(Images: AAP/Erik Anderson; AAP/Joel Carrett)

It’s sad that a politician as competent and hard-working as Gladys Berejiklian now finds herself forever tarnished by her association with spiv — and allegedly worse — Daryl Maguire. Berejiklian herself did nothing wrong and wouldn’t have gained anything by Maguire’s ever-more convoluted efforts to pay off his debts and land a big score. “Pie in the sky,” she called them.

But Berejiklian’s sin is not what she did, but what she tolerated and, to an extent, enabled: the toxic “Games of Mates” politics of NSW.

Games of Mates is the on-the-money term devised by Cameron Murray and Paul Frijters to describe how shonks and spivs — in the guise of property developers, miners, bankers and other business people — exploit political and bureaucratic connections to tilt the regulatory field in their favour.

NSW is infested with it. Always has been, under both sides, going back decades — and for that matter two centuries. At any one time, it seems guaranteed that some MPs in Macquarie St will be working assiduously not in the interests of their constituents, or to achieve good policy outcomes in their portfolio, but to secure a great deal for their family or a mate, usually by rezoning or planning decisions.

Berejiklian knew that Daryl Maguire was engaged in the same shabby game, desperate for a finders’ fee or tip from a grateful developer or property owner. She preferred not to know the details. “I don’t need to know about that bit,” she told him when he began telling her the details of yet another scheme.

Maguire traded on his connection with the premier. He handed her email address out to a property developer looking for a rezoning, suggesting she could “give a tickle from the top.”

There’s no suggestion Berejiklian did. And it would have been absurd to think she would have.

But Maguire’s use of his relationship with Berejiklian wasn’t confined to sharing her contact details with others. He took Louise Raedler Waterhouse, owner of a large property near Badgerys Creek, to Berejiklian’s office foyer for a meeting with an official about planning issues that would enhance the value of her property.

Maguire hosted another developer and Liberal fundraiser for several hours of drinks that led to visits to or from the offices of then-planning minister Anthony Roberts and Berejiklian.

Classic Game of Mates stuff. And if Berejiklian didn’t know about her office being misused and her contact details being bandied around — at one stage Maguire told Berejiklian to expect a call from a developer, prompting her to say she didn’t need to know about it — then it suggests a wilful blindness by the premier.

The office of the premier of NSW, the highest elected office in the NSW, should be a place of probity and integrity. Instead it appears to have been used as a market place for regulatory favours. If Maguire never managed a sale, it wasn’t for lack of trying.

It’s because premiers and senior ministers do nothing that the chancers, the grifters, the spivs and the outright criminals have long festered in Macquarie St, all looking to bend the rules to help themselves or their mates. The wretched NSW Labor party was rife with it during their far-too-long years in power.

Berejiklian’s judgement around Maguire appears to have been completely absent. Maguire was forced to resign from parliament in 2018 after he confessed to ICAC he’d tried to broker a deal to help a Chinese property developer — another “pie in the sky” deal that turned, like seemingly everything Maguire touched, to shit.

But even then, Berejiklian maintained their relationship, all the way through into this year. Even after her party lost his seat in the by-election resulting from his departure. Why she didn’t sever ties with this man in 2018 is inexplicable.

Yes, Berejiklian made a mistake in her personal life. We’ve all been there, and even the best of us have made far worse decisions than her. Yesterday must have been profoundly humiliating and painful for such a private woman. You can’t help but feel for her and misery her romantic choice has occasioned for her.

But it was a personal mistake that reinforced the fact that NSW is a toxic swamp of self-interest, sordid deals and grift.