HomeGladys Berejiklian ICAC: Former NSW premier told chief of staff in 2018...

Gladys Berejiklian ICAC: Former NSW premier told chief of staff in 2018 relationship with Daryl Maguire was in the past

A corruption investigation has heard stunning evidence giving a glimpse into Gladys Berejiklian’s secret relationship with an MP.

Gladys Berejiklian’s chief of staff stepped away from a Friday night dinner in July 2018 to take a phone call from her boss.

The NSW premier was phoning Sarah Cruickshank to let her know that she had been in a relationship with Daryl Maguire, an MP who had been caught up in a major scandal earlier that day.

When Ms Cruickshank hung up the phone, she was under the impression Ms Berejiklian and the MP had been close and shared “more than just a few dinners”.

But she wasn’t sure whether it had been a “full-blown, intense relationship”.

One thing she was certain of: Ms Berejiklian had told her the relationship was in the past.

But that was a lie, it was suggested by the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Tuesday.

Testifying before the commission, Ms Cruickshank said she clearly remembered Ms Berejiklian telling her the relationship had ended before she ascended to the top job in January 2017.

“She told me it was (over) before she became premier,” Ms Cruickshank told the ICAC.

But when Ms Berejiklian faced the ICAC in October 2020, Ms Cruickshank found out the relationship had continued during Ms Berejiklian’s first three years as NSW premier.

Reflecting on the ICAC commissioner Ruth McColl’s suggestion Ms Berejiklian had lied to her, Ms Cruickshank offered a blunt assessment.

“There’s no different way to characterise it,” she said.

Ms Berejiklian has not yet testified at the hearings, but has previously denied all wrongdoing and said she always acted with integrity.

The July 2018 phone conversation with Ms Berejiklian, revealed for the first time at Tuesday’s ICAC hearing, makes Ms Cruickshank one of the earliest known people to be let in on the then-NSW premier’s big secret.

Earlier that day, Mr Maguire, the then-Wagga Wagga MP, had been exposed allegedly giving false evidence in a corruption hearing, and Ms Berejiklian wanted her chief of staff to know about their history so that she could be prepared for any possible media requests about the pair.

“I know the primary reason she was calling me was because a mutual friend had said, ‘You have to let Sarah know, she’s your chief of staff, she needs to know’,” Mr Cruickshank said.

She recalled the then-premier, who was on leave from work, sounding distressed on the phone.

Ms Cruickshank assumed Ms Berejiklian felt that way because she was concerned about the prospect of a by-election.

“This was … the first break she’d taken in the 18 months since becoming premier, and she’s been away for all of one day, and then one of her government MPs has to resign,” she said.

“She was also concerned, as I was being told anyway, that this historic relationship would surface and she would be dragged in.”

Ms Berejiklian told Ms Cruickshank she and Mr Maguire had been to lunches and dinners together and that she was worried there might be pictures of the pair, and that members of the press would seek to connect her to the MP.

Ms Cruickshank, who has known Ms Berejiklian since they were both engaged in student politics during their university days, said she knew the premier to be a private person who didn’t like to share much about her personal life.

However, in a subsequent conversation in the premier’s office where another staffer, Brad Burden, was also present, Ms Cruickshank said Ms Berejiklian had told them Mr Maguire would send her text messages.

“She said something like, ‘He texts me sometimes’, and we said ‘Don’t talk to him, don’t have anything to do with him’.”

Two days after the Friday night phone call, Ms Berejiklian issued a public statement expressing her “shock” at Mr Maguire’s ICAC testimony and saying she’d asked the Liberal party to expel him.

“I was shocked by the events of Friday and I spoke to Mr Maguire late that afternoon to express in the strongest possible terms my deep disappointment,” she said at the time.

“He has let down his constituents, the people of NSW and the NSW Liberal party.”

The ICAC is examining whether Ms Berejiklian breached the public’s trust in the course of her tryst with Mr Maguire.

The allegations include that Ms Berejiklian failed to report Mr Maguire’s allegedly corrupt behaviour to authorities, that she “encouraged” that behaviour by remaining silent, and that she had a conflict of interest when she used her power as treasurer and premier to deal with money requests by the MP.

During her testimony on Tuesday, Ms Cruickshank was shown two “ministerial pinks” – briefings for the premier that would have gone straight to her desk – bearing Ms Berejiklian’s signature and notes.

The July 2018 briefing notes were prepared by a top bureaucrat in the Department of Premier and Cabinet to let Ms Berejiklian know that two different staffers in NSW ministries had decided to contact the ICAC with information that may be relevant to the investigation the watchdog was conducting into the former Canterbury Council.

That was the ICAC investigation – separate to the one currently ongoing – where Mr Maguire had been accused of giving false evidence earlier that month.

Ms Berejiklian wrote “noted” on one of the briefs, and jotted with a blue pen on the other: “The secretary‘s note in this instance should be replicated for all future declarations”.

The counsel assisting the ICAC, Scott Robertson, has previously said the commission hasn’t been able to identify any evidence Ms Berejiklian declared her relationship with Mr Maguire, or that she contacted the ICAC with any information about the MP she may have known.

Ms Berejiklian was caught on a bugged phone call that was played before the commission last year responding to a comment by Mr Maguire about a business deal he was conducting by saying: “I don’t need to know about that bit.”

She has told the commission she didn’t suspect Mr Maguire was corrupt when she sacked him in July 2018.

Ms Berejiklian explained to the ICAC last year that Mr Maguire was in a “very bad state” following his resignation from parliament and that she stayed in touch with him to make sure he was OK.

The ICAC heard the pair had known each other for 15 years, been in a “close personal relationship“ since the 2015 state election, and that Ms Berejiklian “made clear” to Mr Maguire the relationship was over in August 2020.

That testimony, in October 2020, came as a shock to most of her colleagues, who had no idea she was dating Mr Maguire.

Former deputy premier John Barilaro previously told the ICAC no one in parliament or the government‘s offices would have guessed Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire were in a relationship.

Tuesday’s revelations by Ms Cruickshank put her among a handful of people who knew about the tryst before then, including Ms Berejiklian, Mr Maguire, and Ms Cruickshank’s successor as chief of staff, Neil Harley.

Mr Harley appeared before the ICAC earlier on Tuesday and spoke about the “difficult” conversation where his boss told him about the relationship.

Mr Harley said Ms Berejiklian broke the news to him after she got her first summons to give testimony before the ICAC, which she did in a secret interview in August 2020.

“It was a very difficult discussion about a very private matter for the former premier, who is inherently a very private person,” Mr Harley said on Tuesday.

“We talked in terms of the nature of the relationship and the fact it went beyond what you might normally regard as a relationship between a premier and other members of parliament.”


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