(Image: AAP/Private Media)

“Can Gladys Berejiklian survive as premier?” has been the question of the week. Should she survive is a whole other question.

The revelations have come at dizzying speed since Berejiklian first appeared at ICAC at the beginning of the week. The straight-as-a-die premier’s secret affair with an MP bent on a path of corruption has made for a seductive narrative of a trusting woman wronged by a cad.

Yet it obscures the central force of the case that confronts Berejiklian, which is that she failed in one of her most important KPIs: to maintain the integrity of her government.

Being premier means Berejiklian is also the custodian of government probity. MPs like Daryl Maguire must report their extra-parliamentary interests formally to her.

And, as Crikey’s trawl through ICAC exhibits reveals, that is precisely what happened. The question is how can Berejiklian square away Maguire’s written declaration of interests with the knowledge she had from their private conversations which directly contradicted those declaration?

Here’s the timeline:

September 5, 2017

Telephone call between Maguire and Berejiklian:

MAGUIRE: It looks like we finally got the Badgerys Creek stuff done, that’s good, mmm. I’ll be glad when that’s done ‘cause I’ll make enough money to pay off my debts [laughs], which would be good. Can you believe it, in one sale.

BEREJIKLIAN: I can believe it.

MAGUIRE: Mmm, yep. I only want to pay off the house, that’s all I want to get rid of [unintelligible] having me debt free, the rest of it I don’t care about.

September 6, 2017

SMS from Maguire to Berejiklian:

MAGUIRE: Also good news we clinched the land deal! For my Friends [tongue face emoji]. I should be back in the Black soon

September 7, 2017

Telephone call between Maguire and Berejiklian:

MAGUIRE: The good news is William, William tells me we’ve done our deal so hopefully that’s about half of all that gone now.

BEREJIKLIAN: That’s good.

MAGUIRE: Hmm.

BEREJIKLIAN: I don’t need to know about that bit.

MAGUIRE: No you don’t.

October 9, 2017

Maguire sends a letter to Berejiklian to inform her of changes to his interests over the previous 12 months. He declares some assets previously owned with his wife were now in his name only. He also attached a declaration which revealed no income-producing interests beyond a number of rental properties.

The declaration omits any reference to business enterprises Maguire had mentioned to the premier in the weeks prior, covering one large deal in particular: the sale of land near the site of Sydney’s second airport at Badgerys Creek, yielding a large potential commission for Maguire.

(Source: NSW ICAC)

Questioned at ICAC on her knowledge of Maguire’s business deals, Berejiklian’s mantra was that she was “aware” Maguire had business interests but that she “assumed that he disclosed all of those at the appropriate time”.

“I always had made the assumption that he was always doing the right thing in terms of his disclosures and his interests,” she said.

Despite this, Berejiklian claimed in later evidence said that she had not looked at Maguire’s pecuniary interest register. “No,” she said, “but I knew that he had rental property and other things, so I never assumed he was in difficulty.”

It is a serious breakdown of the system of transparency when a premier fails to even look at a member’s declaration of interests provided to her under the rules — even more so when the premier may be privy to information that contradicts the declaration.

The premier’s failure as custodian of standards has caused immense damage, whichever way the government spins it.

Peter Fray

Help us keep up the fight

Get Crikey for just $1 a week and support our journalists’ important work of uncovering the hypocrisies that infest our corridors of power.

If you haven’t joined us yet, subscribe today and get your first 12 weeks for $12.

Cancel anytime.

Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey

JOIN NOW