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(AUSTRALIA) ICAC REPORT: During her first day in the witness box at the Independent on Friday, she stressed that she had done nothing wrong #AceNewsDesk report

#AceNewsReport – Oct.31: She never made decisions that would favour anyone but the people of New South Wales. She had never suspected that the man with whom she was in a secret relationship had ever engaged in corrupt conduct.

#AceDailyNews says according to Australia News Media on UPDATE on Gladys Berejiklian’s Case at the ICAC as media blitz backfired and she was defiant and utterly unrepentant as she did not recall having any particular interest in a government grant awarded to the Australian Clay Target Association, a project long pursued by her secret partner, the former member for Wagga Wagga, Daryl Maguire listen to the videos on this post and decide for yourselves …..

Gladys Berejiklian surrounded by media
Gladys Berejiklian arrives to give evidence at ICAC.(AAP: Dean Lewins)

She did not give any special attention to Mr Maguire’s projects, she said, telling ICAC that he was treated no differently to any other member of her government.

Daryl Maguire stands behind Gladys Berejiklian during a media conference.
Gladys Berejiklian has admitted she had a five-year secret relationship with Daryl Maguire.(ABC News)

Gladys Berejiklian is a disciplined, practised politician who rarely strays from her talking points. But the witness box in ICAC is a very different beast to the floor of parliament or a TV press conference. There is an art to answering questions in these formats.

At a press conference in August, the then-premier told 7.30 it was a “ridiculous” proposition to suggest that she intervened in a grant assessment.

But that kind of response doesn’t fly at ICAC. The NSW government has empowered the agency to compel witnesses to answer questions. Barristers are sticklers for yes or no responses.

On no less than six occasions, ICAC Commissioner Ruth McColl pulled up Ms Berejiklian for not answering questions, or for drifting off into speech-making. 

There was plenty for counsel assisting to rake over. Phone intercept after phone intercept was played, detailing conversations between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire about funding in his electorate. Some were explosive.

A key allegation being explored by ICAC is whether Ms Berejiklian breached public trust by failing to disclose her relationship with Mr Maguire while facilitating the awarding of two grants in his electorate.

In a phone call intercepted less than a month before Mr Maguire’s reputation was shredded at his first ICAC appearance in 2018, Ms Berejiklian casually tells him that she’s secured $170 million in funding for Wagga Base Hospital.

“I’ve just fixed that one,” says Gladys Berejiklian. In the same call, she tells Daryl Maguire she secured the funding “in five minutes” after speaking to then-treasurer, now Premier, Dominic Perrottet.

“I just spoke to Dom and I said put the 140 [million dollars] in the budget. 

“He just does what I ask him to.”

Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence at the ICAC
Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence at ICAC on Friday.(Supplied: ICAC)

When Gladys Berejiklian was asked by counsel assisting whether she would have made a similar intervention for another MP, she replied: “Yes, I’m confident I would have.”

In an intercepted call the previous year, Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire discuss his pet project to revamp the Riverina Conservatorium of Music. During this phone call, Gladys Berejiklian complains about a government bureaucrat working on the funding proposal. 

“I can’t stand that guy,” says the former premier. “His head will be gone soon.”

But Daryl Maguire objects: “Not until he fixes my conservatorium.”

Gladys Berejiklian responds: “Alright, good, tell him to fix it and then after he fixes it, I’m sacking him.”

Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire
Daryl Maguire says he and Gladys Berejiklian loved each other.(Supplied)

The most painful questions were about the status of their relationship. It bordered on Shakespearean. For two people who loved each other to be called to a corruption hearing on consecutive days must have been excruciating.

Ms Berejiklian’s barrister did her best to try and stop these questions from being asked in a public hearing, requesting that these matters be canvassed in private.

This was rejected. And in making the case against it, counsel assisting the inquiry Scott Robertson argued that it may be that Ms Berejiklian in some respects exposed herself to at least some of this scrutiny.

When the first sensational revelation emerged that Gladys Berejiklian had been in a close and personal relationship with the former Wagga MP last October, the then-premier embarked on a media blitz.

Splashed across the front page of The Daily Telegraph were the words, “I loved him … but I’ll never speak to him again”. Mr Robertson questioned whether this was consistent with what she had said about the relationship not being of sufficient status to warrant disclosure. He said that this was one of the reasons why he intended to explore the relationship in public hearings now.

A woman looks down
Gladys Berejiklian maintained her relationship with Daryl Maguire was not of sufficient status to warrant disclosure.(ABC News: James Carmody)

At one point, Ms Berejiklian was presented with a text message that she sent Daryl Maguire, telling him: “You are my family.” But under questioning, she maintained that he wasn’t a family member in any sense that would require disclosure. Round and round the inquiry went, into what exactly Ms Berejiklian considered the relationship was and wasn’t. 

She said she had doubts about how committed he was. She pointed out that they did not share a bank account and she never introduced him to her family. So the relationship did not need to be disclosed. She said it had never occurred to her that the relationship should be factored in when making funding decisions in his electorate.

Mr Maguire had no such indecision. This week, he told the Commission he loved Ms Berejiklian and that she loved him. They discussed marriage. He had a key to her house.

A man looks at the camera with a neutral expression
Daryl Maguire gives evidence to ICAC on Thursday.(Supplied: ICAC)

When asked whether he ever returned Ms Berejiklian’s key, he looked away, pausing for a long moment, before saying he hadn’t. It was a painful moment. Ms Berejiklian went on to say that she had now changed the locks.

There is a purpose to all of this. As Mr Robertson told the inquiry, it goes to the heart of whether Ms Berejiklian breached the high standards set for ministers — standards that she set for herself, as she oversaw the ministerial code when she was premier. According to Mr Robertson, the status of the relationship is crucial in determining whether it warranted disclosure. And if it did, whether it amounted to a breach of the rules.

The former premier said that if she had the chance again, she would still not have disclosed the relationship to her government colleagues.

ICAC does not run trials. Mr Robertson reminded us this week that what ICAC does is investigate: it is charged with holding public hearings in public when it considers the public interest in holding them outweighs the interest of a person’s privacy.

Bodies like ICAC have been described as being part of the fourth branch of government: the integrity branch. Former chief justice of the NSW Supreme Court James Spigelman wrote that the basis for the existence of this branch “is the fundamental necessity to ensure that corruption, in a broad sense of that term, is eliminated from government”. 

That function was on full display this week and into the next at these public hearings, as Ms Berejiklian continues her evidence on Monday

#AceNewsDesk report ………Published: Oct.31: 2021:

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