Gladys’ private phone calls unveiled
A number of private phone calls between NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian and former MP Daryl Maguire have been played at the Independent Commission Against Corruption as the Premier revealed the two had been in a relationship until earlier this year.
In one she told Mr Maguire "I don't need to know that bit" as he told her about a deal he had struck over Badgerys Creek in Western Sydney.
But Ms Berejiklian said she often wasn't listening to "big talker" Maguire in their conversations and that the relationship "never" influenced her behaviour as Premier.
The Premier is appearing before ICAC as part of an investigation into alleged breaches of public trust committed by Mr Maguire, the former member for Wagga Wagga, who is accused of using his public office for financial gain.
Ms Berejiklian said she would have told Mr Maguire she didn't need to know about the Badgerys Creek deal because it was not interesting to her and she would have thought it was "pie in the sky" as his big deals so often fell through.
She also would have assumed that he had made necessary parliamentary disclosures, she said.
She denied she said it so he wouldn't go on to tell her information that would require her to report him for suspected misconduct.
"I would have had no compunction whatsoever to exercise my public duties if I needed to," she said.
In one phone call the pair discussed Mr Maguire potentially going on a trade delegation to China to discuss an issue about job losses in a regional NSW town relating to Australian agribusiness UWE and Chinese company Bright Foods.
"They seem to think it's in your electorate. I didn't say anything," Ms Berejiklian says during the call.
Counsel assisting Scott Robertson suggested to Ms Berejiklian that she had said it "in jest" with a brief chuckle.
"No. No. No. Absolutely not," Ms Berejiklian replied. "My best recollection of that would be, you better tell them what this is about because I'm not going to interfere in it."
She said she did not know Mr Maguire was seeking appointment to the UWE board at the time.
On the call, Mr Maguire can be heard delivering a lengthy monologue about how nothing would happen if he didn't go, during which he said "they're all sucking people's dicks" and "they can get f**ked".
Ms Berejiklian just said "Mmm" in response on the call.
Asked by commissioner Ruth McColl why she hadn't told him not to go to China on the phone, Ms Berejiklian said "because there was a proper process in place".
He did not end up making the trip on direction from the Premier's chief of staff, the inquiry heard last week.
The pair called each other "hokis", an Armenian term of endearment, in their private correspondence.
In phone calls played to the inquiry Ms Berejiklian frequently responded with just "Mmm" as Mr Maguire spoke.
"To be frank, I'm not always engaging in every conversation I have," she told the inquiry.
Ms Berejiklian said Mr Maguire was "obsessed" with his debts and though he had told her he was $1.5 million in the red she didn't necessarily take it seriously.
In one call, Mr Maguire told her he would be getting a good tax return.
"You won't be saying you're poor then for maybe a week and then you'll start saying it again," Ms Berejiklian said.
"Repeat after me. One point five million," he said.
"I'm not going to say any such thing," Ms Berejiklian responded.
"You will always be my numero uno," she told him in another call.
Asked to explain, she said: "I think that what I would have meant there is that in my personal life I placed importance on how I felt about him."
She told the inquiry she took conflicts of interest extremely seriously and was an "independent woman with my own finances".
"If you're suggesting that I cared about his financial position, I reject that completely," she said. "I did not care."
Ms Berejiklian vigorously denied the relationship ever influenced her behaviour as premier.
"I would always make sure that things were done in the proper way, and that is something I feel extremely strongly about," she said.
"Every public servant, every colleague who ever worked with me, knows the high standards that I apply to myself and to those around me. And I would never, ever compromise those high standards for anybody or anything."
She said the relationship began after the 2015 election and she decided to cut off contact after appearing at a private ICAC hearing in August.
Their last conversation was on September 13, she said.
Ms Berejiklian said the relationship was not known among their colleagues as she is a "very private person" and didn't feel it had "enough substance" to make public.
Ms Berejiklian is being represented by Arthur Moses SC, who recently appeared for Unified Security at Victoria's hotel quarantine inquiry.