NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been further drawn into an ICAC probe into her ex-boyfriend Daryl Maguire, with secret phone taps revealing the disgraced former MP told her about plans to broker a massive land deal in the hopes of wiping his debts.
Mr Maguire also admitted he had been in an “on again, off again” relationship with the Premier until as recently as September.
Labor leader Jodi McKay accused Ms Berejiklian of being Mr Maguire’s “sounding board for corruption” in yet another scorching parliamentary question time on Thursday.
The Premier dared Ms McKay to “say it outside” the chamber, where she would not be protected under parliamentary privilege.
Under questioning from ICAC counsel assisting Scott Robertson, former Wagga Wagga MP Mr Maguire also admitted to taking a property developer to Ms Berejiklian’s office for a “drop-in” meeting after the men had been drinking at Parliament House.
Ms Berejiklian made the bombshell revelation on Monday that she had been in a secret “close personal relationship” with Mr Maguire from 2015 until just weeks ago. Mr Maguire went more than a day on the ICAC stand with barely a question about the relationship, before he was finally asked about it on Thursday.
He characterised it as “on again, off again”, which started in 2015 and ended in “August or September sometime”.
Asked if he was still in a close relationship with the Premier, Mr Maguire answered “not after the events of this, I wouldn’t be, no”.
On Wednesday, Mr Maguire made a series of explosive admissions, including using his political staff and resources for private business interests, receiving multiple bags of cash containing “thousands” of dollars in his parliament office, and running a lucrative ‘cash for visas’ scheme for Chinese nationals.
On Thursday, ICAC probed deeper into a $300 million land deal Mr Maguire was trying to stitch up for racing heir Louise Raedler Waterhouse. Mr Maguire said he believed he could be in line for $1.5 million as part of a possible deal for the Badgerys Creek property, near the site of the new Western Sydney airport.
Ms Berejiklian had rebuffed calls for her resignation from the Labor opposition and some parliamentary crossbenchers in recent days, maintaining she knew nothing about the type of business deals Mr Maguire was involved in.
“Never, ever have I tolerated anybody else doing anything wrong. And if I ever saw it or witnessed it or knew about it, of course I would have taken action,” she said.
However, Mr Maguire said that when it came to some business ideas and general problems he faced, he would “run it past her” sometimes, in general terms.
A secretly recorded 2017 phone call between the pair revealed Mr Maguire had told her about “debts” he had, and mentioned “the Badgerys Creek stuff” – understood to be a reference to the land deal.
“I don’t know that I ever went into specifics. It was just broad discussion stuff,” Mr Maguire said, of how much he would talk to Ms Berejiklian about his business plans.
ICAC heard a secret recording of a phone call, where Mr Maguire told the Premier he owed $1.5 million, and he was hoping to make “enough money to pay off my debts” from the land deal.
“I only have a few friends that you can raise these things with, and I would have run it past her, perhaps, to get her view,” Mr Maguire said of the call.
He said he couldn’t recall exactly how much detail he had shared about the specifics of the plan. The phone calls played at the hearing did not reveal Mr Maguire sharing any important details of the proposed sale.
Mr Maguire said at the time of the 2017 phone call, he had decided to retire from politics at the 2019 election. He admitted under questioning that factors involved in his decision included having enough money to retire, finding an opportunity for post-parliament work, and potentially going public with his relationship with Ms Berejiklian.
About 1pm, Mr Robertson asked that the hearing go into a private session, to ask further personal questions about the pair’s relationship.
The hearing resumed momentarily just before 4pm, but was almost instantly adjourned. Mr Robertson alluded to a “separate matter” which had arisen during the private session, as the cause for the delay. He did not detail what it was.
Mr Maguire is expected to return to the stand on Friday.
Premier under siege
Ms Berejiklian’s leadership remains under enormous pressure after she revealed their secret relationship during her evidence to the probe earlier in the week.
Upper house crossbenchers have refused to support government legislation unless Ms Berejikilian steps aside.
The Premier barely survived two no confidence motions on Wednesday.
These might be uncomfortable questions, but the people of NSW have a right to know why Gladys Berejiklian accepts corruption in her Government. #nswpol
— Jodi McKay (@JodiMcKayMP) October 15, 2020
In question time on Thursday, Ms McKay rounded on the Premier.
“Will you admit you were his sounding board for corruption?” she said.
Ms Berejiklian slammed the characterisation as “extremely offensive”, and dared Ms McKay to repeat the comments outside the protections of the chamber, where parliamentarians are immune to defamation claims.
“I ask her to withdraw it or say it out there. Either withdraw it or say it outside,” the premier said.
Transport minister Andrew Constance admitted Thursday would be “a tough day” for the Premier, as she faces off mounting scrutiny.
“I am not nervous because I know Glad has done nothing wrong. She is an incredible leader,” Mr Constance told Nine’s Today show.
Attorney General Mark Speakman claimed there was “100 per cent support for Gladys” in the party.
“She is the best premier in Australia,” he told ABC TV.
“This ICAC investigation is into Daryl Maguire, it’s not into Gladys Berejiklian. She is not a person of interest. There is no allegation made by ICAC against her, that she has breached any statute or any ministerial code.”
-more to come