The barrister who will represent former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian at a corruption inquiry is the ‘go-to’ lawyer for rich and powerful clients with everything to lose.
Bret Walker SC has acted for bikies, politicians and sport stars in headline-grabbing legal battles which come with high stakes potential consequences befitting his estimated $25,000-a-day fees.
Among his recent successes was appearing for Cardinal George Pell when the most senior Catholic clergyman in Australia beat charges of child sexual assault in a High Court appeal.
Mr Walker will represent Ms Berejiklian at an ICAC inquiry expected to last 10 days but the Department of Premier and Cabinet would not reveal if taxpayers were footing the bill.
‘Ministers (as well as other public officials and Crown employees) may apply for ex gratia legal assistance in certain circumstances, including where the person is required to appear before the Independent Commission Against Corruption,’ a spokesperson said.
The barrister who will represent former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian at a corruption inquiry is the ‘go-to’ lawyer for rich and powerful clients with everything to lose. Bret Walker SC (pictured) has acted for bikies, politicians and sports stars and can charge $25,000 a day
Ms Berejiklian has rarely been seen since resigning on October 1 (pictured) after ICAC announced it was investigating whether she breached the public trust during her relationship with former boyfriend Daryl Maguire
Bret Walker appeared for Cardinal George Pell (pictured) when the most senior Catholic clergyman in Australia beat charges of child sexual assault in a successful High Court appeal
ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her onetime boyfriend Daryl Maguire, the disgraced NSW MP.
The inquiry relates to multi-million dollar government grants awarded to a gun club and conservatorium of music in Mr Maguire’s then Wagga Wagga electorate.
Taxpayers picked up Mr Maguire’s legal bills when he was before the commission. Mr Walker is known to sometimes take on government work at far below his usual fees.
Before establishing Mr Walker would represent Ms Berijiklian at the ICAC hearing, Daily Mail Australia polled several prominent silks about who she was likely to choose.
‘If I were her I’d get Bret Walker,’ one Senior Counsel responded immediately. When another Queen’s Counsel was asked who he would hire in Ms Berejiklian’s position he answered: ‘Bret Walker SC’.
Mr Walker is the son of an Anglican minister from Sydney’s inner west and was captain and dux of the King’s School at Parramatta where broadcaster Alan Jones taught him English.
He was admitted as a barrister in 1979, appointed senior counsel in 1993 and is a former president of the NSW Bar Association. His second wife is fellow barrister Sarah Pritchard SC.
Mr Walker is the son of an Anglican minister from Sydney’s inner west and was captain and dux of the King’s School at Parramatta where broadcaster Alan Jones taught him English
Mr Walker will be assisted by Sophie Callan, who was one of 26 NSW barristers to be appointed senior counsel last year. Ms Callan (pictured) is best known known for prosecuting former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald over matters arising from ICAC inquiries
Ms Berejiklian was represented at an earlier ICAC hearing by Arthur Moses SC and they subsequently began a relationship. legal sources said it would be a ‘bad look’ if he continued to act for her.
‘There might be an ethical issue but it doesn’t even matter,’ one Sydney lawyer said. ‘It wouldn’t even get to first base. There’s no way that he would ever do it.’
Ms Berejiklian had sought Mr Walker’s advice after being told by ICAC she would be named as a person of interest in its Operation Keppel inquiry.
Mr Walker advised the then premier she could legally stay in her job while the investigation continued but she resigned on October 1 and was replaced by Dominic Perrottet.
While Ms Berejiklian is not listed as a witness at the hearing next week she will have Mr Walker protecting her interests.
Mr Walker will be assisted by Sophie Callan, who was one of 26 NSW barristers to be appointed senior counsel last year.
Ms Callan is best known known for prosecuting former Labor ministers Eddie Obeid and Ian Macdonald over matters arising from ICAC inquiries.
Mary Berejiklian (right) revealed her sister Gladys (centre) was in a relationship with barrister Arthur Moses SC (left) in this Instagram post in June
The former premier’s secret relationship was revealed on October 12 last year when tapped phone calls between her Mr Maguire (pictured together) were played at a corruption inquiry
As an advocate Mr Walker is known for his meticulous preparation and as a brilliant strategist rather than for theatrical performances or flashy courtroom antics.
‘He’s the go-to guy for people with money and for big companies, for anything,’ one lawyer said.
The lawyer predicted Mr Walker would necessarily be relying heavily on Ms Callan’s work behind the scenes at ICAC.
Mr Walker, who has described himself as a social democrat, has his own history with ICAC, having both criticised and acted for the controversial agency.
He has called for ICAC to be stripped of the power to make public findings of corruption against the subjects of investigations, stating it threatened the concept of a fair trial.
Last year Mr Walker provided legal advice to ICAC as it sought an overhaul of the way it was funded, which Mr Walker found might be unlawful.
Premier Gladys Berejiklian has admitted she shared a private relationship with disgraced former colleague Daryl Maguire while he was in office. Secretly recorded phone conversations the pair had have been played at the Independent Commission Against Corruption (pictured)
ICAC funding is considered by the Department of Premier and Cabinet and NSW Treasury before being signed off by Cabinet’s expenditure review committee.
Mr Walker found that arrangement exposed ICAC to a risk of undue influence.
In a report to Parliament he said there was a need to eliminate ‘undesirable – unlawful, as I see them – aspects of the current funding arrangements for ICAC.’
Mr Walker foreshadowed a ‘looming conflict’ between the independence of ICAC and public servants being able to restrict future funding.
He cited the ‘crude, hypothetical but not fantastical’ potential for the Department of Premier and Cabinet refusing extra funding for an investigation which could reflect adversely on the government.
Mr Walker appeared for former prime minister Kevin Rudd at the Royal Commission into the Home Insulation Program and saved Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce when dual citizenship claims threatened his political career.
Gladys Berejiklian departs after giving evidence at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption on October 12 last year
He helped the Finks outlaw motorcycle gang challenge the validity of South Australia’s anti-bikie laws and tried to stop the founder of the Rebels’ Tasmanian chapter being deported.
Mr Walker also acted for tobacco companies in their unsuccessful fight against plain cigarette packaging.
He oversaw a Special Commission of Inquiry last year after at least 900 passengers and crew on the Ruby Princess cruise ship were infected with Covid-19.
He produced a report into the poor performance of Australia’s swimming team after it won just one gold at the 2012 London Olympics, the country’s lowest tally in 20 years.
And he won an acquittal for rugby league player Greg Bird in the NSW District Court after a magistrate had jailed the former State of Origin regular for allegedly glassing his then girlfriend Katie Milligan.
Among the witnesses to give evidence at ICAC will be former former premier Mike Baird and Stuart Ayres, the Minister for Trade and Industry and deputy leader of the Liberals in Mr Perrottet’s new ministry.
Mr Walker won an acquittal for rugby league player Greg Bird after a magistrate had jailed the former State of Origin regular for allegedly glassing his then girlfriend Katie Milligan. Bird is pictured court in April 2009 after his original conviction, since set aside
Ms Berejiklian has rarely been seen since resigning on October 1 after ICAC announced it was investigating whether she breached the public trust during her five-year relationship with Mr Maguire.
A number of public servants will give evidence before Mr Baird is due in the witness box on Wednesday.
Mr Baird’s onetime chief of staff Nigel Blunden will be called, as will Director at the Office of Sport, Michael Toohey, and Paul Doorn, the CEO of Venues NSW.
ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian engaged in a ‘breach of public trust’ or encouraged corrupt behaviour during her relationship with Mr Maguire.
Witnesses will give evidence via audio-visual link wherever possible due to Covid-19.
Ms Berejiklian had refused to resign after her secret relationship with Mr Maguire was first revealed at an earlier ICAC hearing in October last year.
The then premier admitted she ‘stuffed up’ by secretly having a relationship with Mr Maguire from 2015 to August 2020.
‘Whilst I have made this mistake in my personal life, I intend to serve the people of New South Wales to the best of my ability. That’s what I’ve always done. I’ve sacrificed my life to public office, and I’m proud of that,’ she said.
Former premier Mike Baird will be a witness at the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into Gladys Berejiklian’s dealings with her former boyfriend, disgraced MP Daryl Maguire. Mr Baird and Ms Berejiklian are pictured
Ms Berejiklian said then she was ‘far from perfect’ but insisted she has ‘done nothing wrong’ and has not been compromised by her relationship with Mr Maguire, a divorced father-of two.
Mr Maguire resigned in 2018 after a corruption inquiry heard evidence he sought payments to help broker deals for property developers. He is now facing a separate corruption inquiry, accused of using public office to improperly gain.
Ms Berejiklian said last year she was not aware of Mr Maguire’s alleged misconduct when they were dating.
‘I assumed he was doing the right thing,’ she said. ‘I had my trust in him, and obviously I know now that that trust was misplaced, and I accept that human failing on my part, and I accept it wholeheartedly.
‘I had no reason at the time to imagine that he was doing anything wrong, because I trusted him, and I assumed that, if there was any interests to be declared, that he did that.’
The premier said she effectively ended the romance when she sacked Mr Maguire from the Liberal Party before he resigned from Parliament.
‘The dynamics changed substantially and I was there to support him as a close friend,’ she said.
Mr Maguire is pictured carrying a firearm and smoking a cigarette at his property the day after Ms Berejiklian resigned as premier
Ms Berejiklian has said she kept the relationship secret from all her family and friends because it was not ‘of sufficient status’ and she was not sure it had a future.
She has previously described herself as a ‘very private’ person and said the exposure of the relationship was a ‘personal nightmare’.
The secret relationship was revealed when tapped phone calls between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire were played at ICAC.
The calls featured Mr Maguire using colourful language including swear words. He called Ms Berejiklian ‘babe’ and she called him her ‘numero uno’.
Asked at the inquiry what she meant by ‘numero uno’, Ms Berejiklian said: ‘I think what I would have meant there is that in my personal life I placed importance on how I felt about him.’
During the calls, Mr Maguire made comments such as ‘they are sucking people’s d***s’ and ‘they can get f**ked’. Ms Berejiklian, a former Girl Guide, often simply replied with ‘Mmm’.
An emotional Gladys Berejiklian (pictured on October 12 last year) had refused to resign after her secret relationship with a disgraced former MP who is facing a corruption investigation shocked Australia
In other private correspondence the two called each other ‘hawkiss’, an Armenian term of endearment.
Ms Berejiklian was the third Liberal premier in NSW to be brought down by the anti-corruption body her side of politics created.
Nick Greiner became its first victim in 1992 – just four years after he established ICAC in a bid to uncover Labor scandals during Neville Wran’s decade in power.
While the Supreme Court later cleared him of scandalously offering a government job to former education minister Terry Meterell, the damage was done and the late John Fahey replaced him as premier.
Little more than two decades later, in 2014, Barry O’Farrell resigned over an undeclared $3,000 bottle of Grange Hermitage, bottled in the year of his birth – 1959.
He had received the gift in March 2011 in the week he won a landslide election victory that ended 16 years of Labor rule, following a series of scandals in Kristina Keneally’s government.
Why did Gladys Berejiklian resign?
The NSW corruption watchdog ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her ex-boyfriend and former MP Daryl Maguire (pictured together)
Ms Berejiklian quit on October 1 after the state’s corruption watchdog said it was investigating her.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her secret ex-boyfriend and former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire between 2012 and 2018.
It will also probe whether she breached public trust by not reporting any suspicion of corrupt conduct and what role she had to play in two government grants handed out in Mr Maguire’s electorate.
An ICAC public inquiry on the matter will be held for about 10 days from October 18, overseen by Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl SC.
Mr Maguire is accused of abusing his public office after admitting being involved in a cash-for-visa scheme and seeking secret commissions for brokering property deals. He was forced to resign in 2018.
In an emotional 10-minute speech on October 1 Ms Berejiklian denied any wrongdoing and slammed the watchdog for announcing its investigation into her as the state emerges from a four-month Covid lockdown.
‘Resigning at this time is against every instinct in my being and something which I do not want to do,’ she said.