The premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian, was in a “a close personal relationship” with a former MP when he was forced to resign from parliament amid a corruption scandal.
But the premier has denied knowing about improper conduct by the former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, telling the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday she “made the assumption that he was always doing the right thing”.
The NSW Icac is investigating allegations Maguire misused his position as an MP and parliamentary secretary to improperly gain a benefit for himself or for G8way International, a company he “effectively controlled”.
The inquiry previously heard Maguire sought payments to help broker deals for Chinese property developers, and helped “grease the wheels” of a deal to sell the racing heir Louise Waterhouse’s land near the proposed western Sydney airport in 2017 and 2018.
But in bombshell revelations on Monday, Berejiklian revealed she had been in a “close personal relationship” with Maguire from around the 2015 election.
“I would like to say at the outset that Mr McGuire was a colleague of 15 years, he was someone that I trusted … and that developed into a close personal relationship,” she said.
The relationship, which was kept secret from parliamentary colleagues because, the premier said, “I’m a very private person”, continued after Maguire was forced to resign in 2018 after a separate Icac inquiry heard he had sought payment to help broker deals for some property developers.
The premier said the contact had continued after he resigned and that she had ended her relationship with Maguire “a few months ago”.
“He was someone in a very bad state [and] after having known him for 15 years I felt I should check on his welfare,” she said.
“When I was asked to support this inquiry, it became apparent to me that I should have absolutely no contact any more with that individual.”
The inquiry heard Berejiklian was aware Maguire had legitimate business dealings outside parliament, including on one occasion informing the premier about a $5,000 commission he received on the sale of a motel in 2014.
“Congrats!!! Great news!! Woo hoo,” she wrote in an email at the time.
But Berejiklian said she had always “made the assumption that he was always doing the right thing”, and denied suggestions from the counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, that she had “on more than one occasion” sought to “discourage Mr Maguire from giving you details on his outside interests?”
“I would never ever, never ever, turn a blind eye from any responsibility [or] any wrongdoing I saw, or any activity not in keeping with what a parliamentarian should be doing – I want to make that very clear,” she said.
The inquiry heard recordings of a number of private phone conversations between Berejiklian and Maguire in which he complained about his personal debt, and difficulties with a company called UWE Commodities.
Icac has heard Maguire had financial ties to UWE but Berejiklian said she did not know that at the time.
“From my recollection it was about jobs, regional jobs,” she said. “I didn’t even know what UWE was.”