Gladys Berejiklian, ICAC: Explosive evidence about Daryl Maguire’s pet project πŸ’₯πŸ‘©πŸ’₯

As a former NSW Treasurer, Gladys Berejiklian has a head for numbers. But the number 0.88 is not one she will be pleased is getting aired at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney.

The ICAC has heard evidence from a senior public servant that he understood in early 2017 that then-NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian and her office wanted a project funding proposal revisited, after it failed to meet government benchmarks.

The proposal was for her secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire’s pet project – a $5.5million clay target shooting centre in his electorate of Wagga Wagga.

An initial business case had estimated the benefit to cost ratio for the project being pushed by Mr Maguire at 0.88, which was too low to justify state agency Infrastructure NSW backing the plan.

A business to cost ratio of below 1 meant a project would not bring back to the state as much money as it cost to fund it.

A subsequent version of the business case put the ratio at 1.0, which was high enough to justify funding.

The public servant said he was given the impression Gladys Berejiklian’s office wanted the critical figure ‘revisited’.

‘I was clearly of the impression that the premier’s office and the premier wanted that business case revisited,’ Chris Hanger, deputy secretary in the Department of Regional NSW, told the ICAC on Thursday.

Gladys Berejiklian was all smiles on Thursday morning, but that may not last long

The $5.5million grant for an upgrade of facilities at the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) in Wagga Wagga, in Mr Maguire’s electorate, was conditional on a satisfactory business case for it being finalised.

In earlier evidence, Mr Hanger said he first became aware of the Wagga Wagga grant after the state government’s expenditure review committee (ERC) made the decision and that he took this ‘as a positive indication that the government wanted this project supported’.

At the time, Ms Berejiklian was the state Treasurer and head of the ERC.

However, in an email received by Mr Hanger in early 2017, another bureaucrat recalled a conversation with then NSW Office of Sport director Michael Toohey.

Mr Toohey was said to have indicated the government was interested in providing funding to ‘though the bureaucracy does not support the project’.

The Premier smiled and waved on Thursday

She giggled upon seeing photographers waiting for her

The Premier smiled and waved on Thursday – giggling upon seeing photographers waiting for her

As she stepped out after one of the most difficult days of her political life, Ms Berejiklian couldn’t stop grinning.

But her broad smile may be short lived given the corruption watchdog has announced her former boyfriend Daryl Maguire will give evidence next week.

Joining him on the witness list for the ICAC hearings is her former deputy premier John Barilaro, one-time chief of staff Sarah Cruickshank, and Ms Berejiklian herself.

But she does at least have one heavyweight figure in her corner.

Graham Richardson – who was once known as the ‘Senator for Kneecaps’ – jumped to Ms Berejiklian’s defence in a radio interview on Thursday.

ICAC is investigating if Ms Berejiklian is corrupt.

Mr Richardson said he and Ms Berejiklian ‘have never been close’ but the idea that she is corrupt is ‘absurd’.

‘There’s always going to be personality differences, and she and I have had our share,’ he told presenter Ben Fordham on Sydney radio station 2GB.

‘All of us need to stand up and say that this ICAC thing has got out of hand. If she is corrupt then I don’t understand the meaning of the word,’ he said.

Mr Richardson said he has known Ms Bereijklian 20 years ‘and there’s no way in the world you can describe this woman as anything but an honest woman.

‘I think it’s just terrible what’s happened to her,’ he said.

He said ‘the only crime she’s ever committed’ is to not openly acknowledge her relationship with disgraced former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire.

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson (pictured) has defended Gladys Berejiklian as 'an honest woman'

Former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson (pictured) has defended Gladys Berejiklian as ‘an honest woman’

Mr Richardson said ICAC has ruined people’s reputations, even when ultimately no wrongdoing was found.

‘You have to give people’s reputation a legitimate weighting in the decisions that you’re going to make, and I don’t believe that there’s ever a good reason, ever, that you destroy reputations when there’s no evidence of corruption.’

ICAC witness list

Friday October 22- Stuart Ayres MP

Gary Barnes

Monday 25 – Peter Minucos

John Barilaro MP

Tuesday 26 – Neil Harley

Brad Burden

Sarah Cruickshank

Wednesday 27 – Gary Barnes (if not completed on Friday 22)

Daryl Maguire

Thursday 28 – Gladys Berejiklian MP

Friday 29 – Gladys Berejiklian MP

One of two ‘case study’ grants at the centre of the inquiry is a $5.5million grant given to a gun club in Mr Maguire’s electorate of Wagga Wagga when his then secret partner Ms Berejiklian was the NSW state Treasurer. The grant was passed by the government’s expenditure review committee (ERC).

‘If you get a situation like that where there’s unanimity, it’s very very hard to then say the grant should not have been made,’ said Mr Richardson.

But the former Labor senator had a warning about pork barrelling by both state and federal governments. ‘You make sure when you do these things that there’s a good case for them.

‘You also make sure that you don’t give it all to your own side (in electorates that vote for you). When you do, that’s when you get into strife,’ he said.

After a day of sensational evidence at the ICAC on Wednesday, counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson began Thursday’s proceedings by saying ‘I expect today to be quite a full day of evidence.’

The inquiry was expected to run for ten days but Mr Robertson said there is ‘quite a full and perhaps ambitious program’ of witnesses next week and there is a ‘serious prospect’ the inquiry will need to be extended into a third week.

He said Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire will need to be given a fair opportunity to test the evidence presented to the inquiry.

Assisting counsel Scott Robertson arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney. ICAC is in its first week of hearings into whether former premier Gladys Berejiklian breached public trust

Assisting counsel Scott Robertson arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney. ICAC is in its first week of hearings into whether former premier Gladys Berejiklian breached public trust

However, in an email received by Mr Hanger in early 2017, another bureaucrat recalled a conversation with then NSW Office of Sport director Michael Toohey.

Mr Toohey was said to have indicated the government was interested in providing funding to ‘though the bureaucracy does not support the project’.

Mr Toohey gave evidence to ICAC on Monday that he did not regard the proposal as urgent and it was not accompanied by a strong business case or feasibility study.

An email tendered as evidence to ICAC on Thursday, saying a funding proposal was not supported by 'the bureaucracy'

An email tendered as evidence to ICAC on Thursday, saying a funding proposal was not supported by ‘the bureaucracy’

Mr Hanger said the state department of industry engaged a company to produce a business case for the upgrade of facilities at ACTA in Wagga Wagga.

Mr Hanger said ‘in the vast majority of cases’ the government does not pay an organisation seeking state funding to get a business case to support their proposal.

He agreed with Mr Robertson the difference in this case was the ERC had effectively directed that the business case be developed because it had already made a conditional grant to the association.

Mr Hanger told the ICAC that Peter Minucos, an adviser to the then NSW deputy premier John Barilaro, was a key figure in developing a business case for the ACTA facilities upgrade.

He said Mr Minucos, who is due to give evidence at ICAC on Monday along with Mr Barilaro, was the ‘key contact’ and was ‘heavily involved in the development of the project, in particular the advice back to the consultants … in regards to an addendum to the original business case’.

Neither Mr Minucos nor Mr Barilaro are accused of wrongdoing.

Mr Robertson asked if it was ‘unusual to have someone in a ministerial office involved in procuring a business case as an addendum to a business case?’

‘It’s peculiar for them to be involved in advice around that in the way Mr Minucos did,’ Mr Hanger anwered.

Mr Robertson asked: ‘As a longtime public servant with responsibility for procurement of infrastructure, did you regard it as inappropriate that there was the kind of advice … provided at the political level rather than the agency or departmental level?’

‘We indicated that it wasn’t … where or how they should be providing advice,’ Mr Hanger said, adding that this view was expressed to Mr Barilaro’s office.

The Australian Clay Target Association is part of an ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian

The Australian Clay Target Association is part of an ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian

Mr Hanger also understood there was interest from the ‘premier herself’, Gladys Berejiklian, who replaced Mr Baird following his resignation in January 2017.

‘I was clearly of the impression that the premier’s office and the premier wanted that business case revisited,’ Mr Hanger said.

An initial business case had estimated the benefit to cost ratio for the project was below one (0.88), which was too low to justify state agency Infrastructure NSW backing the plan.

A subsequent version of the business case put the ratio at one, which was high enough to justify funding.

Ms Berejiklian has repeatedly and strenuously denied all wrongdoing.

Mr Hanger is also being questioned about a $30million grant for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, which is also being investigated by the corruption watchdog.

An ICAC witness must

Appear at a public inquiry or compulsory examination when you receive an ICAC summons

Produce any documents required by the ICAC

Before giving evidence, take an oath or make an affirmation that your evidence will be truthful

Answer all questions asked truthfully. It is an offence under the ICAC Act to give false or misleading evidence

Not discuss the evidence you give in a compulsory (private) examination or the fact that a compulsory examination has been held with anyone except your lawyer

Not breach any other suppression order.

The conservatorium, which is in Daryl Maguire’s electorate of Wagga Wagga, received funding in 2018.

Mr Hanger agreed with counsel that an initial funding proposal was sought to be brought under the government’s unsolicited proposals process in mid-2017, but did not meet the requirements of such a proposal.

Mr Hanger’s then worked for a regional NSW agency which sat under the Department of Premier and Cabinet and whose relevant minister was Mr Barilaro.

Mr Barilaro is not accused of wrongdoing and is due to give evidence on Monday.

Mr Hanger said Mr Maguire or the conservatorium may have written directly to the premier.

NSW Jobs Minister Stuart Ayres, who is due to front the inquiry on Friday, said he won’t provide a ‘running commentary’ on the ICAC proceedings.

He is not accused of any wrongdoing.

Speaking in Sydney on Thursday, he was asked about evidence already heard from other witnesses.

Mr Ayres was Sport Minister at the time Mr Maguire was lobbying the government for a multi-million dollar upgrade grant for a gun club in Wagga Wagga.

The ICAC heard earlier this week that Mr Ayres’ office asked a NSW government agency to draft an urgent funding proposal for the upgrade to be examined by cabinet’s expenditure review committee in 2016.

‘In relation to those matters, everyone knows I am going to be a witness at the Commission’s hearing tomorrow,’ Mr Ayres said.

‘I have no intention of providing a running commentary. It’s a public hearing and you can all watch my evidence tomorrow morning.’

Mr Ayres’ comments were echoed by the new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet.

‘Former premier Mike Baird was a witness at the Commission yesterday,’ he said on Thursday.

‘I’m the Premier of the state. I’m not giving a running commentary on matters before the integrity commission.

‘I’ve made it very clear, I’m not going to be giving a running commentary … it would be completely prejudicial to an ongoing inquiry, it’s a public inquiry and those matters are being dealt with the commission and the integrity agency.

‘It should be done with complete independence and not have public commentary surrounding it.’

Gladys Berejiklian's former secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire will give evidence to ICAC next week

Gladys Berejiklian’s former secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire will give evidence to ICAC next week

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has been called as a witness to the ICAC investigation into former premier Gladys Barilarlo

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has been called as a witness to the ICAC investigation into former premier Gladys Barilarlo

A former NSW premier, Mike Baird, on Wednesday afternoon condemned Ms Berejiklian for her secret love affair with Liberal MP Daryl Maguire.

Giving evidence to the corruption inquiry into his one-time close political ally on Wednesday, Mr Baird said Ms Berejiklian should have told him that she was dating Mr Maguire when she was the state’s Treasurer.

The first he heard of their relationship was ‘when it was revealed here (at ICAC) about a year ago,’ he said, adding that he was ‘incredulous’ when he heard it.

‘Certainly I think it should have been disclosed … to myself as the premier’ and that it was a ‘potential conflict of interest,’ he said.

Gladys Berejiklian's former chief of staff Sarah Cruickshank (pictured) is set to give evidence in an ICAC corruption inquiry next week

Gladys Berejiklian’s former chief of staff Sarah Cruickshank (pictured) is set to give evidence in an ICAC corruption inquiry next week

That ‘potential conflict of interest’ was that Ms Berjiklian was head of a committee deciding on funding for a multi-million dollar project that Mr Maguire was very keenly backing.

Speaking to reporters after his testimony, Mr Baird said: ‘I am devastated to be here, giving evidence into events that have taken place.’

‘Clearly it’s with a heavy heart I had to give my evidence and I’ve done that and now it’s a matter for the commission.’

Mike Baird (pictured right) and Gladys Berejiklian (left) were very close political allies

Mike Baird (pictured right) and Gladys Berejiklian (left) were very close political allies

Mr Baird told ICAC counsel Scott Robertson that while he could not recall the specific advice he was given about the Wagga Wagga gun club proposal.

ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian

1. Engaged in conduct between 2012 and 2018 that was ‘liable to allow or encourage the occurrence of corrupt conduct’ by former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, with whom she was in a close personal relationship between 2015 and 2018

2. Exercised her official functions dishonestly or partially by refusing to exercise her duty to report any reasonable suspicions about Mr Maguire to the ICAC

3. Exercised any of her official functions partially in connection with two multimillion-dollar grants in Mr Maguire’s electorate, to the Australian Clay Target Association Inc and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music.

‘My sense was that they – the Department of Premier and Cabinet and Treasury – were probably against’ it due to economics and costings,’ he said.

He said Mr Maguire strongly followed up on projects he was backing. ‘Daryl relentlessly pursued his own agenda’ and he ‘advocated very strongly’ on issues of interest to him, Mr Baird said.

But he added that Mr Maguire was ‘at times aggressive and at times abusive to members of staff and public servants’.

Mr Robertson asked Mr Baird if the support of the Treasurer was a big factor in deciding if a particular proposal would receive the support of the ERC.

‘Yes,’ Mr Baird said. ‘As a principle, that would have given me great comfort’ but he said he read proposals in detail and did not just rely on the advice he got from others.

Mr Baird was asked when he first knew that Ms Berejiklian had been in a relationship with Mr Maguire.

‘When it was revealed here (at ICAC) about a year ago,’ he said, adding that he was ‘incredulous’ when he heard it.

He said if the relationship was known about at the time, Ms Berejiklian would have been excluded from the committee meeting concerning the gun club project.

He added that if Ms Berejiklian had disclosed the relationship: ‘It could have been managed’.

‘Gladys is a close personal friend, always has been,’ Mr Baird said after his appearance at ICAC.

‘I think that she has the highest integrity and has a real commitment to public service and public life and public priorities.’

He said he wished she had told him about her relationship with Mr Maguire, but ‘as I’ve given evidence, she didn’t, and obviously I’m disappointed, but that doesn’t change the way I feel (about her).’

Mr Baird said Ms Berejiklian’s secret relationship could have been accommodated if she had told him about it.

‘Knowing her, in terms of integrity and character … she would be able to manage the conflict … she absolutely had the capacity to do it.’

Former NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured right) appeared before the ICAC inquiry into another former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left)

Former NSW premier Mike Baird (pictured right) appeared before the ICAC inquiry into another former NSW premier, Gladys Berejiklian (pictured left)

Former NSW premier Mike Baird arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

Former NSW premier Mike Baird arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Wednesday, October 20, 2021

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian's (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) left another former premier, Mike Baird 'incredulous'

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian’s (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) left another former premier, Mike Baird ‘incredulous’

Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) is under investigation by ICAC for her conduct while NSW premier in relation to her former boyfriend, ex-MP Daryl Maguire (pictured left)

Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) is under investigation by ICAC for her conduct while NSW premier in relation to her former boyfriend, ex-MP Daryl Maguire (pictured left)

Gladys Berejiklian, ICAC: Explosive evidence about Daryl Maguire’s pet project

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