Gladys Berejiklian knew that disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire, with whom she was in a relationship, stood to make hundreds of thousands of dollars on a Badgerys Creek land deal that he lobbied her office to intervene in.
Appearing before the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Monday, the NSW premier revealed she was in a “a close personal relationship” with Maguire when he was forced to resign from parliament amid a corruption scandal in 2018.
During a morning of stunning revelations, the inquiry heard intercepted phone calls in which Maguire told Berejiklian that he potentially stood to make hundreds of thousands of dollars if land owned by the racing heir Louise Waterhouse near the site of the new Western Sydney airport was rezoned.
The payment would have been enough to pay off “about half” of his $1.5m personal debt, Maguire told Berejiklian in one phone call.
Berejiklian responded: “I don’t need to know about that bit”.
In a sometimes tense exchange with counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, Berejiklian denied she had been trying to limit her knowledge of Maguire’s activities, saying she: “probably would have firstly not regarded it as interesting to me, it was not something I paid particular attention to”.
She said if she had felt there was “wrongdoing on the part of Mr Maguire” she would have reported it.
“If I did regard anything as a concern, I would have reported it or dealt with it, and I want to make that very clear,” she told the inquiry.
The inquiry has previously heard Maguire had been lobbying government officials on behalf of Waterhouse, and had given the racing heir access to Berejiklian’s direct email address.
Another intercepted phone call played on Monday revealed that Maguire told Berejiklian that Waterhouse was going to email her, saying she was “really pissed off”.
The premier described the email as “irregular”, and said she had deleted it. Asked whether she had ever given the issue “a tickle from the top” on behalf of Maguire she replied “absolutely not”.
She then clarified: “not to my recollection, I should say”.
But Berejiklian was grilled by the inquiry commissioner, Ruth McColl SC, over whether she had suspicions about Maguire’s dealings.
“Were you by this stage starting to be concerned that Mr Maguire was talking to you about a deal in which he would make a profit as a member of parliament out of a large-scale investment with which the NSW government was concerned?” McColl asked.
Berejiklian replied that Maguire was “always talking big” about deals, and that a lot of what he said was “fanciful”.
“I wouldn’t have registered a concern at that stage, because he was always talking big about deals and they always seemed to fall through,” she said.
Earlier in the hearing the premier denied knowing about improper conduct by Maguire, telling Icac on Monday she “made the assumption that he was always doing the right thing”.
The NSW Icac is investigating allegations Maguire misused his position as an MP and parliamentary secretary to improperly gain a benefit for himself or for G8way International, a company he “effectively controlled”.
The inquiry previously heard Maguire sought payments to help broker deals for Chinese property developers, and helped “grease the wheels” of a deal to sell the racing heir Louise Waterhouse’s land near the proposed western Sydney airport in 2017 and 2018.
But in bombshell revelations on Monday, Berejiklian revealed she had been in a “close personal relationship” with Maguire from around the 2015 election.
“I would like to say at the outset that Mr McGuire was a colleague of 15 years, he was someone that I trusted … and that developed into a close personal relationship,” she said.
The relationship, which was kept secret from parliamentary colleagues because, the premier said, “I’m a very private person”, continued after Maguire was forced to resign in 2018 after a separate Icac inquiry heard he had sought payment to help broker deals for some property developers.
The premier said the contact had continued after he resigned and that she had ended her relationship with Maguire “a few months ago”.
“He was someone in a very bad state [and] after having known him for 15 years I felt I should check on his welfare,” she said.
“When I was asked to support this inquiry, it became apparent to me that I should have absolutely no contact any more with that individual.”
The inquiry heard Berejiklian was aware Maguire had legitimate business dealings outside parliament, including on one occasion informing the premier about a $5,000 commission he received on the sale of a motel in 2014.
“Congrats!!! Great news!! Woo hoo,” she wrote in an email at the time.
But Berejiklian said she had always “made the assumption that he was always doing the right thing”, and denied suggestions from the counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, that she had “on more than one occasion” sought to “discourage Mr Maguire from giving you details on his outside interests?”
“I would never ever, never ever, turn a blind eye from any responsibility [or] any wrongdoing I saw, or any activity not in keeping with what a parliamentarian should be doing – I want to make that very clear,” she said.
The inquiry heard recordings of a number of private phone conversations between Berejiklian and Maguire in which he complained about his personal debt, and difficulties with a company called UWE Commodities.
Icac has heard Maguire had financial ties to UWE but Berejiklian said she did not know that at the time.
“From my recollection it was about jobs, regional jobs,” she said. “I didn’t even know what UWE was.”