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Gladys Berejiklian defended as ‘honest woman’ by former Labor powerbroker Graham Richardson

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

But her broad smile may have been 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 Independent Commission Against Corruption hearings next week 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.  

The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating if Ms Berejiklian is corrupt. 

Mr Richardson, who was once known 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. 

Gladys Berejiklian

Gladys Berejiklian

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

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 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. 

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 assissting ICAC Scott Robertson began Thursdays proceedings by saying ‘I expect today to be quite a full day of evidence,’ counsel assisting the inquiry, Scott Robertson, said.

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

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

Another 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.

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.

‘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’

A concerned looking Gladys Berejiklian will front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption next week

A concerned looking Gladys Berejiklian will front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption next week

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

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 

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)

 

 

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