Prime Minister Scott Morrison says he never received any correspondence from Daryl Maguire, as the disgraced former politician’s ICAC scandal breaks loose of NSW and threatens to infect Canberra.
Mr Maguire, the secret boyfriend of NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, will face scrutiny from the Department of Home Affairs over his admissions to a “cash for visas” scam.
Separately, the Australian Federal Police said it will work with NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption to see if Mr Maguire had “any involvement” with the Leppington Triangle deal.
The deal is currently taking over federal politics, with the infrastructure department paying $30 million for land later valued at just $3 million.
After two days of probing questions in Senate estimates to various public officials and department heads, Labor turned the spotlight on Mr Morrison on Tuesday, asking if he knew anything about the scandal enveloping Mr Maguire.
Mr Morrison was immigration minister between September 2013 and December 2014, part of the period when Mr Maguire was allegedly running his scheme to set up Chinese nationals with work visas.
“Did disgraced former NSW MP Daryl Maguire make any representations to the government about visas, including to your department?” deputy Labor leader Richard Marles asked the PM in question time on Tuesday.
Mr Morrison replied that he “receives representations from many people in the community”, including from opposition MPs, on a range of matters.
Disgraced former NSW Liberal MP Daryl Maguire has admitted to the NSW ICAC he was running a "cash for visas" scam
— Kristina Keneally (@KKeneally) October 20, 2020
“It is my normal practice for those matters through my office to be referred to the relevant department,” he answered.
But later on Tuesday, the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO) said that preliminary searches of its databases had turned up no trace of communication from Mr Maguire.
“The PMO has been advised by the Department of Home Affairs that a first, complete search of its database did not identify any correspondence from Daryl Maguire or the business G8wayinternational Pty Ltd to the Prime Minister in his former role as Immigration Minister,” a spokesperson for the PM told The New Daily.
“Additional searches conducted in the PMO indicate the Prime Minister has not received any such correspondence in his current role.”
Despite the Prime Minister’s rejection of link to Mr Maguire, Labor is likely to keep pursuing the questioning in parliament.
AFP check Maguire’s airport links
Earlier in the day, AFP officials said they would investigate whether Mr Maguire had any connection to the Leppington Triangle purchase.
It came after explosive evidence from the national auditor-general that he referred the 2018 purchase to police amid concerns the Commonwealth had been “defrauded”.
The AFP investigation was revealed only last week.
Mr Maguire’s involvement in a “cash for visas” scheme is being separately probed by the Home Affairs department, as revealed Monday. But part of last week’s NSW ICAC hearings also went to his involvement in a mooted $300 million sale of land, owned by 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, in 2017.
Labor senator Kristina Keneally asked AFP deputy commissioner Ian McCartney on Tuesday whether police were investigating Mr Maguire’s “cash for visas” admissions.
“I think there’s other issues in relation to Badgerys Creek, in terms of just satisfying ourselves that Mr Maguire does not have any involvement in relation to the matter that we’re investigating,” Mr McCartney said.
“That’d be our primary focus of engaging ICAC at the minute.”
When asked by Senator Keneally whether that meant the AFP’s Leppington investigation would include speaking to ICAC about Mr Maguire’s potential involvement in land deals in the area, Mr McCartney replied “correct”.
The AFP said the audit office had handed it 256 gigabytes of information and more than 800 files related to the Leppington purchase.
AFP officials said the investigation was still at an early stage, and no criminality had yet been identified. They are looking at Section 142 of the federal criminal code – which relates to corruption by public officials.
Government backbench MP Barnaby Joyce, a former infrastructure minister himself, commented on the Leppington scandal by saying “someone is in a world of bother.”
“The discrepancy in price is incredibly hard to explain,” he said of the price paid to be 10 times the later valuation.
“If people want to do something as blatant and stupid as that, then expect to be investigated and expect heads to roll.”