‘A person of high integrity’: Hazzard praises Berejiklian and raises questions about Icac

NSW health minister suggests anti-corruption body’s initial inquiries could be held ‘behind closed doors’ amid fallout from premier’s resignation

The New South Wales health minister, Brad Hazzard, has questioned whether the state’s anti-corruption body should hold initial inquiries “behind closed doors” as the fallout from Friday’s resignation of Gladys Berejiklian continues.

A former NSW attorney general, Hazard on Sunday praised Berejiklian as a premier of “high integrity”, saying he had “strong views” about the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Hazzard said his government was not focused on Icac reform, but said he was listening to the “community’s view” about the commission.

“We do need an Icac, there is no question that we need an Icac,” he told reporters during a Covid-19 briefing.

“But whether it is something that is closer to the Hong Kong model, where these matters are dealt with behind closed doors until there is actually … a sufficient case, is a matter I think the community will look at and discuss.

“But those issues are not issues which we are focused on now. And nor should we be.”

Icac announced on Friday that it was investigating Berejiklian as part of Operation Keppel, an inquiry focused on the actions of her ex-partner and former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

The announcement prompted Berejiklian’s resignation. The premier said during her resignation speech that the matters were “historic” and had already been examined.

The events of Friday have prompted some criticism of Icac, including from the former federal Liberal MP Philip Ruddock, who aired a similar criticism to Hazzard’s in the Nine newspapers on Sunday.

He said Icac should act more like a director of public prosecutions and work privately to establish whether a person has a case to answer, before taking the case to open court.

Icac already has the power to conduct private hearings. It has done so in recent major inquiries, including the Maguire investigation and the 2019 probe into donations to the Labor party by the Chinese billionaire Huang Xiangmo.

Supporters of the NSW Icac, like Geoffrey Watson SC, a former counsel assisting, say public hearings have enormous benefits.

“One of the great benefits of public inquiries in particular is that people come forward, sometimes they come forward and they’re pretty scared to do so,” Watson said.

“Some of them have got real fear of revealing information, and it’s at a personal cost to them, but they do, they come forward. And you find out more and more and more. It’s good, I take that to be a very positive sign when the investigation is growing and spreading.”

A series of NSW ministers spoke in support of Berejiklian on Sunday.

Hazzard said it was “awfully sad” that her resignation had been forced.

“What I would say about the premier is that I think she has been an amazing premier, a person of high integrity, and someone that I would place my trust in completely. And I think that’s what the community of NSW has done as well during these last 120 months,” he said.

“It’s just awfully sad that it’s come to this.”

The NSW transport minister Andrew Constance, who announced his exit from state politics on Sunday, said he was “heartbroken” for Berejiklian.

“Gladys has been an amazing leader on both a personal and broader community level,” Constance said. “Her care and support during Black Summer, in which we worked so closely together, is something that is very dear to my heart.”

Berejiklian is being investigated in relation to two grant programs and the links between recipients and her ex-lover, the former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.

The ABC has previously revealed that Berejiklian had a role overseeing that grant and that Maguire had advocated for the money and later attempted to personally benefit from the grants.

Those allegations are still being investigated by the Icac and Berejiklian has strongly denied any wrongdoing.

“I state categorically I’ve always acted with the highest level of integrity,” she said.


Christopher Knaus

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Gladys Berejiklian told chief of staff about relationship with Daryl Maguire in 2018, Icac hears
Sarah Cruickshank says premier told her the relationship was ‘historic’ although Berejiklian said in October 2020 contact ceased ‘a few months ago’

Michael McGowan

26, Oct, 2021 @6:04 AM

Article image
Icac findings: Gladys Berejiklian to know her fate by Christmas
Public unlikely to know until 2021 the outcome of the inquiry that unearthed her ‘close personal relationship’ with former MP Daryl Maguire

Anne Davies

21, Oct, 2020 @6:48 AM

Article image
‘They’re dodgy’: Gladys Berejiklian warned secret boyfriend about associates in tapped phone calls played to Icac
Former NSW premier denies she suspected Daryl Maguire of wrongdoing, despite him being summoned to appear at corruption inquiry

Michael McGowan and Christopher Knaus

29, Oct, 2021 @7:40 AM

Article image
Gladys Berejiklian faces fresh questions about Wagga meeting with two convicted criminals
The NSW premier is under pressure to explain if her relationship with Daryl Maguire was behind the meeting on ‘gaming issues’

Christopher Knaus and Michael McGowan

13, Oct, 2020 @8:39 PM

Article image
Gladys Berejiklian had ‘inclination to support’ $5.5m Wagga shooting complex, Icac hears
Documents tendered in NSW corruption watchdog hearing suggest former premier personally asked for project pushed by her secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire to be considered for funding

Michael McGowan

19, Oct, 2021 @7:47 AM

Article image
Watchdog with bite: Icac claims another premier with demise of Gladys Berejiklian
With her resignation the premier joins the list of NSW politicians brought down by Australia’s longest running anti-corruption commission

Christopher Knaus

01, Oct, 2021 @8:00 PM

Article image
Gladys Berejiklian faces calls to resign over failure to act after Icac revelations
Despite backing from colleagues, NSW premier faces continued questions about what she knew about Daryl Maguire’s deals

Anne Davies and Michael McGowan

12, Oct, 2020 @10:38 PM

Article image
Gladys Berejiklian and anti-corruption body Icac: what is behind the NSW premier’s resignation?
With most of the attention on her management of the Covid crisis, an Icac investigation has led to the popular premier’s downfall

Christopher Knaus

01, Oct, 2021 @4:43 AM

Article image
Maguire instructed Berejiklian to ‘get a private phone’ after being called before Icac
Former MP also told then premier to download Chinese messaging app WeChat because it ‘leaves no trace’

Michael McGowan and Christopher Knaus

01, Nov, 2021 @3:07 AM

Article image
With slow, patient questioning, Icac starts to set out its case against Berejiklian
After weeks under fire for the timing of its investigation into the former premier, the NSW corruption watchdog has begun its reply

Michael McGowan

22, Oct, 2021 @7:00 PM