NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has been viciously grilled over her previous relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire in a heated state budget estimates hearing on Thursday.
Ms Berejiklian was in a relationship with Mr Maguire from 2015 to 2020 and was a witness during a four-week inquiry by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) last year.
Mr Maguire admitted to running a “cash for visa” scam for Chinese nationals and to seeking payment for property deals while he was an MP.
Ms Berejiklian admitted to the ICAC that she had been in a secret relationship with Mr Maguire since 2015 which continued after he was forced to resign from parliament in 2018.
The Premier, who is not accused of any wrongdoing, told the commission the relationship ended a few months before ICAC hearing began.
But in the budget estimates on Thursday, member of the Legislative Council Adam Searle was relentless in asking the Premier if her relationship with Mr Maguire actually began years before she initially suggested.
“Premier, in evidence to the ICAC, both you and Mr Maguire said you were in a close personal relationship from at least 2015 until August 2020,” Mr Searle said. “Mr Maguire has said that relationship could have started as early as 2013 – that‘s correct isn’t it?”
Ms Berejiklian made multiple attempts to steer Mr Searle away from the issue, telling him his questioning could disrupt the ICAC process, but the politician could not be dissuaded.
“Premier this is a different process; this is a parliamentary process. You are accountable to people through the parliament,” he told her.
“Which is it? (2015) or 2013?”
Ms Berejiklian responded curtly: “Well as I said, I‘ve disclosed those issues.”
Mr Searle said the premier should have disclosed the relationship shortly after it began due to its seriousness.
“Premier, in a media interview you said you were in love with Mr Maguire and you thought marriage was in contemplation,” he said. “That makes it the kind of relationship you would have to disclose to parliament under the ministerial code.
“It’s because you were hiding it because you knew if it was public you’d have to make certain disclosures that you knew about his business interests.”
During the heated line of questioning, Ms Berejiklian appeared to stumble over her words, bow her head and appeared stressed by the situation. She at all times maintained she had not been accused of any wrongdoing.
Mr Searle also accused Ms Berejiklian of knowing about Mr Maguire’s dodgy property deals.
In October 2016 Mr Maguire paid $8000 for a property a few hundred metres from the Cobb Highway in the NSW outback township of Ivanhoe in the far west.
In September 2017 Mr Maguire snapped up another neighbouring property on Livingstone Street at Ivanhoe for the bargain price of $750.
Within a few days of that purchase he was heard telling Ms Berejiklian about his plans to turn the derelict shacks into money spinners,
“On the 5th September 2017, (Mr Maguire) told you about his proposal for an Airbnb for the Ivanhoe houses. So you knew at least then didn’t you?”
Mr Berejiklian responded: “If you’re reading from a transcript which is in possession of the integrity agency I would ask you to be extremely careful.”
Mr Searle: “Premier, you‘re simply flannelling; you’re not answering the question. Just answer the question”
Ms Berejiklian: “Mr Searle with all due respect you are not the integrity agency. ”
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