Gladys Berejiklian acted as a 'spy' for Daryl Maguire inside her office, NSW upper house told

Mark Latham claims in NSW parliament the premier misrepresented her relationship with the disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP

Gladys Berejiklian
The NSW upper house has been told Gladys Berejiklian deliberately played down her relationship with Daryl Maguire. One Nation MP Mark Latham alleged in parliament Maguire had a key for her house. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP
The NSW upper house has been told Gladys Berejiklian deliberately played down her relationship with Daryl Maguire. One Nation MP Mark Latham alleged in parliament Maguire had a key for her house. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

Last modified on Thu 12 Nov 2020 00.52 EST

The NSW upper house called for Gladys Berejiklian to be referred to the corruption watchdog over allegations she failed to declare her relationship with Daryl Maguire, acted as “a spy” for him within her own office and failed to notify the Independent Commission Against Corruption of his alleged corrupt conduct.

On Thursday the upper house passed a detailed motion calling on the premier to be referred to the Independent Commission against Corruption over what Labor says are are serious matters of her conduct. The motion received support from the minor parties.

One Nation MP Mark Latham said Maguire, the disgraced former MP for Wagga Wagga, had keys to Berejiklian’s house until very recently and she had misrepresented her relationship to Icac and the public.

Latham said Maguire had returned to Berejiklian’s house in September to collect his toiletries and other personal effects that he kept there. He said Maguire had told Icac he had keys to the premier’s house for two to three years and had replied “of course” when asked whether he had used the key to let himself in.

Latham said the fact that Maguire had keys demonstrated that he was indeed her “numero uno” .

She told Icac it was “not a relationship of sufficient status” yet she described Maguire on phone taps as “her numero uno and hawkiss, an Armenian word meaning beloved”, he said.

“The premier has been walking a tight rope between truthfulness and not wanting her family and the public to know she was in a relationship with a married man,” he said.

That’s why she had given conflicting descriptions of the relationship, he said.

She had told one media outlet she had hoped to marry him, “but then told 2GB he wasn’t her boyfriend, he wasn’t anything of note”, Latham said.

The motion, moved by Labor, calls for Icac to start a new investigation into Berejiklian over her “repeated failure” to report any aspect of Maguire’s conduct to the corruption body. It also wants Berejiklian’s handling of the $252m stronger communities fund examined.

Asked about the key in question time, Berejiklian said she had already answered this question.

“What is clear to me is that the leader of the opposition and One Nation are clear political allies,” she said.

“The ALP in order to score points will do anything,” she said.

The premier’s staff have given evidence that documents on the assessment of the grants to councils were shredded. Only a handful of emails remain, and these appear to indicate that grants were directed by the premier and her staff.

Over 95% went to councils in Coalition seats.

The Liberal leader of the upper house, Damien Tudehope, said the motion was nothing more than “a stunt” and that anyone could make a complaint to Icac without needing a motion of parliament.

Labor’s Adam Searle said Berejiklian’s own evidence showed that she was aware of Maguire’s business activities during her “close personal relationship” with him over a period of several years.

Yet she failed to report his “shady dealings with property developers”, he said.

Indeed she approved of them, at one point texting “whoo hoo” when he pulled off a deal, he said.

When Maguire “disappeared in a puff of scandal” in 2018, Berejiklian failed to disclose her relationship to her cabinet colleagues or the premier’s department because she knew it would spell the end of her leadership, Searle said.

“It was a serious breach of her obligations,” he said.

Maguire left parliament in July 2018 after he was named in an Icac inquiry into Canterbury council. This led to separate inquiry into his own dealings with property developers, Operation Keppel. It in turn exposed Maguire’s relationship with the premier.

Labor’s John Graham amended the motion adding two new items: an allegation raised on Wednesday in parliament that Berejiklian had attended a fundraiser in Taree, where property developers allegedly made donations in breach of NSW donations laws; and further allegation that the premier had approved $40,000 in grants for the seat of Wagga from a discretionary fund that she controls, without disclosing her potential conflict of interest due to the relationship.

“Bridget McKenzie [the former federal sports minister] resigned over a far less serious failure to declare a conflict,” he said.

McKenzie resigned for failing to declare she was a member of a gun club to which she gave a grant during the so-called sports rorts affair.

Latham also accused Berejiklian of acting as “a spy against her own staff” during an incident in 2017. Maguire had attempted to get himself on an official trade mission to China to try to salvage a deal for a Chinese company, Bright Foods, for whom he was acting as a consultant.

Berejiklian’s chief of staff, Sarah Cruikshank, blocked the trip.

Latham said Berejiklian had relayed internal discussions from her office to Maguire about the trip.

He accused Berejiklian of failing to uphold the ministerial code of conduct. He said her office had received details of Maguire’s pecuniary interest disclosures on three occasions and that they were initialled as having been received by her staff.

Yet she knew of most of his financial interests, discussed in the tapped phone calls with her, and these were not included in those disclosures, he said.

“Clearly she knew of his failure to to disclose,” he said.

“It’s an open and shut case for the premier’s resignation,” he said.