A corruption probe has heard an explosive recording of Gladys Berejiklian giving evidence behind closed doors as the ICAC inquiry into the ousted NSW Premier kicks off.
The former leader was spotted sporting a power suit, new hair cut and confident smile at her lawyer’s office on Monday morning, as the Independent Commission Against Corruption revealed the basis of the claims that led to her resigning in disgrace.
The inquiry began with counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson playing a recording of a private hearing from September 18 where Ms Berejiklian was repeatedly pressed on whether she had suspected her former boyfriend, ex-Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, of engaging in misconduct.
Mr Robertson questioned if she had suspicions about Mr Maguire’s activities after he first appeared before a separate corruption inquiry in 2018, resulting in his sacking from her government.
‘I was in shock, I didn’t know what to think. I didn’t have enough detail. I hadn’t read what was happening. I can’t remember what I thought at that time,’ Ms Berejiklian said.
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is seen at Northbridge Plaza on Monday morning as ICAC begins public hearings into her conduct while premier
Mr Robertson said he wasn’t asking if she knew specifically about his corrupt conduct, only if she suspected any corrupt conduct at all.
After saying several times that she couldn’t be sure, Ms Berejiklian eventually said the answer was no.
ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian:
- Engaged in conduct between 2012 and 2018 that was ‘liable to allow or encourage the occurrence of corrupt conduct’ by former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, with whom she was in a close personal relationship between 2015 and 2018
- Exercised her official functions dishonestly or partially by refusing to exercise her duty to report any reasonable suspicions about Mr Maguire to the ICAC
- Exercised any of her official functions partially in connection with two multimillion-dollar grants in Mr Maguire’s electorate, to the Australian Clay Target Association Inc and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.
Ms Berejiklian has repeatedly, strenuously denied any wrongdoing.
Mr Robertson described the grants to the Australian Clay Target Association Inc and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music as ‘case studies’.
He said private ICAC hearings established that public officials involved with these grants would say they had been ‘influenced in the steps they took’ based on what they thought to be ‘Ms Berejiklian’s support for or interest in those projects’.
The public hearings started shortly after 10am on Monday and are expected to run for two weeks.
Another former NSW premier, Mike Baird, is among the witnesses set to front the inquiry this week, as is NSW Trade Minister Stuart Ayres. Ms Berejiklian is not expected to appear until next week.
The inquiry is hearing evidence from Michael Toohey, a director in the Office of Sport. He previously worked in the Department of Premier and Cabinet.
Michael Toohey, director at the Office of Sport, arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Monday, October 18
Mr Toohey told the inquiry he was asked to put together in just one day a draft expenditure review committee (ERC) submission for funding for the Australian Clay Target Association Inc.
He said the request was made to him from within the Office of Sport but was coming to through the then NSW Sport Minister, now Trade Minister Stuart Ayres.
Mr Ayres is giving evidence in the inquiry this week but has not been accused of wrongdoing.
Mr Toohey said it was ‘extremely unusual’ to be asked to put together an ERC submission on such short notice. He did not recall this happening before.
The Australian Clay Target Association grant is one of the ‘case studies’ at the centre of the ICAC investigation.
The association was located in Mr Maguire’s former electorate of Wagga Wagga.
Mr Toohey said there was an ‘idea being thrown around’ that the association’s facilities were going to be relevant to getting the Invictus Games (an international sporting event for wounded, injured and sick servicemen and women, both serving and veterans) in Sydney.
‘[The] Invictus Games doesn’t have shooting events. The claim that this was somehow related to the bid was imaginative,’ Mr Toohey said.
At that time, 2016, Ms Berejiklian was the NSW Treasurer.
Mr Toohey said an analysis focused on the benefit to Wagga Wagga of funding the construction of a new clubhouse for the Australian Clay Target Association in the city is an ‘incomplete analysis’.
‘It has to benefit the state,’ he said.
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian is seen in a smart power suit at Northbridge Plaza on Monday morning as an ICAC hearing into her behaviour starts its public hearings
Mr Robertson said in his opening address that under the ministerial code of conduct NSW ministers must exhibit, and be seen to exhibit, the highest standards of probity.
He told ICAC that there are some circumstances where a person’s ‘ordinary entitlement to privacy must be subordinated to their public duty. Put another way, public duties come first’.
‘While a person holds office of public trust, for example, like the office of premier of that of treasurer, it may be necessary for that person to disclose that she or he is in a personal relationship with a particular person if the existence of that relationship is something that could objectively have the potential to influence the performance of the officeholder’s public duties.’
Former NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured right) is set to appear before the ICAC inquiry into another former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left)
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) is seen arriving at her family home with her partner, Arthur Moses SC (left)
Dominic Perrottet, who replaced Ms Berejiklian as premier two weeks ago, says he spoke with her over the weekend and ‘she’s doing well’.
He would not comment, however, on the ICAC proceedings, saying he wasn’t going to ‘provide a running commentary’.
‘My ministerial team are focused on the people of the state, the integrity agency will do their work and we’ll go from there,’ he said.
‘There are always public hearings when it comes to the Independent Commission Against Corruption, they’ve got a job to do, they should do the job.
‘If there’s anything the NSW government needs to act on following these inquiries, then we will, but obviously we’ll just wait.
‘I’m not going to provide a running commentary in relation to these public inquiries,’ said Mr Perrottet.
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian seems to have a lot on her mind as she walks in Northbridge on Sydney’s north shore
Gladys Berejiklian has her mask at the ready on a walk on Monday morning in north Sydney
ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her secret ex-boyfriend and disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire between 2012 and 2018.
Her mother Arsha told Daily Mail Australia last Wednesday that while her daughter was initially ‘heartbroken’ at having to step down while NSW was emerging from the Covid pandemic, she had come to accept her decision, and was ‘smiling and happy’.
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left) with her arm around her father Krikor (right)
Gladys Berejiklian pauses for thought at Northbridge Plaza in Sydney on Monday morning
Many believed Ms Berejiklian’s confession at the hearing into Mr Maguire last October would mean the end of her time as state premier, and he remains the primary subject of ICAC’s ongoing Operation Keppel.
The disgraced MP admitted receiving thousands of dollars in commissions from China for a ‘cash for visas’ scheme and to using his parliamentary position to conduct business for his company G8way International, which he failed to disclose his interest in.
Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (front) and her former boyfriend Daryl Maguire
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) is under investigation by ICAC for her conduct while NSW premier in relation to her former boyfriend, ex-MP Daryl Maguire (pictured left)
Despite the Maguire revelations Ms Berejiklian soldiered on and her popularity increased as she led NSW through the ups and downs of the Covid-19 pandemic.
For much of the past 18 months she had been credited as the premier who had done more than any other to help hold the nation together and keep business running during the pandemic.
But she quit on October 1, after four and a half years in the state’s top job and will also step down as Willoughby MP and leave state politics for good as soon as a by-election can take place.
She spent Saturday in the comfort of her family home surrounded by close relatives. The ex-NSW premier, 51, looked happy and relaxed as she arrived bearing gifts at the red brick North Ryde home of her elderly Armenian parents, Arsha and Krikor in Sydney’s north.
She was accompanied by her high-profile lawyer boyfriend Arthur Moses SC, both casually dressed in dark jeans, black boots and sunglasses.
Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right), 51, looked happy and relaxed arriving at her family home with boyfriend Arthur Moses (left) on Saturday
A determined looking Gladys Berejiklian is seen in Sydney on Monday morning as an ICAC hearing begins into her conduct while NSW premier