“It didn’t stack up”: ICAC investigation into Gladys Berejiklian begins
On the opening day of a corruption inquiry into Gladys Berjiklian, private evidence was revealed of the then-premier expressing her “shock” when she was forced to sack former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
The video evidence was recorded over a month ago, prior to the former Premier announcing her shock departure from the top job.
In the clip from 2020, Ms Berejiklian is questioned via video link by Scott Robertson, the Council Assisting of the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). Mr Robertston directed his questions towards what she knew about Mr Maguire’s allegedly corrupt behaviour when she asked him to resign as Parliamentary Secretary in 2018.
“Did you suspect Mr Maguire was engaged in corrupt conduct?” Mr Robertson asked.
“I couldn’t make any assumption at that stage, he was professing his innocence,” Ms Berejiklian replied.
After being repeatedly pressed about her suspicions, Ms Berejiklian eventually answered “no”.
Once the recording finished, Mr Robertson told the Commission that there were questions about whether the evidence should be accepted in the current investigation.
If not, Mr Robertston continued, the Commission should “consider why Ms Berejiklian did not make a report to this Commission concerning Mr Maguire”.
The current investigation
The ICAC is investigating allegations that Ms Berejiklian breached her own ministerial standards by not disclosing her relationship with Mr Maguire when she was Treasurer under Mike Baird or to her own cabinet when she was Premier.
“There will be evidence to the effect that a number of public officials would have acted differently if they knew about Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Maguire,” Mr Robertson said in his opening address.
Mr Robertson provided examples of Ms Berejiklian declaring past conflicts of interest, such as the appointment of people she knew to government boards, and the employment of her cousins by the public service.
But, Ms Berejiklian “never gave a disclosure to the NSW ministerial code of conduct about Mr Maguire”.
Ms Berejiklian is also being investigated for three other allegations surrounding the awarding of two grants to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music and the Australian Clay Target Association in Wagga Wagga.
First, it is alleged that she breached the public trust by failing to report any suspicions of corrupt conduct in relation to Mr Maguire.
Allegations that Ms Berejiklian behaved in a way “that was liable to allow or encourage” Mr Maguire’s allegedly corrupt conduct are also being investigated in the inquiry.
She has repeatedly denied any wrongdoing.
“It didn’t stack up”
Michael Toohey from the Office of Sport appeared as the first witness, and rubbished the $5.5 million grant awarded to the Australian Clay Target Association.
“There wasn’t any real design work … it didn’t stack up,” Mr Toohey told the ICAC.
Mr Maguire publicly touted the project and claimed that the gun range could be used as the venue of the 2018 Sydney Invictus Games if it received funding.
“Invictus Games doesn’t have shooting events,” Mr Toohey said.
Day two sees second witness speak
On day two of the inquiry, the ICAC heard that the Office of Sport was asked to draft an urgent funding submission for the grant, despite the office regarding it as a low priority project.
Former Office of Sport executive director Paul Doorn told the ICAC on Tuesday that he could not remember why the submission was so urgent.
Paul Doorn appears as a witness during day two of the ICAC’s investigation. Image: ICAC
He already told the ICAC that the project didn’t appear to benefit the state of NSW, and upgrading the Wagga Wagga club could pose a risk of cannibalising any events that would go to the government-owned shooting facility in Olympic Park.
“Why would you invest in a facility where you’ve already got a facility that could host [major events?” Mr Doorn said.
The commission also heard that Mr Maguire, who was the member for Wagga Wagga, lobbied for government funding for the facility twice, but that the proposal lacked details.
Mr Doorn also agreed that he would have told the government that the information provided was insufficient for funding to be allocated to the gun club.
The investigation is ongoing, with Mr Baird, Stuart Ayres, John Barilaro, and Ms Berejiklian to give evidence over the next two weeks.