It’s mind-boggling to think how much corruption must be going on in NSW when the premier herself somehow missed Daryl Maguire Inc flourishing under her very nose year after year after year.
There he was, in his office, just down the Parliament House corridor: Berejiklian’s long-term beau running visa scams for wads of cash, doing commission deals with Chinese businesses and getting a property developer’s voice heard in the right places.
Oh, and representing the people of Wagga Wagga.
Maguire yesterday admitted to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) that he had monetised his parliamentary office for all his years in the government, from 2012 to 2018, building a mixed business in crookedness which would make your toes curl.
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Yet Berejiklian apparently saw or heard nothing that would warrant her attention.
If she had, she would have been obliged under the ICAC Act to notify the commission of possible corrupt conduct. Section 11 of the Act says it is a duty to do so if you are the ombudsman, the police commissioner, the principal officer of a public authority, or a minister of the crown. Yet nothing from Berejiklian. Not even a whiff.
It is also apparent that even though Berejkilian was well aware he was running businesses on the side, she never checked Maguire’s parliamentary declarations of pecuniary interests in which he failed to declare any outside business interests.
We know from phone taps played at ICAC, that Berejiklian stopped Maguire as he was on the point of revealing how much he was making.
What else did the two discuss in their private moments, Liberal to Liberal, in secluded places and away from recording devices? Of course we will never know. Berejiklian insists she knew nothing.
Yet with the tool of hindsight a different Berejiklian is now emerging.
With almost no investigative resources and with just 48 hours work, the media has already reported instances from the past that raise new questions.
The ABC reported that Maguire had organised a 2016 meeting with Berejiklian about a major local transport project. The local mayor was having trouble getting any traction for his his plans elsewhere in the government and thought it would be handy if he could speak direct to the treasurer, as she was then.
The Sydney Morning Herald reported that as premier, Berejiklian agreed to meet with two publicans with criminal histories at the behest of Maguire after her own racing and gaming ministers allegedly refused.
The October 2017 meeting was over “gaming issues”. One publican had been convicted of arson and attempted insurance fraud. Another who had been found guilty of illegally owning poker machines, the SMH reported.
Again as premier in 2017, Berejiklian opened a “state of the art” oils and bio-energy plant in Maguire’s seat of Wagga Wagga. The owners of the plant had made “reportable” political donations of $2000 in 2015 but had not declared them, according to documents published by Twitter researcher Jommy Tee.
If this is what almost no digging reveals, what other cases are there to be found?
The premier maintains that she has done nothing wrong and that she made sure any requests for action were dealt with by the bureaucracy.
But it doesn’t make it any better that people with a barrow to push, some with a criminal record, were able to get to the very top of government, having failed to satisfy standards and rules of other arms of the government.
Under Berejiklian as treasurer and then premier, the ICAC has battled to survive years of funding cutbacks.
And it is not the only accountability body which has been weakened by lack of funding. The NSW Electoral Commission too has warned that it may not be able to do its expanded job of checking on political donations without increased funding.
All this has taken place as NSW has experienced a massive property boom, driven by developers who, theoretically at least, cannot donate to political parties.
And yet, lo and behold, ICAC revealed this morning that Maguire arranged for a property developer to “drop in” to see Berejiklian in her office in 2017.
Berejiklian has now received the public support of Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Attorney-General Christian Porter, leaders of a government which has next to no standards of ministerial behaviour and which refuses to introduce an effective anti-corruption body. She has also been given the enthusiastic backing of Sydney radio station 2GB.
Berejiklian — Liberal lifer and political careerist — might draw comfort from that.
But for the rest of us it’s proof if needed of how far the war on accountability and standards has spread.