What we learned from Daryl Maguire's appearance before Icac
Here’s what we learned on an explosive day of evidence in the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s inquiry into the conduct of former New South Wales premier Gladys Berejiklian:
- Daryl Maguire, the former Wagga Wagga MP whose secret relationship with Berejiklian is at the heart of Icac’s investigation, told the inquiry he and the former premier had been in “love” and had discussed getting married and starting a family together. The evidence contradicts comments made by Berejiklian that the relationship was not “anything of note” and so did not require disclosure.
- Maguire also 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.
- The inquiry heard a series of recordings from tapped phone conversations between Maguire and Bereijklian. In one, Maguire complained about “roadblocks” to his “money projects”. Berejiklian responded: “I know but you’re still getting everything. We ticked off your conservatorium the other day, that’s a done deal now.” The $30m given to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music is one of two grants at the centre of the inquiry.
- Maguire also revealed that he stayed in communication with Berejiklian following his appearance before a separate Icac inquiry in 2018 which led to his resignation. Recordings from a tapped phone conversation reveal Maguire gave the premier advice on which projects to fund in the lead up to the byelection prompted by his resignation, including stage two of the conservatorium project. “You just throw money at Wagga,” Maguire says on the call. Berejiklian replies: “I’ll throw money at Wagga don’t you worry about that.”
That’s the end of Maguire’s evidence. Icac has now adjourned until 10am tomorrow when we will hear from the former premier, Gladys Berejiklian. I’ll sum up what we’ve learned today shortly.
Maguire is then briefly cross-examined by Berejiklian’s lawyer, Sophie Callan SC.
Her questions mostly go to the nature of the relationship between Berejiklian and Maguire. You may have seen that earlier today Maguire told Icac he and the now-former premier were in love, holidayed together, and had discussed having children.
Berejiklian though has previously played down the significance of the relationship, arguing it wasn’t of sufficient standing to require her declaring an interest in projects he had lobbied for.
Maguire agrees with Callan’s proposition that he “occasionally” travelled to Sydney without telling her, and that the two did not share a diary. He agrees 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.
The final recording from a tapped phone call is between Maguire and the Liberal Party’s candidate for his replacement, Julia Ham, in the lead up to the Wagga Wagga byelection in 2018.
In the call, Maguire tells Ham that one of his “sources” had confirmed to him that funding for the second stage of the Riverina conservatorium would be confirmed.
Earlier, Maguire said that following his resignation the only two people from the Liberal party who spoke to him were a staff member in Berejiklian’s office and the premier herself.
Counsel assisting the commission Scott Robertson asks Maguire in that context who his source about confirming the funding was.
“Oh, it’d be from Ms Berejiklian,” Maguire says.
'I’ll throw money at Wagga' Berejiklian tells Maguire in intercepted call played at Icac
Two more extracts of phone calls between Berejiklian and Maguire have been played before Icac.
The exchanges took place shortly after Maguire’s resignation from the parliament in 2018, which came after his evidence to a separate Icac inquiry.
The resignation sparked a byelection, and Maguire reveals he was giving advice to Berejiklian on what projects she should fund to hold onto the seat.
In one of the calls Maguire says to Berejiklian: “You just throw money at Wagga”.
She replies: “I’ll throw money at Wagga, don’t you worry about that”.
She then asks Maguire to “do the right thing ... otherwise you’ll kill me”.
In the call Berejiklian says to Maguire that he had “already told me the top three things” to fund as part of the byelection. He then mentions a “stadium”.
“I’ll do that too, don’t worry,” Berejiklian says.
“[But the] bureaucracy knocked it all out,” he responds.
“Yes but I can overrule them,” she says.
Icac hears recording of Maguire telling Berejiklian Wagga needs to be 'blazing star of southern universe'
As Maguire’s evidence continues, we’ve been played two recordings of telephone calls between him and Berejiklian.
In the first, from October 2017, Maguire talks to Berejiklian about needing to turn his seat, Wagga Wagga, into “the blazing star of the southern universe”.
“That’s why we need a stadium, a conservatorium, we need the things Sydney has got, people should listen to me,” he says on the call.
He talks about funding for a stadium in other seats, such as Dubbo, and says: “fuck them, Wagga is where it’s going to happen”.
“Those other dumb arses [Nationals MPs] just sit there and look after themselves,” he says.
The second call, from May in 2018, involves the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, one of two grants at the centre of Icac’s inquiry into the former premier.
In the call, Maguire is complaining about “roadblocks” to his “money projects”, which he tells Icac is a reference to obtaining projects in Wagga Wagga as part of his “legacy” before retiring.
Berejiklian responds: “I know but you’re still getting everything. We ticked off your conservatorium the other day, that’s a done deal now.”
Counsel assisting the commission Scott Robertson then asks Maguire whether by raising “roadblocks” he was asking Berejiklian to intervene: “No I don’t know that through that conversation I invited her to intervene but I certainly made my views known.”
While we’re at lunch, I just want to revisit something that occurred at the beginning of Daryl Maguire’s evidence this morning.
Icac was played a recording of a phone call between the former Wagga Wagga MP and his friend and business associate, William Luong.
During last year’s hearings – which were centred on Maguire himself, rather than the conduct of former premier Gladys Berejiklian – we learned Maguire had hoped to earn hundreds of thousands of dollars in commissions by helping Luong, a property investor, with the sale of land near the western Sydney airport.
In the recording played to Icac, Maguire tells Luong about a confidential map of a possible route of the M9 motorway related to that land sale.
In the conversation, Maguire refers to a “friend” with access to the map – which he tells the inquiry was another member of the NSW parliament.
When Luong asks for a copy of the map, Maguire says: “No, we couldn’t, we couldn’t possibly do that. That would be very wrong.” He then tells Luong he would pass on his details to his “friend” in parliament”.
“I’m going to send your IM to my friend. He’s going to look and see if he recalls that map in his mindset, he’s actually seen it and I haven’t,” Maguire says in the recording.
We didn’t hear which MP the “friend” was, and whether they ever spoke to Luong.
During the exchange Maguire admitted that by providing the information to his businessman friend, he was misusing his position as an MP. While he said he had no “agreement” with Luong about gaining a financial benefit from the information, he conceded it was “possible” that would have been part of his motivation for passing the information on.
We heard later that Luong was invited to a networking dinner at parliament house in 2017 , but Maguire said he did not attend.
Counsel assisting the commission Scott Robertson spent the second half of the pre-lunch adjournment asking Maguire about the second grant at the centre of Icac’s inquiry: the $30m given to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in 2018.
The inquiry has previously heard that in 2017 Maguire put out a press release announcing the government had agreed to fund the relocation of the conservatorium to a government-owned building in Wagga Wagga, as well as a “world class” music recital hall.
But no funding had been agreed to at the time, and public servants had been advising against funding aspects of the plan including the recital hall and a proposal to hand the government building over to the conservatorium to turn into commercial space.
Robertson asks Maguire why he issued the release given the funding hadn’t been secured and he says he believed “the building had been secured and allocated to the conservatorium”.
He says he believed there had been an agreement to fund the recital hall. Robertson asks what that belief was based on. He replies: “the system, what had been indicated to me. I can’t be clear about that.”
Icac has heard evidence Maguire was lobbying ministers as early as 2015 about the proposal, and he is asked about a letter he sent to Berejiklian about the proposal.
Robertson asks Maguire whether his lobbying of Berejiklian – who was then the treasurer – was formal or informal. Maguire insists it was formal.
“We would write to any minister we considered relevant,” he says.
The hearing has now adjourned for lunch.
Maguire has spent the past hour or so being asked questions about the $5.5m grant to the Australian Clay Target Association in 2017, and whether he personally lobbied Gladys Berejiklian to support the project.
Counsel assisting the commission, Scott Robertson, shows Maguire an email to Berejiklian on 6 March 2017 with the words: “Typical of our bullshit government”.
Icac has previously heard the funding for the project was approved in December 2016, subject to a satisfactory business case being completed.
Robertson pushes Maguire on whether, by sending the email to Berejiklian, he was seeking to have her “intervene” in speeding the project up.
But Maguire tells Robertson he was frustrated by “red tape” associated with the project, and that he was “venting my frustration at the bureaucracy and the way the government tied itself in knots”.
“She needed to know the rubbish that was going on,” he said.
Robertson continues to push Maguire on whether he wanted Berejiklian to personally intervene in speeding the project up. Maguire says he can’t recall, but that he “may have done that”.
Good afternoon and welcome to our live coverage of Icac’s Operation Keppel hearings. It has been an eventful morning ... here’s a summary of what the commission has heard so far:
Daryl Maguire has told the New South Wales anti-corruption watchdog that he and Gladys Berejiklian were in love with each other, and had discussed getting married and having a child.
In a dramatic hearing before the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Thursday, Maguire, the former Wagga Wagga MP, made a series of stunning disclosures about the extent of the “close personal relationship” he and Berejiklian 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”.
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.
Callan told the inquiry there was no “public purpose served by plumbing the depths” of Berejiklian’s private life, including “hallmarks or indications of the level of commitment or standing that the relationship enjoyed”.
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.