If she had her time again, Gladys Berejiklian would keep her relationship with disgraced former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire a secret, a combative former premier declared in her first day of evidence at anti-corruption hearings.
Ms Berejiklian was on Friday subject to more than five hours of questioning at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry that forced her to resign as the state’s leader on October 1.
ICAC is investigating how her secret relationship may have affected the way she – as treasurer and premier – dealt with projects pushed by Mr Maguire.
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Ms Berejiklian was played several intercepted phone calls during which she discussed some of those projects with the former member for Wagga Wagga.
In one, she can be heard saying she got “$170 million in five minutes” for a hospital in his electorate.
“I just spoke to Dom and … he goes, ‘No worries’. He just does what I ask him to,” Ms Berejiklian said of then-treasurer Dominic Perrottet, her successor as premier.
In another, she says a public servant would be sacked, but only after he “fixed” a grant proposal Mr Maguire was advocating for.
Mr Maguire was the one originally under ICAC’s microscope last year for allegedly using his position as an MP to gain a financial benefit for himself.
Ms Berejiklian says she had no clue Mr Maguire was doing anything “untoward”, and he did not get any preferential treatment from her.
The public hearing has focused on two grants for which Mr Maguire lobbied.
Neither faced a competitive tender process and were at times opposed by senior public servants.
Ms Berejiklian told the inquiry she supported a $5.5 million upgrade to the Wagga Wagga Clay Target Club not because of Mr Maguire, but primarily because she thought it would improve the government’s standing in the bush after a damaging by-election loss.
The $20.5 million plan to build a recital hall in Wagga Wagga won her favour because she felt the Riverina Conservatorium of Music had been messed around by the public service.
She was “upset” that it had, on advice from bureaucrats, spent “considerable time and money” putting together a proposal to go through a funding process in which it had no hope of succeeding.
Mr Maguire on Thursday agreed his advocacy for some of the projects was partly motivated by a desire to leave a legacy and boost his popularity in the seat so it would be easier for the next Liberal candidate to win.
Mr Maguire and Ms Berejiklian had previously spoken about him quitting at the 2019 election so they could be together publicly.
But Ms Berejiklian on Friday was incredulous at that proposition.
“That is absolutely not the case. I reject it outright and I find it offensive,” she said.
Despite all the trouble it has caused, Ms Berejiklian said even if she had her time again, she would not disclose her relationship with Mr Maguire.
That is despite Ms Berejiklian agreeing with the way Mr Maguire characterised their relationship on Thursday.
He said the pair loved each other, contemplated marriage and discussed having a child.
“I had those feelings but I was never assured of a level of commitment which, in my mind, would have required me to introduce him to my parents or introduce him to my sisters,” she said.
She was shown a message, sent to Mr Maguire in April 2018, calling him her “family”.
“I regarded him as part of my love circle – part of the people that I strongly cared for – but I wouldn’t have put him in the same category as my parents or my sisters,” she said.
She was asked why did she disclose other relationships or friendships – including someone she said she had attended functions with – but not one with a person she loved.
She said she believed declarations were necessary where someone stood to gain a personal commercial benefit.
Why then did she not declare her relationship when appointing Mr Maguire to a parliamentary secretary position, which came with a pay rise, Mr Robertson queried.
“I didn’t appoint him, I reappointed him,” Ms Berejiklian said.
Ms Berejiklian will return to the witness box on Monday, when her lawyer will have the opportunity to examine her.
© AAP 2021