Gladys Berejiklian has scraped through to survive two no-confidence motions in the NSW parliament, but the Premier faces intense pressure to resign after another day of bombshell corruption admissions from her ex-boyfriend at the ICAC.
Today’s ICAC hearing could be the final blow to her life as Premier.
Disgraced MP Daryl Maguire on Wednesday admitted to running a “cash for visa” scheme and using taxpayer-funded political staff and resources for his personal business ventures.
It was a day of explosive revelations, but conspicuously missing one crucial element – questions on his relationship with the Premier, who this week revealed the pair had been in a secret five-year tryst.
— Jodi McKay (@JodiMcKayMP) October 13, 2020
Mr Maguire returns to the ICAC witness stand on Thursday, and Ms Berejiklian will be sweating on what – if anything – is asked as to how much she knew of his shady dealings.
Her defence rests on the claim she didn’t have any idea of how deeply rotten his business was.
Gladys barely survives vote
Despite not being implicated by Mr Maguire’s Wednesday testimony, the Premier faces her own immediate problems.
She survived two no-confidence motions in state parliament, but only just – a motion in the upper house going her way by just one vote.
But crossbenchers in the Legislative Council have pledged to reject government legislation if Ms Berejiklian won’t step aside, over her links to the disgraced Mr Maguire.
On Monday, facing ICAC herself, the Premier claimed she knew nothing of his business concerns.
However, secret phone recordings and text messages reveal Mr Maguire told her about his debts, and commissions he received for connecting business deals.
The Premier has vehemently denied any knowledge of the scandals ICAC’s Operation Keppel is probing, but some parliamentary colleagues are standing against her.
One Nation leader Mark Latham, and Shooters, Fishers and Farmers leader Robert Borsak, say Ms Berejiklian should step aside pending the inquiry’s outcome.
“We’re not prepared to support the government in their legislative agenda while she leads their party and in fact is the premier of NSW,” Mr Borsak told ABC TV.
“We haven’t asked for her to resign. We’ve asked for her to step aside so that this whole process with ICAC can finish and they can issue some judgment on what her relationship with Mr Maguire has been all about.”
Labor leader Jodi McKay called for the Premier to resign, claiming she had turned a blind eye to corruption.
We must protect the integrity of our public offices. We must uphold some standards in public life in this state.
And that is that this house can no longer have confidence in the Premier.
— Jodi McKay (@JodiMcKayMP) October 14, 2020
She slammed Ms Berejiklian for not disclosing her “close personal relationship” with Mr Maguire during a 2018 ICAC hearing into his activities.
Ms Berejiklian returned fire that Ms McKay had “sat in the cabinet” with disgraced MPs like Eddie Obeid, who had also been implicated in corruption findings.
“Unlike you, I reported it to ICAC,” Ms McKay shot back.
In a press conference, Ms Berejiklian claimed Mr Maguire “fooled a lot of people” who were not aware of his dealings. She also lashed out at the line of questioning when asked about Mr Maguire’s business.
“Please be careful with the dots you’re trying to draw, which simply do not exist,” she said.
“I’m happy to answer all questions in relation to the public interest. But my tolerance for answering questions which, frankly, are offensive, is waning.”
‘Cash for visas’ admission
Earlier on Wednesday, Mr Maguire admitted using taxpayer-funded staff, resources and connections to benefit G8way International – a company he essentially ran as director.
Mr Maguire said he received multiple deliveries of “thousands” of dollars in cash from a business associate in his Parliament House office.
“Would you agree that effectively, you turned your office in Parliament House into an office for G8way International?” counsel assisting the ICAC, Scott Robertson, asked.
“Partly,” Mr Maguire said.
Asked if he used parliamentary resources “with a view to making money for yourself and your associates”, Mr Maguire said “yes”.
Other questions centred on a scheme where G8way linked Chinese nationals with jobs at Australian businesses, to gain work visas.
Mr Maguire said G8way could get up to $20,000 per “placement”, as a “success fee”.
Under questioning, Mr Maguire admitted the arrangement was a “cash for visas” scheme, where it was not clear there was any obligation for the “employee” to actually work.
Mr Maguire claimed he “was promised that the rules wouldn’t be broken”. However, when asked if it was “cash for visas”, he said “it appears that way”.
During questioning, Mr Maguire initially claimed he did not know at the time he was working on it that it was not a legitimate employment scheme.
But, pressed further, he admitted he did know that the scheme may be a cash for visas scenario.
“An essential element of this scheme … was potentially lying to immigration officials, do you agree?” Mr Robertson asked.
Mr Maguire: “Yes”.
“You agree it was a breach of public trust?” Mr Robertson asked.
Mr Maguire: “Yes”.
The former MP is due to appear before ICAC again on Thursday, and potentially into Friday. The more revelations that emerge, the more pressure Ms Berejiklian will face.