Gladys Liu praises group at centre of foreign interference investigation


In an article for the Australian Strategic Policy Institute published on Tuesday, Ms Liu said the Oceania Federation’s donation was a great example of multicultural communities having a strong sense of pride in being Australian.

“Another inspiring example was reported in June, when the Oceania Federation of Chinese Organisations from Vietnam, Cambodia and Laos Inc. presented the Royal Melbourne Hospital with a donation of more than $37,000 for the hospital’s Covid appeal,” Ms Liu wrote in the article, published as part of ASPI’s After Covid-19 series.

Acting Multicultural Affairs Minister Alan Tudge (left) was presented with a donation by Sunny Duong (right) in June.

“That came on top of contributions of almost $200,000 earlier in the year towards bushfire appeals.”

A spokesman for Ms Liu said the Victorian MP made her final submission to ASPI prior to Mr Duong being charged with preparing a foreign interference act.

Despite Mr Duong presenting the donation to the hospital, government sources said it wasn’t from him personally. The donation was made up of smaller donations from the community.

The AFP alleges Mr Duong has a connection to a foreign intelligence agency, but it has not named the country. Security sources confirmed the country behind the alleged plot is China and Mr Tudge was the target.

The Hong Kong-born Ms Liu has previously come under criticism from Labor and foreign influence experts for failing to disclose her membership of Chinese government-linked associations.

But Ms Liu, the member for the Melbourne seat of Chisholm, has been increasingly outspoken this year about China’s crackdown on pro-democracy activists in Hong Kong.

Earlier this year Ms Liu accused Beijing of undermining Hong Kong’s autonomy after its national security law passed through China’s National People’s Congress. She also spoke out against the Chinese Communist Party in the Liberal party room on Tuesday over an inflammatory tweet about Australian soldiers, according to government sources.

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NSW Government minister Stuart Ayres contradicts NSW Health advice on coronavirus pandemic as he tries to defend Premier Gladys Berejiklian



NSW Jobs, Investment and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres has come under fire for declaring on Q+A that those who take a “precautionary” COVID test do not need to self-isolate.

Mr Ayres made the comments — which go against NSW Health guidelines — as he tried to defend NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian over revelations she failed to self-isolate after taking a test last week.

“I don’t think she’s put anyone at risk here,” he told a Q+A panel that also included Deputy Opposition Leader Richard Marles, Fairfield councillor Dai Le, lawyer Amani Haydar and director of Western Sydney Women Amanda Rose.

Host Hamish Macdonald pressed Mr Ayres on the issue, asking if that meant that all people could ignore NSW Health advice and “just evaluate for ourselves”.

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The minister answered in the affirmative.

“I think the key point here is that she’s gone and taken a precautionary test, but she’s not exhibiting any symptoms,” Mr Ayres said.

“I think you’ll find the guidelines say ‘if you’re exhibiting symptoms’.”

But his next statement on testing for the general public caused a stir on the show and saw him lambasted on Twitter.

The host pointed out that Mr Ayres appeared to be advocating breaking state health guidelines during a pandemic.

“You must self-isolate if you have been tested for COVID-19 and are awaiting results. It could not be clearer,” Macdonald said as he read directly from the guidelines.

Mr Ayres was criticised on Twitter for his comments.

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But he found some support in relation to the Premier from Ms Rose, who said people were “making a bit of a mountain out of a molehill” over Ms Berejiklian’s actions.

The Premier had taken a “precautionary test” after she “began losing her voice”, her spokesman said on Monday.

“In this circumstance, based on what we’ve heard, the fact that she didn’t show any symptoms and so forth, then, I don’t think it’s a massive issue, although, yes, to the everyday person, they’re thinking, ‘Hang on a minute. I have to go and isolate,'” Ms Rose said.

The answer prompted Macdonald to ask Mr Marles if there was a double standard in play for politicians.

Mr Marles said he had quarantined before going to Canberra in September, and added there should not be any double standards for anyone.

“I’m not exactly sure what we mean by a ‘precautionary test’, but these protocols matter,” Mr Marles said.

“It’s really important that the same rule that applies to everyone out there, applies to our leaders.

“I don’t think anyone can live through what we have in Victoria and be under any illusion as to what’s at stake here.

“If you have gone and had a test because something is happening, you have lost your voice, there is some symptom, you have gone to get a test because of some way you’re feeling, in that case the protocols are completely clear.”

Was the behaviour of Australian troops in Afghanistan a shock?

From COVID the conversation turned to the alleged war crimes carried out by some members of the Australian armed forces in Afghanistan.

Last week’s IGADF report found “credible information” that Australian special forces unlawfully killed 39 Afghan civilians or prisoners.

Several panellists said they were shocked and disgusted by the revelations.

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“I’m glad we’re shocked,” Mr Marles said.

The allegations that we saw reported last week in the Brereton report are truly appalling.

However, Ms Haydar said those in the Afghan community were not surprised.

“A lot of people that grew up in my community are not shocked,” she said.

“Atrocities like this take place regularly and often.

“We shouldn’t be shocked, we should actually be thinking about how we transform our culture both within our own nation and internationally so things like this don’t happen.”

Watch the full episode on iview or via the Q+A Facebook page.



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Gladys Berejiklian sacks parliamentary secretary after she voted against revised NSW koala bill



NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has sacked one of her own party’s parliamentary secretaries after the Liberal MP voted against a compromise bill on koala protection.

Catherine Cusack on Thursday told the upper house she could not back the land management bill negotiated with the Nationals, who had threatened to split from the government over the koala policy.

The upper house MP instead moved an amendment to send the controversial changes to a committee for further scrutiny. The amendment was backed 19 votes to 18, effectively delaying a vote on the bill until next year.

Her stance puts in jeopardy a truce on koala protection policy, which had threatened to tear the NSW coalition government apart.

The premier immediately sacked Ms Cusack as a parliamentary secretary after the vote.

“Following her decision today to move a non-government amendment to a government bill, I have made the decision to immediately remove Ms Catherine Cusack as a parliamentary secretary,” a one-line statement from the premier said.

Greens MP Cate Faehrmann, who chairs the NSW upper house Inquiry into koalas, celebrated the vote.

“Fair to say the Nats Koala-Killing bill has been killed! Woot!!” she posted on Twitter.

In September, NSW Nationals leader and deputy premier John Barilaro threatened to blow up the coalition government if concessions weren’t made to rural property owners.

However, the Liberals and Nationals appeared to have reached agreement on koala policy last month.

“I always predicted we would get it to a very good outcome and I’m really happy with where we’ve landed,” Ms Berejiklian said at the time.

In a statement issued late on Thursday night, Mr Barilaro and Ms Berejiklian said they would revisit the koala policy next year.

“Our farmers deserve certainty and they do not deserve to be held to ransom by a Greens-controlled inquiry,” they said.

“The Premier and the Deputy Premier have agreed the NSW Government will revert to operations under the former SEPP 44 by the end of the month and in the new year we will develop a policy to protect koalas and the interests of farmers.”



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Annastacia Palaszczuk and Gladys Berejiklian to face off at National Cabinet


The bitter battle over the Queensland-New South Wales border will be dragged back into the spotlight on Friday as the state’s Premiers prepare to face off at National Cabinet.

The regular intergovernmental forum was created to handle the coronavirus crisis, but with community transmitted cases now rare in Australia, attention will likely turn to getting the country open again.

Gladys Berejiklian has been vocal in her criticism of her Queensland counterpart Annastacia Palaszczuk, who has locked greater Sydney and Victorian travellers out until at least the end of the month.

The NSW Premier is odds-on to force the issue at the meeting of the state leaders with a little help from her party colleague, the Prime Minister.

RELATED: Text between feuding premiers

The public feud over the border decision has raged for months but it became personal and spiteful last week after a strange text message conversation between the two was leaked.

News.com.au confirmed despite the Queensland Premier’s claim Ms Berejiklian “never called her” about borders, she did text the night after the Sunshine State’s election.

“Hi Annastacia Congratulations on your election win,” the text says.

“I can imagine how difficult that was during a pandemic! Hope we can work together to get our borders open. Gladys.”

But Ms Palaszczuk failed to reply for several days before sending a text about the State of Origin result.

Three days later, Ms Palaszczuk replied with the celebratory war cry “Queenslander” after her state’s victory in the rugby league game.

The NSW Premier has repeatedly complained her Queensland counterpart won’t discuss the increasingly controversial topic.

“I did not hear from her until last night when she sent me a text about State of Origin,” Ms Berejiklian said last week.

“I didn’t know whether to be shocked or bemused, frankly, because I’m worried about jobs and I’m worried about people not seeing their families.

“And she just rubbed in the fact that Queensland won the game; that’s fine.

“She didn’t mention borders, she didn’t mention a thanks for the congratulations.”

It has become tradition for the leaders of each state to make playful bets to celebrate the annual rugby league match up in the State of Origin but Ms Berejiklian said she wouldn’t even send a text in the lead up to Wednesday’s game.

“I think I‘ve made my case clear. And she’s made her position clear. And I don’t think that she’s going to budge,” she told the ABC.

“It‘s a lot at stake. I think that the goalposts that Queensland has set for opening the borders to NSW is unrealistic, and I just wish that they would act in a more compassionate and commonsense way.

“There was absolutely no health advice which says that NSW poses a danger to anybody.”

To make matters worse, reports Queensland could open to Victoria before NSW infuriated Ms Berejiklian.

Queensland‘s Chief Health Officer Dr Jeannette Young is reportedly considering allowing Victorians into the Sunshine State from December 1 despite its recent and horrific second wave.

“I‘m just mortified by that notion,” Ms Berejiklian told Today.

“I think it‘s cruel. I think it’s unjustified and I think it’s spiteful. And there’s no health or scientific basis to it.

“NSW has demonstrated that you can manage the pandemic by keeping the community safe but also by keeping people in jobs and keeping people mobile and relatively free in a COVID-safe way.”

Ms Palaszczuk has refused to budge over the state’s border policy despite increased commitment from other leaders to do so.

NSW will allow Victorian travellers in from November 23 but the Queensland Premier said she would continue to deal with the policy at the end of each month rather than weekly, despite new national cases becoming rare.

“Everyone is making a bigger deal of this than needs to be,” Ms Palaszczuk told reporters last week.

“Let’s be practical and use commonsense here.

“Our border measures have kept Queenslanders safe.”



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Gladys Berejiklian tries returning to koala politics


Josh Frydenberg goes back to the hypocrisy well, Gladys Berejiklian returns to koala politics and The Australian just wants kids to read good.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian (right) (Image: AAP/Rick Stevens)

Everything is politics Treasurer Josh Frydenberg is certainly not the first Australian politician to weaponise suicide rates, but he’s really committing to the approach. He has already cack-handedly invoked mental health concerns to attack Victorian Premier Daniel Andrews — contemptible enough given the federal government’s cutting of JobSeeker payments back to poverty levels.

But now he’s taken it up a notch, yesterday announcing in parliament that he knew someone who knew someone who had killed themselves on account of Victoria’s lockdown.

Apart from the exceedingly shabby practice of exploiting a friend of a friend’s tragic end and publicly speculating on the reasons for it, the underlying political point simply doesn’t carry: the suicide rate in Victoria during this most dismal of years has not gone up.

Read the latest tips and murmurs from the Crikey bunker.

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Victoria records one COVID-19 case, case average falls, Gladys Berejiklian under fire from Qld, WA over hotel quarantine comments, US COVID-19 cases skyrocket, Australia death toll at 905


The PM said there was similar arrangements already in place for seasonal workers to complete their quarantine on farms.

A committee of national cabinet will investigate how big companies could operate their own quarantine facilities “under strict guidelines and standards obviously overseen and accredited by state health authorities”, Mr Morrison said.

“The more of these options we can identify, the more of the other capacity it frees up,” he said.

Mr Morrison said decisions on alternative quarantine options would not be rushed through.

“There is no undue haste here. There are risks here. So what we agreed to today is, before we make any of those decisions, we want to know what the options are, we want to know whether they work and we want to know whether they’re safe,” he said.

“You don’t want to build that aeroplane in the sky, you don’t want to build it before it takes off and that’s exactly what we’re doing.”



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The case of Gladys Berejiklian


New South Wales Premier Gladys Berejiklian is finding herself stranded in politics by decisions that have a suggestible tang of alleged corruption.

But as this is also accompanied by the whiff of bedroom antics – her long association with ex-Wagga Wagga Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, described as a “close personal relationship” – another dimension has come into play. Maguire is currently being investigated by the State’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

As ABC’s Annabel Crabb described it, the whole saga ‘became an instant Goggleboxer, with hot takes ranging from “Leave Gladys alone, who hasn’t kissed a frog?” all the way through to “Lock her up”.’

On October 12, the Premier revealed under questioning at ICAC that she and Maguire had been partners since 2015. The period covered his tumultuous 2018 exit from the NSW State Parliament after Maguire admitted to another ICAC investigation that he had sought payment for helping broker a deal with a Chinese property developer. Since then, ICAC has renewed its interest in Maguire, notably over his efforts to clear a $1.5 million debt of which the Premier resolutely claimed to be ignorant.

Berejiklian is short of options, but one has come to the fore with radiance. Before ICAC, she played the personal card, otherwise known as the bloody fool’s defence. In telling the commission she had concluded her association with Maguire in August, she admitted to having “stuffed up in my personal life”. The relationship with the former MP had been a “mistake”. 

But then came the compartmentalising as Berejiklian said: “I haven’t done anything wrong.” Had she done so, she “would be the first one to consider” her position. “But I haven’t.”    

In a press conference following her ICAC appearance, Berejiklian reiterated this dubious proposition — that her life as a holder of public office, held in trust for the state electorate, could somehow be hermetically sealed from the impropriety of a person already found to be corrupt. As far a reading of power goes, this is both amateurish and risible. 

Gladys said:

“Had I known then what I do now, clearly I would not have made those personal decisions that I did… I feel really, really let down.”

As for resigning? “Never, ever have I done anything but what is the highest standard of integrity. Where I have failed is in my personal life.”

Unfortunately for Berejiklian, she risks either looking complicit or naively incompetent. The latter would be problematic, as her backers repeatedly make the claim she is one of Australia’s more competent politicians, brimming with integrity. 

During the course of the week, ICAC has been drawing a treasure trove of admissions from Maguire. He admitted to using his Parliament house for personal business matters; confessed to pursuing those business affairs with tax-payer funded staff, email and facilities, and to running a scheme securing Australian visas for Chinese nationals. Personal profits were also made through his directorship of a company called G8way International.

The Premier’s ignorance of Maguire’s shady conduct was also shown to be less than golden. Phone conversation intercepts played at the inquiry reveal Maguire describing his $1.5 million debt problem, along with his broader business affairs, with the Premier. 

Berejiklian replies:

“I don’t need to know about that.”  

Berejiklian was one of the few, he also assured ICAC, he could confide in. Such confidence was evidently such as to puncture any claimed wall separating the two. In 2017, a “drop-in” was organised between property developer Joseph Alpha and Berejikilian by Maguire. 

Maguire told ICAC:

Jo wanted to meet the Premier. He said, ‘Can we go and see Gladys? Can we go and see Gladys?’”

Defenders of the Premier have chosen to dodge the issue of proximity and power. Federal Home Affairs Minister Peter Dutton preferred to focus on something he is unaccustomed to. “I don’t think you could find anybody more honourable or decent than Gladys Berejiklian,” he suggested to the Nine Network. Federal Employment Minister Michaelia Cash admired Berejiklian’s candour: “Gladys Berejiklian has been upfront.”

There were also fox hole types assuming that gender is what this is all about, and that stupid decisions supply creditable capital for exoneration. If men are monstrous and reach positions of power, and are even celebrated for doing so, why should such a personal faux pas trouble anyone, especially a competent woman? Broadcaster Julia Baird was surprised by “the enormous sympathy” for the Premier and “the number of women who threw their hands up in the air and said: ‘Je suis Gladys!’ Who hasn’t dated a tool?” 

Columnist for the Australian Financial Review Parnell Palme McGuinness even went so far as to give Berejiklian a clean bill of health on the ABC’s The Drum: 

“I can accept the idea of a woman listening to a whole lot of bullshit and dismissing it as ‘Oh well, it’s just him crapping on again’.” 

Never mind that the person in question is an elected official and Premier of Australia’s most populous state. This obvious question is never asked, raising the troubling spectre that gender might actually excuse some conduct — the very thing that men are often accused of exploiting.

Emma Alberici, who has been torched with vicious enthusiasm for her own journalistic forays into economics and finance when working for the ABC, might have been lingering in a land of haloed reflection. Instead, she decided to mount her steed and defend Berejiklian with clamorous enthusiasm, making some wonder why she would die on this hill. One statement is almost foolish for its inaccuracy. “When was the last time or any time a man in power got hounded this much, was called to resign no less on account of a poor relationship choice?” she asks. 

Faulty O'Farrell's scandalous premiership

She obviously forgets that some men have actually resigned for a lot less and certainly in the state of NSW, conceding to a moment of utter stupidity. Barry O’Farrell did so in 2014 as NSW Premier after receiving a $3,000 bottle of Penfolds Grange from Australian Water Holdings executive Nick Di Girolamo. As O’Farrell subsequently explained, “I do accept there is a thank you note [to Di Girolamo] signed by me and as someone who believes in accountability, in responsibility, I accept the consequences of my action.”

According to Annabel Crabb, New South Wales politics is a curious sewer, a place where you are permitted

“…to run aside hustles as an MP. As long as you disclose them. The guidelines go so far as to insist that ‘Engagement to provide a service involving use of a member’s position’ be declared, alongside the usual requirements for declaration of organisational membership, debts, general paid work and so on.” 

But even for Crabb, the “blinded by love” defence from the Premier has been rendered weak by those damning telephone transcripts and even “insulting to her personal intelligence and personal agency”. 

The question we should be asking is not whether a premier should be allowed to make personal mistakes in the friends she keeps, but whether those mistakes have any impact, actual or otherwise, on the office she occupies. 

Dr Binoy Kampmark was a Cambridge Scholar and is an Independent Australia columnist and lecturer at RMIT University. You can follow Dr Kampmark on Twitter @BKampmark.

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Gladys Berejiklian downplays relationship after declaring they were in love


The Premier’s comments come after an interview in the Sunday Telegraph on the weekend in which she said she was in love with Mr Maguire.

Ms Berejiklian told 2GB she had “absolutely” shed private tears over the relationship’s end and was now “doubting” she and Mr Maguire had the same emotions during their relationship.

“Which is excruciating to talk about but I appreciate the public interest,” she added.

The Premier said she shifted her view of the relationship to a compassionate friendship after she was forced to fire Mr Maguire in 2018 due to his embroilment in the Canterbury Council corruption scandal. However, although the pair did not converse “for a long time” after that, it was likely he still believed the pair were together this year.

“He would have been under the impression something could have happened, yes.”

The Premier told Fordham that Mr Maguire never conducted himself in a way that made him question his character and none of her colleagues in Parliament raised suspicions about his behaviour.

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“We thought he was someone of integrity: rightly or wrongly MPs are allowed to … do property deals provided they are disclosed in the appropriate way.”

Asked specifically about tapped phone conversations between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire, including one in which the Premier said she “didn’t need to know” about one of Mr Maguire’s possible business deals, Ms Berejiklian repeated comments made to the ICAC and the media last week that she was likely not listening while on the phone call.

“It did not cross my mind that there was anything untoward,” she said, adding that she did not do any favours for Mr Maguire during his time in office.

“Every MP lobbies you for things in their electorate, and he was no different.”

Receiving calls from a number of sympathisers and supporters on the conservative talkback station, the Premier said she was “going okay”.

“I’m just grateful for members of the public and my colleagues who have kept me going,” she said.

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Labor MP Tanya Plibersek feels sorry for Gladys Berejiklian


One of Australia’s most senior female Labor MPs says she feels sorry for Gladys Berejiklian, despite being on the other side of the political aisle.

Federal Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek refused to comment on whether the NSW premier should resign when asked about the bombshell revelation this week that she had a close, personal relationship with disgraced minister Daryl Maguire.

“I feel actually, as a human being, very personally sorry for the premier,” she told the ABC’s Insiders program.

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“It is hard to form an maintain relationships in our line of work.”

Premier Gladys Berejiklian survived multiple no-confidence motions this week, following the revelations. Picture: NCA NewsWire / James Gourley

But Ms Plibersek said there was never any excuse “for corrupt behaviour or turning a blind eye to corrupt behaviour”.

“Any sort of impropriety should be properly investigated by ICAC and if it is referred to the police, by the police or the courts,” she said.

“It doesn‘t matter who the person is, it doesn’t matter their gender, it doesn’t matter if we like the person or feel sorry for them.”

RELATED: Gladys Berejiklian: ‘I’ve given up on love’

Ms Plibersek also criticised the model proposed for a federal integrity commission.

“My concern is why don’t we have a national integrity commission, a similar anti-corruption body at a federal level?” she said.

“I think it’s extraordinary that two years ago the government had said it had begun work on a national integrity commission almost a year before that, so there is a three-year delay now, according to the Morrison government’s own timetable.

Tanya Plibersek has criticised the model proposed for a federal integrity commission. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett
Tanya Plibersek has criticised the model proposed for a federal integrity commission. Picture: NCA NewsWire/Joel Carrett

“It can only look at behaviour that has happened after the laws have passed and the body is set up. It can’t look at things off its own bat. It can’t accept referrals from whistleblowers … I mean, what a joke.”

Ms Plibersek said the weakness of the proposed model meant if implemented, it would be unable to investigate allegations of branch-stacking and questions about a land deal at Sydney’s second airport.

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Gladys Berejiklian’s shame: ‘I feel used’


It was a dirty little secret.

A five-year relationship with a man dubbed “Dodgy Daryl” in NSW political circles long before his business dealings were revealed last week.

A former furniture salesman who would lock visiting ministers in his car so he could – as one said – “chew their ears off” on whatever was occupying his mind.

A man whom many in his electorate of Wagga Wagga had assumed was tied up with other love interests when Premier Gladys Berejiklian revealed it was her he was seeing – or, as she put it, engaged in a “close personal relationship”.

 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian talks to the media after the ICAC bombshell on Monday. Picture: Toby Zerna

Such was the secrecy around their “on again, off again” affair, not even the Premier’s tight-knit family knew.

After telling her younger sister Mary on Monday, it was left up to her to relay the news on to their parents.

The bombshell not only floored Ms Berejiklian’s closest ministerial colleagues, but raised immediate questions as to whether she can survive the scandal.

 

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Can a Premier who staked her reputation on being astute, professional and – in her own words – “a goody-two-shoes” recover?

Or will her relationship with a disgraced ex-MP – which continued for two years after she sacked him following earlier corruption watchdog revelations, only to end in “August or September this year” – make her position untenable?

Those declaring her leadership terminal argue she has left the Coalition exposed; unable to call out corruption without being accused of a double standard.

How could an experienced factional operative accused at times of micromanaging never seek assurances of Maguire that he was not involved in anything untoward? Surely during those numerous late-night phone calls her political radar was sounding.

Was her judgment clouded or was it a case of plausible deniability, such as when she responded in one phone call: “I don’t need to know about that bit.”

 

Premier Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence at ICAC, revealing her ‘close personal relationship’ with Daryl Maguire.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence at ICAC, revealing her ‘close personal relationship’ with Daryl Maguire.

 

Daryl Maguire in the witness chair at ICAC on Friday.

Daryl Maguire in the witness chair at ICAC on Friday.

Those in the Premier’s inner circle say she feels “used” by Maguire, a man who was revealed to have charged “clients” an “introductory fee” to meet with politicians.

Who also requested a property developer friend write to the then-planning minister Anthony Roberts about his grievances and “cc (copy) the Premier”, adding that he “will give it to her”.

While many MPs were still trying to process what she saw in Maguire – “I’d have put him in the last one per cent of MPs I’d have thought she’d date,” said one; “He was just annoying” said another – a source close to Ms Berejiklian said it came down to familiarity. There was no having to explain her job. The long hours. It was easy. A friend with benefits.

There were shared interests, such as Chinese culture. In a 2017 article on the online Guangdong news site, the Premier spoke of how she was learning Mandarin.

The source said Maguire’s self-importance may have also allowed her to overcome any issues of self-esteem that still plagued her from her teenage years.

 

The Premier poses for a picture with Daryl Maguire when he was an MP.

The Premier poses for a picture with Daryl Maguire when he was an MP.

 

The Premier is understood to have told at least one of her confidantes, by way of explanation after the revelation, how Maguire was the first man in recent years to show a genuine interest in her.

“She is so private and proper,” the source said. “He clearly built up her trust.”

Another Liberal source claimed: “She wasn’t allowed to date anyone that wasn’t Armenian.”

The pair had been friends for some time – Mr Maguire was already in parliament when Ms Berejiklian was elected as Willoughby MP in 2003 – before it turned into something more.

Just when the friendship exactly became a “close personal relationship” is a question to which ICAC sought an answer from Mr Maguire during a private hearing.

While the pair has stated the relationship started about 2015, a text message from February 2014 shows Mr Maguire referring to Ms Berejiklian by the Armenian term of endearment “hokis”.

As for the secrecy, one senior Liberal close to Ms Berejiklian suggested the Premier herself knew deep down that many would disapprove.

“I would have told her what I thought,” the Liberal said.

“I feel so sorry for her. But she’ll get over it. She’s one of the toughest people I know.”

 

Gladys Berejiklian during Question Time on Thursday. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

Gladys Berejiklian during Question Time on Thursday. Picture: Dominic Lorrimer

 

What has stunned many of her colleagues is how the relationship continued long after she sacked him.

After admitting she’d “stuffed up”, the Premier quickly went on the offensive. She would be fighting on.

But, given the sheer scale of Maguire’s alleged corruption – monetising his Macquarie Street job, hiding profits made as a silent director of a company involved in a cash-for-visa scheme, using his position to try to secure a $1.5 million debt-clearing land sale, fees to meet pollies – can the Premier convince her detractors that she remains a leader of integrity?

Former premier Mike Baird, one of Ms Berejiklian’s closest friends, believes so.

“In all my dealings Gladys was always about what was the right thing to do,” he said.

“I can’t think of another example of someone in parliament where it was less about them and more about the people she was representing.

“For her, doing the right thing for NSW was everything.”

 

Gladys Berejiklian with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who is considered he more likely successor should she not recover politically from this week’s bombshell. Picture: Toby Zerna

Gladys Berejiklian with Treasurer Dominic Perrottet, who is considered he more likely successor should she not recover politically from this week’s bombshell. Picture: Toby Zerna

 

One party official noted how the 2019 state election campaign pushed the line that Gladys was a woman who could “get it done”.

“This remains the case,” the official said. “Post-bushfires, post-COVID, that can still be said.”

Another Liberal strategist suggested the Premier could expect a poll bounce.

“She made a poor choice in a partner, but it is clear she didn’t engage with him in his business dealings,” he said.

“She can absolutely recover. In fact, I wouldn’t be surprised if she had a poll bounce. When you have as much political capital in the bank as she has, people will forgive you.”

It is true that Kevin Rudd’s popularity surged after his visit to a strip club was exposed. As did Bill Clinton’s in the wake of the Monica Lewinsky affair. But this is a lot more than just a tawdry love affair.

At its heart is a question of integrity. The public wants to know it can trust the person elected to the highest office.

This week a largely sympathetic public remained in the Premier’s corner.

But as time goes by and the details of what the Premier knew – or chose to ignore – are dissected over dinner tables, voter sentiment could change.

 

The Berejiklian sisters Mary (l to r), Gladys and Rita — not even the Premier’s tight-knit family knew about her relationship. Picture: Tracey Nearmy

The Berejiklian sisters Mary (l to r), Gladys and Rita — not even the Premier’s tight-knit family knew about her relationship. Picture: Tracey Nearmy

Sure, Maguire shielded her from the details of his dealings so that he wouldn’t put her in a “difficult” position. But was there also an understanding between the pair that the Premier would not be told of anything that could compromise her position?

Time will tell.

Her detractors – many in her own party – began hunting down any possible incriminating evidence within hours of her ICAC appearance to prove she did, in fact, know more.

Requests have been lodged in parliament for details of the Premier’s and Maguire’s travel to and from Wagga Wagga over the past five years. Minutes of meetings are being scrutinised. The hunt is on.

In the Premier’s favour is that no one wants blood on their hands. Not Treasurer Dom Perrottet, her likely successor who would prefer his time to come later, nor Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean, who would be critical in delivering votes from the left, but who has vowed to support his factional ally and close friend “to the end”.

 

 

Planning Minister Rob Stokes, Transport Minister Andrew Constance and Attorney-General Mark Speakman have all pledged loyalty.

So long as the parliamentary team remains behind her, she remains safe. But it’s fair to say everyone is watching and waiting.

Prior to this week, many in the party had been hoping Ms Berejiklian would go around again to deliver one more election victory – and the Premier indicated herself on Friday that this would be the case.

But that may not be her decision.

Originally published as Gladys Berejiklian’s shame: ‘I feel used’





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