BY AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gladys Berejiklian has resigned as NSW premier after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog announced she was under investigation for breach of public trust.
Gladys Berejiklian’s four-and-a-half year stint as NSW premier has come to a close after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog announced she was under investigation for potential breaches of public trust.
Ms Berejiklian will also resign from NSW parliament as soon as a by-election for her north Sydney seat of Willoughby can be held.
NSW’s Independent Commission Against Corruption said in a statement on Friday it was investigating whether Ms Berejiklian “exercised public functions” in a position of conflict between her public duties and private relationship with ex-MP Daryl Maguire, revealed in late 2020.
A wearied Ms Berejiklian said on Friday she could not temporarily step aside while ICAC conducted its investigation and then resume the premiership.
She agreed that as premier she was obliged to resign while under ICAC investigation, but again denied any wrongdoing.
She also said her resignation “could not happen at a worse time” as the state prepares to leave COVID-enforced lockdowns in the coming weeks.
“History will demonstrate that I have always executed my duties with the highest degree of integrity for the benefit of the people of NSW who I have had the privilege to serve,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
“The people of NSW need certainty as to who their leader is during these challenging times of the pandemic … I cannot predict how long it will take the ICAC to complete this investigation, let alone deliver a report.”
The premier did not take questions from journalists but thanked COVID frontline workers, the Liberal Party, her family and constituents.
Ms Berejiklian will remain premier until the NSW Liberal Party elects its new leader and the state’s new premier, with Dominic Perrottet a frontrunner.
“We will be shortly out of this lockdown and be able to get on with our lives. NSW and its people will come out of this lockdown stronger, and together we will build a future full of optimism and hope,” Ms Berejiklian said.
An ICAC public inquiry on the matter will be held for about 10 days from October 18, overseen by Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl SC.
ICAC said Ms Berejiklian would be investigated over grant funding to the Australian Clay Target Association in 2016/17 and grant funding to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga in 2018.
It plans to look into whether Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Maguire, then the Wagga Wagga MP, affected those arrangements and constituted a breach of public trust or partial exercise of official functions.
ICAC will also investigate whether Ms Berejiklian should have “suspected on reasonable grounds” that Mr Maguire may have engaged in corrupt conduct, and thus failed to report him to ICAC as required.
It will look into whether she “was liable to allow or encourage” his conduct.
Mr Maguire is accused of abusing his public office between 2012 and 2018.
The former state MP is accused of using his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or for G8way International, a company Mr Maguire allegedly “effectively controlled”.
Mr Maguire quit the government in 2018 after a separate ICAC inquiry heard evidence he sought payments to help broker deals for property developers.
The pair’s five-year relationship was kept secret until Ms Berejiklian disclosed it at an ICAC hearing on Mr Maguire in October 2020.