Gladys Berejiklian, Mike Baird, ICAC: Former Premier’s damning evidence

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In a few damning words, former NSW Premier Mike Baird has condemned Gladys Berejiklian for her secret love affair with Liberal MP Daryl Maguire. 

Giving evidence to a corruption inquiry into his one-time close political ally on Wednesday, Mr Baird said Ms Berejiklian should have told him that she was dating Mr Maguire when she was the state Treasurer. 

He said: ‘Certainly I think it should have been disclosed … to myself as the premier’ and that it was a ‘potential conflict of interest’.  

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That ‘potential conflict of interest’ was that Ms Berjiklian was head of a committee deciding on funding for a multi-million dollar project that Mr Maguire was very keenly backing. 

Mr Baird told ICAC counsel Scott Robertson that while he could not recall the specific advice he was given about the Wagga Wagga gun club proposal ‘My sense was that they – the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Treasury – were probably against’ it due to economics and costings.  

Gladys Berejiklian leaves her home on Sydney's leafy north shore on Wednesday morning as in inquiry into her continues at the Independent Commission Against Corruption

Gladys Berejiklian leaves her home on Sydney’s leafy north shore on Wednesday morning as in inquiry into her continues at the Independent Commission Against Corruption

Former NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured right) appeared before the ICAC inquiry into another former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left)

Former NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured right) appeared before the ICAC inquiry into another former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left)

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Mr Baird told ICAC that Mr Maguire strongly followed up on projects he was backing. 

‘Daryl relentlessly pursued his own agenda’ and he ‘advocated very strongly’ on issues of interest to him,’ Mr Baird said. 

But he added that Mr Maguire was ‘At times aggressive and at times abusive to members of staff and public servants.’ 

Mr Robertson asked Mr Baird if the support of the Treasurer was a big factor in deciding if a particular proposal would receive the support of the ERC. 

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‘Yes,’ Mr Baird said. ‘As a principle that would have given me great comfort’ but he said he read proposals in detail and did not just rely on the advice he got from others.

Mr Baird was asked when he first knew that Ms Berejiklian had been in a relationship with Mr Maguire. ‘When it was revealed here (at ICAC) about a year ago,’ he said, adding that he was ‘incredulous’ when he heard it. 

He said if the relationship was known about at the time that Ms Berejiklian should have been excluded from the committee meeting concerning the gun club project.

He added that if Ms Berejiklian had disclosed the relationship ‘It could have been managed’.

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Earlier, an explosive memo from a top government adviser saying ‘WTF’ has rocked the Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into whether Gladys Berejiklian breached the public trust. 

The ICAC also heard from former premier Mike Baird that the revelation of Ms Berejiklian’s secret relationship with then Liberal MP Daryl Maguire left him ‘incredulous’.

He said it was a ‘potential conflict of interest’ and that ‘I think it should have been disclosed … to myself as the premier’. 

In a memo to Mr Baird dated December 12, 2016, Nigel Blunden sarcastically referred to a proposal to fund a clay target shooting venture backed by Ms Berejiklian’s then secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire as the ‘Maguire international shooting centre of excellence.’

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‘As Joel Goodson (the character Tom Cruise played in the 1983 film Risky Business) would say, sometimes you have to say WTF,’ Mr Blunden said in the memo.

The explosive memo that has rocked the ICAC inquiry into former premier Gladys Berejiklian

The explosive memo that has rocked the ICAC inquiry into former premier Gladys Berejiklian

Mr Blunden added in the memo that ‘Daryl fired up and Gladys put it back on’ the agenda.  

In the recommendation section of his memo, Mr Blunden wrote ‘Oppose. Gladys and Ayres want it. No doubt they’ve done a sweetheart deal with Daryl, but this goes against all of the principles of sound economic management.’

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In evidence on Wednesday, Mr Blunden said ‘I can’t recall exactly why I used that phrase.’ He said he was not suggesting wrongdoing, but it came from a ‘sense of frustration’ that the gun club proposal kept coming back. 

‘At the very least let’s target one of our marginal seats, not one of our safest,’ Mr Blunden said in the memo to Mr Baird.  

Asked about whether he would have done anything differently if he had known in 2016 that Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire were in a relationship, Mr Blunden said: ‘I suspect I would have sought advice from somebody, maybe DPC (Department of Premier and Cabinet) as to whether there may have been a conflict of interest involved.’ 

Mr Blunden was also asked if he had known about Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire’s relationship, would it have changed the advice he gave to Mr Baird. ‘Yes, I suspect it would have had an impact’ he said, adding that his advice was already ‘strong’ and he was not supportive of the Wagga Wagga gun club proposal.

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At the time, the proposal had not been independently reviewed and no feasibility study had been done.

Former NSW premier Mike Baird arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Former NSW premier Mike Baird arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The memo was written two days before ERC considered the proposal and ultimately gave the association $5.5 million – a decision which is now at the centre of the investigation into the ousted leader.

In a December 6, 2016 email shown at the ICAC, Mr Blunden asked co-workers about an Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) funding proposal which was being backed by Mr Maguire. 

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ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian 

1. 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 

2. Exercised her official functions dishonestly or partially by refusing to exercise her duty to report any reasonable suspicions about Mr Maguire to the ICAC 

3. 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. 

‘Gents, are we aware of this one – seems like a lot of $$$,’ the email said.

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‘This was the first I’d heard of a submission being put to the ERC [expenditure review committee],’ Mr Blunden told the ICAC.  

As the then Treasurer, Ms Berejiklian was also chair of the ERC.

Mr Blunden, who now works for the federal Department of Health in Canberra, said the time allowed for considering the proposal ‘seemed quite tight’. He said usually there was a two week period between lodging a funding submission and it being considered by the ERC.

But in this case, the gun club funding proposal was lodged on December 6, to be considered on December 14.   

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In a further email, Mr Blunden said: ‘Let’s hold this one until the business case is finalised and do it once.’

He told the ICAC it was better to have a ‘fully rigorous business case’ before proposals were submitted to the ERC. 

But on December 8, 2016, an email entered into evidence to ICAC on Wednesday suggested the ‘PO (Premier Mike Baird’s Office) is happy for this to progress’.

Asked what changed in just two days, Mr Blunden said ‘Reflecting on that, I’d be speculating. I’m not aware of what may have happened in those couple of days.’

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Asked if he gave Mr Baird ‘fairly forthright’ advice about the merits of the ACTA proposal, Mr Blunden said: ‘Forthright, robust, yes.’ 

In a memo dated December 12, 2016, Mr Blunden sarcastically referred to the proposed ‘Maguire international shooting centre of excellence.’

‘As Joel Goodson (the character Tom Cruise played in the 1983 film Risky Business) would say, sometimes you have to say WTF,’ Mr Blunden said.

At the time, the proposal had not been independently reviewed and no feasibility study had been done.

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The memo was written two days before ERC considered the proposal and ultimately gave the association $5.5 million. 

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian's (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) left Mike Baird 'incredulous'

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) left Mike Baird ‘incredulous’

A concerned looking Gladys Berejiklian will front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption next week

A concerned looking Gladys Berejiklian will front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption next week

In another email entered into evidence at the ICAC, the chief of staff to the then NSW Sport Minister, Stuart Ayres, said ‘Wagga Wagga is pushing the barrow’ on a proposal to fund upgrades to a gun club in that electorate.

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Mr Blunden took this to be a reference meaning the then Wagga Wagga MP, Daryl Maguire was backing the project, but this was not unusual because ‘members of parliament are elected to advocate for their electorates’. 

Mr Ayres, who is due to give evidence at the ICAC later this week is not accused of any wrongdoing. 

Assisting counsel Scott Robertson arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption  hearing in Sydney. ICAC is in its first week of hearings into whether former premier Gladys Berejiklian breached public trust

Assisting counsel Scott Robertson arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption  hearing in Sydney. ICAC is in its first week of hearings into whether former premier Gladys Berejiklian breached public trust

Dominic Perrottet, who replaced Ms Berejiklian as NSW Premier after her resignation on October 1, was asked this morning if he was aware of any concerns about the $5.5 million grant by the state government to ACTA in 2016.

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The grant is one of two ‘case studies’ being examined by the ICAC in this inquiry.

‘I was not aware of any concern,’ Mr Perrottet said, adding that he would not be giving a running commentary on the ICAC proceedings. 

A seemingly bland, 18-word email is causing difficulties for former NSW premier Gladys Berjiklian

A seemingly bland, 18-word email is causing difficulties for former NSW premier Gladys Berjiklian

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (front) and her former boyfriend Daryl Maguire

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (front) and her former boyfriend Daryl Maguire

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The Australian Clay Target Association is part of an ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian

The Australian Clay Target Association is part of an ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian 

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)

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)

 

 

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