‘Part of the love circle’: 10 memorable moments from Gladys Berejiklian’s Icac appearance

Roughly a month after resigning as New South Wales premier, Gladys Berejiklian fronted the Independent Commission Against Corruption and faced a barrage of questions about her former secret boyfriend and Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, whether she gave him favourable treatment, or failed to act on suspicions he was involved in corrupt conduct.

Bombshell is an overused word. But Friday’s hearing contained at least 10.

Here are the most memorable moments from Berejiklian’s appearance.

1. ‘They could be taping your conversation with me right now’: Maguire says in recorded phone call

An extraordinary phone call was played towards the end of the day. In it, Maguire warns Berejiklian he has been summoned to appear by Icac over his involvement in property dealings, but assures her there is nothing to worry about.

He uses the opportunity, however, to rail against Icac and its powers, calling it “worse than the Spanish fucking inquisition” and saying “they could be taping your conversation with me right now”.

They were.

2. ‘Is that going to be a problem?’: Berejiklian on the prospect of wire taps

When told that their phone conversations may be recorded, Berejiklian asks Maguire one question: “Is that going to be a problem?”

Maguire responds, “Why, what have you done,” before saying: “But I’m just saying to you that’s the power that these organisations have, that’s the real issue.”

3. ‘What they’re doing is marginalising the art of politics’: Maguire on Icac

Continuing his rant against Icac, Maguire complains to Berejiklian of not being able to “have a conversation” without being called corrupt.

He says you now “can’t meet with a developer” and says “what they’re doing is marginalising the art of politics”.

“Nobody can have a conversation, nobody can make representations. What’s happening is that MPs and others are being muted by the fact that you have all this overseeing … in a way that paints you as fucking corrupt if you have a conversation.”

4. ‘He does what I ask him to’: Berejiklian on Dominic Perrottet

In one call, Maguire rails against the lack of money for his electorate in the looming 2018 budget. He is particularly incensed at the lack of $170m for Wagga Wagga hospital.

Berejiklian tells him “I’ll fix it”. Within two hours, she’s talked to the then treasurer Dominic Perrottet and the money is in the budget.

Berejiklian says to Maguire: “I said, ‘Just put the $140m in the budget.’ He goes, ‘No worries.’ He does what I ask him to.”

Maguire, though, is a difficult man to please.

“It is supposed to be $170m,” he says.

5. ‘The love circle’: Berejiklian on her relationship status with Maguire

Berejiklian was pressed time and again on Friday about the nature of her relationship to Maguire. It’s important because she has argued it wasn’t serious enough to disclose as a potential conflict of interest.

But a text message Icac obtained showed Berejiklian referring to Maguire as “family”. Berejiklian resisted using that description, initially saying it wasn’t legally correct or correct under the definition of the ministerial code.

She then said she considered Maguire as part of her “love circle”.

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At one point, she conceded he was part of her family in an emotional sense, but not in the same way as her mother or sisters.

Counsel assisting the commission, Scott Robertson, later pressed her on why she had not declared a conflict of interest in relation to a grant in Maguire’s seat on the same day she sent the “family” text, to which Berejiklian responded that it was a “turn of phrase” and not meant to be taken literally.

“So when you say ‘you’re my family’ you didn’t mean ‘you’re my family’?” Robertson replied.

6. ‘They’re dodgy’: Berejiklian on Maguire’s associates

During that same extraordinary phone call from the day Maguire received his summons to appear before Icac in 2018, Berejiklian warns that she believes the developers caught up in that (separate) probe to be “dodgy”.

“I’ve always kept my business from people like that … I think they’re dodgy,” she says.

Maguire provides this helpful response: “Everyone’s dodgy. Gladys, that means you can’t mix with anybody.”

7. ‘I must have killed a black cat’: Maguire on his woes

At one point during the calls, Maguire laments his bad luck.

After informing Berejiklian of his looming Icac appearance, Maguire asks her how her day is going. The then premier says she is a “bit distressed for you now”.

Maguire says he has been trying to keep it from her for precisely that reason.

“I must have killed a black cat and 10 Chinamen and walked under a couple of ladders. What more can you throw at a bloke?,” he says.

8. Stop ‘making speeches’: Icac commissioner’s advice to Berejiklian

Politicians are skilled at ducking or avoiding questions they don’t like, but one of the features of Friday’s evidence was the short shrift the Icac commissioner, Ruth McColl, gave to some of Berejiklian’s evidence.

On one occasion early in the evidence, McColl asked Berejiklian to focus on the questions being asked, “not making speeches”.

In a later exchange, Berejiklian told the commission that the “threshold question” for whether she should have disclosed was whether she felt the relationship was significant enough.

McColl quickly rebuffed her: “I think we’ll decide the threshold questions, Ms Berejiklian,” she said.

Berejiklian also didn’t get much sympathy when she said she was “really offended” by some of Robertson’s questions. “You have said that quite a number of times,” McColl said. “Could you please just listen to the questions.”

9. ‘His head will be gone soon’: Berejiklian takes aim at public servant

One of the more revealing pieces of evidence was a tapped phone call between the former premier and Maguire in which she expresses a desire to sack a public servant.

“I can’t stand that guy,” she says. “His head will be gone soon.”

But Maguire insists she leave him in place, at least until he has completed a project the Wagga Wagga MP had been lobbying for in his electorate.

“Not until he fixes my conservatorium … He’s the only one that’s come to do it,” Maguire says in the call.

“Alright good tell him to fix it and then after he fixes it I’m sacking him,” Berejiklian replies.

In the hearing she denied avoiding sacking a public servant because of Maguire’s request, pointing out that the official was still employed.

10. ‘I don’t recall’: Berejiklian’s memory lapses

Icac is focusing in particular on two grants – $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 2018.

Both are in Maguire’s former seat of Wagga Wagga, and he had lobbied heavily for them while a member of parliament. The watchdog is investigating whether she breached the public trust by exercising public functions in a position where she had a private interest.

But the former premier was not able to assist the commission in many of its inquiries as to the role she played in approving the grants and “I don’t recall” became a common refrain throughout Friday’s evidence.

Contributors

Christopher Knaus and Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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