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Berejiklian’s Legal Team Contend Personal Relationships Are Insufficient Evidence of Corruption

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Gladys Berejiklian is challenging corruption findings related to her undisclosed relationship with a fellow MP in a two-day hearing.

Former New South Wales (NSW) Premier Gladys Berejiklian’s lawyers argued that personal relationships among ministers do not automatically imply corruption as she seeks to overturn corruption findings associated with her secret relationship with a colleague.

During a two-day hearing at the NSW Court of Appeal, Ms. Berejiklian hired prominent lawyer Bret Walker SC to contest the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) determination that she engaged in serious corruption regarding funding grants for her former partner, Liberal MP Daryl Maguire’s constituency.

The finding of “serious corrupt conduct” included Ms. Berejiklian’s involvement in a cabinet committee discussing sizable funding plans advocated by Mr. Maguire to benefit his Wagga Wagga electorate.

Between 2016 and 2018, while serving as treasurer, Ms. Berejiklian supported allocations of $5.5 million ($3.6 million) for the Wagga-based Australian Clay Target Association and $10 million for the Riverina Conservatorium of Music (RCM).

ICAC concluded that Ms. Berejiklian intentionally omitted disclosing her relationship with Mr. Maguire, breaching public trust.

“She was in a position of a conflict of interest between her public duty and her private interest which could objectively have the potential to influence the performance of her public duty,” the corruption watchdog stated.

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“It was also in bad faith: there was no reasonable excuse or justification for it.”

Mr. Walker disputed the assertion that Ms. Berejiklian breached her duty simply by not publicly revealing that the Wagga Wagga MP was her partner.

“Something could not be a conflict of interest if simply disclosing it would remove that conflict,” he told three court judges.

He emphasized that politicians are human and have personal connections to family and friends.

“Our ministers are not members of enclosed religious orders,” he added.

“If they were, by the way, the religion would be the attachment.”

Furthermore, he contended that former judge Ruth McColl, appointed assistant commissioner to assist with the inquiry, lacked the authority to prepare the ICAC report.

After Ms. McColl’s term as assistant commissioner ended in October 2022, she continued to work as a consultant for an additional eight months before the report was published.

Mr. Walker argued that ICAC overstepped its authority by accepting Ms. McColl’s conclusions that Ms. Berejiklian’s testimony lacked credibility.

A supplied screengrab shows New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian giving evidence during the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings for inquiry into former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire concerning allegations of "breach of public trust to improperly gain a benefit" in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 12, 2020. (AAP Image/ICAC via Reuters)
A supplied screengrab shows New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian giving evidence during the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings for inquiry into former Wagga MP Daryl Maguire concerning allegations of “breach of public trust to improperly gain a benefit” in Sydney, Australia, on Oct. 12, 2020. (AAP Image/ICAC via Reuters)

Gladys Berejiklian escaped criminal charges as ICAC did not recommend them, citing significant obstacles to prosecution.

‘Illogical, Irrational’

In her court filings, the former NSW premier argued that the corruption findings were “illogical or irrational” because the watchdog stated there was insufficient evidence to prove the allegations as criminal.

She maintained that her relationship with Mr. Maguire was always distinct from her public duties.

“It didn’t affect what I thought were my obligations, and it didn’t affect how I thought about things,” she said.

Nevertheless, she admitted that Mr. Maguire had discussed the RCM proposal’s funding with her multiple times over several years.

This involved Mr. Maguire expressing concerns about perceived government impediments to the proposal.

Ms. Berejiklian acknowledged Mr. Maguire’s strong advocacy for the proposal, recognizing it as something “he felt strongly about as a local Member of Parliament.”

Text messages submitted as evidence to ICAC reveal Mr. Maguire’s desire to ‘feel equal’ in the relationship, driven by Ms. Berejiklian’s influential position.

“Glad even when you are the premier I am the boss alright,” he said.

The former NSW premier’s lawyer contended that there was no evidence that her desire to maintain or enhance her relationship with Mr. Maguire influenced her decision-making.

Mr. Maguire was found guilty of serious corrupt conduct for using his position as a member of Parliament for personal financial gain.

The hearing is ongoing.



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