “shortcut”, saying it was open for any member of the public to contact politicians.
But he agreed with Robertson when the counsel assisting pointed out that “someone off the street” could not command the same high-level attention.
In an intercept of one call, an agitated Alha told Maguire he wanted a meeting with the NSW transport minister, Andrew Constance. “I want some fucking straight answers,” Alha said on the call.
“I’m gonna talk to him and see what’s possible,” Maguire replied. “I’ll go and have a chat.”
That meeting, Maguire said, never went ahead. But on another occasion, Maguire took Alha to meet Berejiklian in her office after the two of them had been drinking wine in his office.
The “drop-in” occurred after Alha had previously been refused a meeting with Berejiklian for a “site-specific” discussion over a development proposal. The “drop-in”, Maguire said, lasted about two minutes, and only included “general niceties”.