‘Conflict of interest’: Berejiklian should have declared her relationship with MP, ex-deputy premier tells Icac

Former deputy John Barilaro says he declared all of his intimate relationships to the then premier

The former deputy premier of New South Wales John Barilaro has described the decision to approve funding for a $5.5m shooting range and conference centre in Wagga Wagga via a powerful sub-cabinet committee as “deeply unusual”, and told the state’s corruption watchdog he remembered Gladys Berejiklian being “supportive” of the project.

On Monday, Barilaro, who quit as the state’s deputy premier shortly after Berejiklian’s resignation as premier earlier this month, appeared as a witness in the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiry into her conduct. Barilaro is not accused of any wrongdoing.

The $5.5m grant to the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) is one of two at the centre of the probe. It was funded in 2017 after receiving approval from the expenditure review committee, which at the time was chaired by Berejiklian as the NSW treasurer.

The inquiry has previously heard former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire had lobbied for the proposal for several years, but a number of public servants have told Icac they did not consider the project worthwhile.

Barilaro told Icac that when the item came before the committee in December 2016 he had only recently joined, but that a number of elements of the grant seemed unusual.

He described not having identified a source of funding for the project before it came to the committee as being “deeply unusual”, as well as what he called the “expedited process” and the relatively small size of the proposal.

“It would be unusual to have a single line item [such as] as the ACTA proposal … no disrespect to the quantum but in the scheme of the ETC we’re dealing with issues of tens and hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

The former deputy premier was also scathing in his assessment of whether Berejiklian should have declared the fact she had been in a secret relationship with Maguire.

“The underlying fact is there should have been a disclosure of a conflict of interest of the relationship,” Barilaro said during cross examination by Berejiklian’s lawyer in the hearings, Sophie Callan SC, said.

“Many of us declare conflicts for just knowing someone because we work with someone or [are an associate] with someone, let alone being in a relationship with someone.

“The conflict of interest I believe was a concern was Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire were in a relationship.”

Callan asked Barilaro whether he had declared all of his intimate relationships to Berejiklian during his time as deputy premier. He replied: “I would have, yes”, and noted requirements to disclose assets connected to family members.

Callan asked: “what about any other intimate personal relationships?”, to which the former deputy premier replied: “That’s a hard question because my relationships are with my family”.

The Icac has previously heard that public servants in the office of sport did not know why a project they considered to be a “low priority” had suddenly become “urgent” and that a senior adviser to then premier Mike Baird sought to block it.

The adviser, Nigel Blunden, later wrote in a briefing to Baird that it was on the agenda because “Daryl fired up and Gladys put it back on”.

Asked by counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, if he knew why the item had made it on to the agenda, Barilaro said: “It’s clear that on the covering page for the submission there was a note that it was on the request of the treasurer at the time.”

After the funding was approved subject to a business case, the grant was directed to Barilaro’s department of regional growth. Barilaro told the inquiry he did not recall specifically dealing with the project, but told the inquiry he did remember Berejiklian inquiring about the status of the grant.

Robertson read a line from Barilaro’s statement to the Icac in which he wrote that he could recall “conversations with premier Berejiklian regarding [the funding for the shooting range] where [she] indicated support for the project”.

Barilaro told the inquiry he could not recall specifics of the conversations, and that Berejiklian would “raise with me any issues on behalf of any member of parliament not just the member for Wagga Wagga”.

But asked by Robertson whether he understood Berejiklian to support the project, Barilaro responded: “Yes.”

The Icac is also reviewing a $30m grant given to the Riverina conservatorium of music in Wagga Wagga in 2018. Maguire was also lobbying for that project, and Barilaro was shown an email sent to both him and Berejiklian in 2017 which read: “here we go on the merry-go-round again!”

Barilaro said the email was “typical of Daryl”, describing him as “a pain in the arse” and like “a dog with a bone” when “chasing funding”.

Icac is investigating whether Berejiklian breached the public trust by “exercising public functions” in a position of conflict because of her relationship with Maguire. She has denied any wrongdoing and is yet to give evidence.

Contributor

Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Gladys Berejiklian should have disclosed relationship with MP, deputy Liberal leader tells Icac
Stuart Ayres tells commission former premier needed to avoid the perception of a conflict of interest over her relationship with Daryl Maguire

Michael McGowan

22, Oct, 2021 @5:31 AM

Article image
Mike Baird ‘incredulous’ Gladys Berejiklian had secret relationship and says it should have been disclosed, Icac hears
Watchdog separately told ex-NSW premier’s adviser wrote that Gladys Berejiklian put proposed $5.5m grant back on agenda of expenditure committee after ‘Daryl fired up’

Michael McGowan

20, Oct, 2021 @7:29 AM

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
NSW premier rules out changing MP private phones rules until Icac releases Gladys Berejiklian report
Dominic Perrottet will consider tightening ministerial code of conduct if anti-corruption watchdog recommends it

Michael McGowan

02, Nov, 2021 @7:02 AM

Article image
Senior bureaucrat tells Icac he believed Daryl Maguire ‘had the ear’ of Gladys Berejiklian
Department of Regional NSW secretary Gary Barnes tells hearing he drew ‘inference’ then premier was personally interested in $5.5m shooting club grant

Michael McGowan

27, Oct, 2021 @3:49 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 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
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

Anne Davies

14, Oct, 2020 @7:43 AM

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
‘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

Christopher Knaus

03, Oct, 2021 @5:45 AM