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Berejiklian influenced by ‘serial pest’ Maguire: lawyer

ICAC found former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian breached public trust. (Mick Tsikas/AAP PHOTOS)

By Miklos Bolza in Sydney

Ex-NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian was influenced by her close personal relationship with an “insecure” MP who pushed her for millions of dollars in funding, a court has been told.

The former state Liberal leader is seeking to overturn findings she breached public trust because of her covert relationship with disgraced party colleague Daryl Maguire.

The NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption found in June that this “serious corrupt conduct” included Ms Berejiklian sitting on a cabinet committee considering multimillion-dollar funding arrangements pushed by Maguire to benefit his Wagga Wagga electorate.

On the second day of a hearing in the NSW Court of Appeal on Tuesday, ICAC’s barrister Stephen Free SC argued there was a “rational foundation” for finding Ms Berejiklian had been influenced by her desire to maintain or advance her relationship with Maguire.

Mr Free described Maguire as a “special kind of serial pest” in his lobbying with the former premier.

“He was agitating for his interests in his electorate but taking advantage of a particular emotional relationship that existed only as between them,” he told three appeal judges.

There was evidence of Maguire’s “emotional hold” on Ms Berejiklian at the time, including his insecurity and disquiet about a lack of progress on certain proposals and his desire to “be the boss”, the court heard.

While Ms Berijiklian claimed she treated Maguire like any other MP, Mr Free said her vision for their future, which included marriage, children and life after politics, meant she had an interest with him that was different to her connection to others.

Between 2016 and 2018, as treasurer and then premier, Ms Berejiklian was involved in approving or supporting allocations of $5.5 million for the Wagga-based Australian Clay Target Association and $10 million for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

Admitting that others on the cabinet committee also approved Maguire’s proposals, Mr Free said this did not mean Ms Berejiklian was not affected by her personal attachment when making a final decision.

“She was influenced by not just her assessment of the merits of the proposals but a desire to maintain her relationship with Mr Maguire,” the barrister said.

“The commission being alive to Ms Berejiklian’s protestations on these topics simply didn’t accept as a matter of fact that she was not influenced.”

Mr Free argued the clay-shooting proposal was processed by the cabinet committee in an unusual manner because of Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Maguire.

Had the then-treasurer told other committee members of her conflict, it was highly unlikely the proposal would have passed the expression-of-interest phase, the court heard.

“On the findings of the commission, this had a real-world impact on the way in which public money was distributed,” Mr Free said.

Similarly, ICAC said Ms Berejiklian’s leadership colleagues John Barilaro and Dominic Perrottet would not have agreed to the conservatorium funding if they knew of her relationship with the Wagga Wagga MP.

There was “no good reason” to assume that conduct could only be described as corrupt if it changed the outcome, Mr Free argued.

The June report also found Ms Berejiklian failed to report possible corruption by Maguire to ICAC over his soliciting of commissions from property developers.

“If you are being privately paid to take advantage of your office to facilitate connections in the form of commissions on land deals that is at least grounds for suspicion of corrupt conduct,” Mr Free said.

Ms Berijiklian’s barrister Bret Walker SC previously argued ICAC made several “defects of reasoning” and errors of law in making its findings.

There was no evidence Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Maguire influenced her or created an actual conflict of interest, he said.

The hearing continues.

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One Response to Berejiklian influenced by ‘serial pest’ Maguire: lawyer

cbrapsycho says: 27 February 2024 at 12:37 pm

There was a clear conflict of interest by her sitting on the committee to decide her boyfriend’s multi-million dollar funding. She should have recused herself from this role, but did not, keeping her relationship secret. She should not even have been involved in the discussions on the issue.

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