ICAC is investigating her secret relationship with ex-MP Daryl Maguire and whether she breached public trust. Ms Berejiklian has strongly denied any wrongdoing.
ICAC’s lawyer focused from the start on the nature of Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with disgraced Mr Maguire, and whether he received any preferential treatment due to that.
Asked if with hindsight she would have disclosed her secret relationship with Mr Maguire to her parliamentary colleagues, Ms Berejiklian said she would not have.
Ms Berejiklian said she did not believe there was a sufficient commitment or significance to the relationship that would lead her to disclose it to family or to Parliament.
She agreed that she previously had strong feelings for Mr Maguire, but that she did not regard him as “family” in a legal sense.
Ms Berejiklian denied that she extended any additional favour or influence on Mr Maguire’s behalf compared to other backbenchers.
The hearing heard excerpts of an intercepted phone call between the two from May 2018, during which Mr Maguire spoke about a lack of funding for Wagga Wagga Hospital.
Ms Berejiklian said on the call that she had told then-Treasurer Dominic Perrottet about the issue, and that she had “fixed it”.
However, Ms Berejiklian told ICAC today that various colleagues often contacted her directly about similar issues, and she would undertake similar action on their behalf.
She said she did not recall the phone call played before ICAC today, nor what steps she may or may not have taken in relation to it.
Ms Berejiklian was also queried about her endorsement of a grant to a target shooting club in Wagga Wagga, against the advice of the Treasury.
She said she could not recall why she had decided to support the submission, which the Treasury found would not provide a net benefit to the state.
“I may have been adequately persuaded by the minister who was the proponent, by other members of the committee or by my own decision-making, insofar as we needed to appease the rural and regional committees,” she said.
Ms Berejiklian said the government had been keen to demonstrate it wasn’t turning away from rural and regional NSW, following their loss of a by-election in Orange.
She admitted that the fact that the project had Mr Maguire’s support may have factored into her thinking, but it was not her dominant consideration.
“The strongest consideration was the consequence of the Orange by-election,” she said.
She said she did not recall if she took any action on the issue in relation to an email she received from Mr Maguire in 2017.
Ms Berejiklian also flatly denied having given preferential attention to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music’s relocation bid due to Mr Maguire’s support of the project in 2017.
“What I was influenced by was seeing genuine and earnest community groups being given information which was setting them up to fail,” she said.
ICAC’s lawyer played a partial phone conversation between Mr Maguire and Ms Berejiklian regarding a member of the public service.
“I can’t stand that guy. His head will be gone soon,” Ms Berejiklian said.
“Not until he fixes my conservatorium,” Mr Maguire said.
“Tell him to fix it. And then after he fixes it, I’m sacking him.”
Ms Berejiklian admitted that it was possible that part of the reason she chose to delay firing that public official may have been due to Mr Maguire’s preferences.
She pointed out the official – whose name was redacted publicly but was revealed to Ms Berejiklian – was still in the public service and had not been sacked at all.
9News political reporter Chris O’Keefe said earlier today that Ms Berejiklian would have “one eye on what’s next”.
“Whether it is federal parliament, whether it is the private sector, she has got to do her best to keep her reputation as intact as possible,” he said on Today.
“All they have got so far is that she failed to disclose a relationship. She potentially breached the ministerial code.
“It’s enough to go as the premier of NSW. But beyond that, she’s not going to go to court.”
Yesterday, tapped phone calls between the two were played that revealed Ms Berejiklian said she would “throw money at Wagga Wagga” after Mr Maguire resigned from Parliament in 2018, triggering a by-election.
“Go and give them a stadium,” he said in a second tap.
“I’ll do that, too, don’t worry,” she replied.
“Well, the bureaucrats knocked it all out,” he said.
“Yes, but I can overrule them,” Ms Berejiklian said.
The pair were speaking about “pork barrelling” – using taxpayer money to try to hold the seat, following his resignation from Parliament, in 2018, after a separate corruption inquiry.
At the time, they were in a secret relationship, which Mr Maguire said started as early as 2013, and didn’t end until last year.
ICAC Counsel Assisting put to him yesterday, that they had a “close emotional attachment”.
“You loved her,” Scott Robertson asked.
“Yes,” Mr Maguire replied.
Mr Maguire told the Commission they holidayed together, and that he had a key to her Sydney home, even saying they spoke about getting married, and having a baby.
Before his evidence could get underway, Ms Berejiklian’s lawyers fought to keep evidence about their relationship private.
Sophie Callan SC argued publicly airing the details would cause “humiliation and harm” to Ms Berejiklian.
“There is no public purpose served by plumbing the depths of the private life of my client about intimate details of this relationship,” Ms Callan said.
But, ICAC overruled, saying it was necessary to examine the nature of the relationship, in order to determine if it put Ms Berejiklian in a position of “conflict”.
The hearing has heard evidence from several staffers, bureaucrats and colleagues that the then-Treasurer took a special interest in the awarding of a $5.5 million grant to a gun club in Wagga Wagga in 2017, when Mr Maguire was still the member.
Mr Maguire himself admits he was a “pain in the arse” when it came to lobbying Ministers for money to be spent in his electorate, even Ms Berejiklian herself.
“I would have encouraged her to take a close interest in it,” he admitted.