Gladys Berejiklian told her secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire she would “throw money” at his former seat of Wagga Wagga following his resignation from parliament, and asked for his “advice” about what projects should be funded to retain the seat, Icac has heard.
In an explosive day of evidence in the New South Wales anti-corruption watchdog’s inquiry, Maguire, the former Wagga Wagga MP, also revealed that he and Berejiklian were in love with each other and had discussed getting married and having a child.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether the former NSW premier breached the public trust by “exercising public functions” in a position of conflict because of her relationship with Maguire. She has denied any wrongdoing.
On Thursday, the commission heard evidence that Berejiklian fed the MP information about projects he had lobbied for in his electorate, and continued speaking to Maguire following his resignation after an appearance at a separate Icac inquiry in 2018.
In a series of recordings taken from tapped phone conversations between the couple, it was revealed that Berejiklian told Maguire that funding for one of two grants at the centre of the probe was a “done deal” after he complained about “roadblocks” on his “money projects”.
“I know but you’re still getting everything. We ticked off your conservatorium the other day, that’s a done deal now,” Berejiklian told Maguire about a grant to fund the relocation of the Riverina Conservatorium of Music during a phone call in 2017.
The inquiry also heard dramatic evidence that Berejiklian and Maguire had stayed in contact following his appearance before the separate Operation Dasha inquiry which found the Wagga Wagga MP had sought commissions from property deals he helped to orchestrate.
In text messages read to the commission, Maguire gave the premier advice on how to deal with the fallout from his evidence, telling her: “Hokis get stuck into me, kick the shit out of me, good for party morale”. Hokis is an Armenian term for affection.
Maguire’s eventual resignation in 2018 prompted a by-election in his seat, and tapped phone calls reveal he gave Berejiklian advice on which projects she should give funds to in order to keep the seat.
“Just throw money at Wagga,” Maguire said in the call on 30 July 2018.
“I’ll throw money at Wagga, lots of it, don’t you worry about that,” Berejiklian replied.
She then told Maguire to “do what’s right on your end, otherwise you’ll kill me”.
Maguire told the commission he believed that to be an instruction to “shut up and stay out of the campaign”.
In the call, Berejiklian said Maguire had “already” told her the “top three things” that should be funded in the electorate. When Maguire complained that one of the projects - funding for a stadium - had been blocked by “bureaucrats”, Berejiklian said: “I can overrule them”.
In another tapped call between Maguire and the Liberal Party’s candidate to replace him during the 2018 by-election, Julia Ham, he told her that a “source” had confirmed to him that the seat would receive a multi-million dollar grant to build a music recital hall for the conservatorium, a project he had personally lobbied for.
Asked who his “source” was, Maguire replied: “Oh, it’d be from Ms Berejiklian”.
Earlier on Thursday Maguire made a series of stunning disclosures about the extent of the “close personal relationship” that he and Berejiklian had conducted in secret for several years from at least 2015.
Answering a series of quick-fire questions from the counsel assisting the commission, Scott Robertson, Maguire revealed the two of them discussed marriage and children, holidayed together and often stayed at each other’s homes during the relationship.
Maguire told the commission he had a key to Berejiklian’s house, which, he says, she never asked him to return. He also told Robertson the relationship was “physically intimate”.
The disclosures seem to contradict Berejiklian’s previous characterisations of the relationship after it became public knowledge last year. “He wasn’t my boyfriend. He wasn’t anything of note,” she told Sydney radio station 2gb last year.
During cross-examination, Berejiklian’s lawyer, Sophie Callan SC, asked Maguire a series of questions about the significance of their relationship.
Maguire agreed with her proposition that he had “occasionally” travelled to Sydney without telling her, and that the two did not share a diary. He also agreed that he never “formally” met any of Berejiklian’s family, though he had met some of them at functions.
She was also not introduced to his family, and they did not share an anniversary date.
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.
At the centre of the watchdog’s inquiry are two grants: the $5.5m given to the Australian Clay Target Association’s clubhouse and convention centre in 2017, and $30m for the Riverina conservatorium of music in Wagga Wagga in 2018.
Icac has previously heard Berejiklian, both as treasurer and then as premier, was directly involved in approving the money. She did not declare any interest in the matters, despite Maguire conceding on Thursday he had been a “serial pest” and “pain in the arse” in lobbying for the projects.
During questioning on Thursday morning, Maguire confirmed he “encouraged” Berejiklian “to take a close interest” in the two multi-million dollar grants, and that “from time to time” she informed him about what she knew about the two funding applications.
Thursday’s evidence was delayed by an application from Berejiklian’s lawyer, Sophie Callan SC, who had sought to have parts of Magurie’s evidence heard in private.
Callan told Icac questions “exposing intimate private details of the relationship” between Maguire and Berejiklian would lead to “irredeemable public scrutiny”, “humiliation” and “harm” to the former premier.
But Robertson opposed the application, saying the extent of the relationship was key to establishing part of the inquiry’s focus, namely whether Berejiklian may have breached the ministerial code of conduct by exercising public duties in circumstances where her “private interest” could potentially influence her.
Using the words of Berejiklian’s former chief of staff Sarah Cruickshank, who on Tuesday told the commission the former premier had revealed the relationship to her in 2018 but described it as “historic”, Robertson said establishing whether or not the relationship had been “a full-blown intense one” was a key consideration for the inquiry.
After an adjournment, the commissioner, Ruth McColl AO, sided with Robertson, saying the public benefit of hearing the evidence in public outweighed the concerns raised by Callan.