NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has stonewalled questions for a second day about her relationship with a disgraced former MP at the centre of a corruption probe, again insisting she has done nothing wrong and rebuffing calls to resign.
Ms Berejiklian has refused to detail the exact nature of her “close personal relationship” with Daryl Maguire, and has won support from an unlikely alliance of supporters, including Anthony Albanese, Bill Shorten and Scott Morrison.
However, she still faces a motion of no confidence in the state parliament, with Labor leader Jodi McKay using a fiery Question Time in parliament to accuse the Premier of “concealing” knowledge of Mr Maguire’s business dealings.
“I have always acted in the best interests of the people of this state, I’ve not done anything wrong,” Ms Berejiklian said on Tuesday.
“At all times I’ve acted in the best interests of this state.”
Fronting another heated press conference in Sydney, the Premier was barraged with questions about her dealings with the former Wagga Wagga MP. She had sacked him from the Liberal Party in 2018 over a separate corruption matter, relating to seeking payments to help broker deals for property developers.
However, Ms Berejiklian revealed in a bombshell ICAC hearing on Monday that she had actually been in what she called a “close personal relationship” with him from 2015 until earlier in 2020.
Mr Maguire is being investigated by ICAC over allegations he used his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or for G8way International – a company he is alleged to have “effectively controlled”.
Secret phone recordings taped conversations between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire, in which he told her about various property deals and business negotiations. In several of the calls, aired during the hearing, Ms Berejiklian was heard saying, “I don’t need to know about that”.
In a 2014 text message exchange, before the “close personal relationship” is said to have begun, Mr Maguire told her he was in line to make $5000 commission from a property deal where he had put the buyer and seller in contact.
Ms Berejiklian replied “Congrats!!! Great news!!! Woo hoo”.
The Premier has maintained she said that because she was not interested in Mr Maguire’s plans, not because she was trying to maintain deniability.
“Had I known any wrongdoing was done at any stage I would have not have hesitated to act,” she said Tuesday.
“I have acted very swiftly when I needed to and I am the first to put up my hand and admit but I haven’t done anything wrong.”
Ms Berejiklian has repeatedly said she felt “let down” by Mr Maguire, claiming she was “absolutely not aware” of the full extent of his business dealings. She said she trusted him.
“I trusted someone who didn’t deserve to have my trust and I’m deeply regretful of that. I really hate that it happened,” Ms Berejiklian said.
NSW Labor leader Jodi McKay has accused the Premier of “playing the victim”.
Disappointing that Gladys Berejiklian has played the victim card. This isn’t about a relationship it is about integrity and turning a blind eye to corruption.
— Jodi McKay (@JodiMcKayMP) October 12, 2020
Ms Berejiklian maintained on Tuesday that she and others had been taken in by Mr Maguire.
“A number of public servants were approached by him and unfortunately you take people at face value and trust them,” she said.
“This person had been in parliament for 15 years. Unfortunately, sometimes people are able to get away with things without a lot of people realising.”
When asked to detail the exact nature of their relationship, the Premier deflected, saying she already had been as forthcoming as she would be.
“I was as open as I could be for someone who is very private,” she said.
“Notwithstanding that it’s been to my personal detriment in terms of having to be so specific and open.”
Ms McKay moved a no confidence motion in the Premier in state parliament on Tuesday. The Labor leader accused Ms Berejiklian of failing to report her knowledge of Mr Maguire’s business dealings to ICAC in 2018.
Ms McKay claimed the Premier “concealed it for two years.”
On ABC TV earlier in the day, the Labor leader claimed Ms Berejiklian had hidden information from ICAC.
“She is entitled to a personal relationship, and I will defend that. But this is an issue of what Gladys Berejiklian didn’t do. She knew that Daryl Maguire was involved in the deals that are now before the Independent Commission Against Corruption,” Ms McKay said.
“She also knew that in July 2018, when ICAC found he was misbehaving, she knew as well what he was involved in and did nothing. It took her then eight days to take action against him. She should have disclosed then that she was in a relationship with him. She should
have reported to ICAC what she knew and she failed on both accounts.”
“That’s the heart of this issue. It is what she didn’t do.”
However, Ms McKay’s federal Labor colleagues have shared some words of sympathy for the Premier.
“It’s all pretty human, isn’t it? And I don’t hold that against Gladys… I’ve got I’ve got sympathy for Gladys at the human level,” Mr Shorten said on Channel Nine’s Today program.
“People make mistakes. But, you know, I guess there’s a political angle and that’s got to play through and it is serious or ICAC wouldn’t be checking it all out.”
Mr Morrison called her “a person a momentous integrity, a great friend” and said she had his “absolute support”.
On the ABC’s Q&A on Monday, Mr Albanese also said Ms Berejiklian’s private life should not be put up for public debate.