Berejiklian’s evidence ends
And that’s the extent of her evidence.
Berejiklian is released from her summons. So is Maguire.
Callan asks Berejiklian: What do you say to the suggestion that you had a “private interest” – Maguire’s relationship with her – that influenced your public duties?
I completely reject that suggestion.
Berejiklian’s lawyer, Sophie Callan, SC, is now asking questions.
She begins by asking how often Berejiklian would have had concerns, roadblocks, or problems raised with her by MPs.
Berejiklian says that happened all too often. That was her leadership style, she said.
It would have been telephone, SMS, some would have dropped into my office when parliament was sitting … formal correspondence … there were a myriad of ways.
She’s asked about the funding of the Australian Clay Target Association project. She had previously said Daryl Maguire’s advocacy may have been a factor in her support.
Berejiklian says the overriding factor was the Orange by-election loss and the government’s problems with regional voters.
But she says you always consider the views of the local member.
There’s no point strongly supporting a project which has statewide significance or otherwise if the local member doesn’t support it.
Former Berejiklian chief of staff Sarah Cruickshank’s lawyers now begin their examination.
They are confirming that Berejiklian holds Cruickshank in high esteem. She confirms she does.
Berejiklian is asked about their conversation in July 2018, in which the then premier told her about the relationship with Maguire.
Cruickshank says the premier told her the relationship was over. Berejiklian does not recall that.
It is not uncommon for two people to have two different versions in their head.
Cruickshank’s lawyers are attempting to make it clear that she did not report anything to Icac because she was told the relationship was over.
Berejiklian denies she wanted to fund the conservatorium to give Maguire a legacy when he resigned.
I think Mr Maguire’s legacy was not relevant then, because we had a new Liberal candidate then. Anything we announced would have been her legacy.
And that’s the end of Robertson’s questioning.
The commission is played a recording of a call between Maguire and Berejiklian on 30 July 2018.
Berejiklian tells Maguire that she needs to go because Maguire is “stressing” her.
I’ll go and chill, you just throw money at Wagga.
I’ll throw money at Wagga, don’t you worry about that. Lots of it.
We’ve heard this before.
Another recording is played.
I’ll throw money at Wagga, you just have to do what’s right at your end, or else you’ll kill me.
Maguire tells her to fund a stadium in the city. He complains that the “bureaucrats” killed off the proposal.
Yes, but I can overrule them.
The calls end.
Berejiklian is asked whether the phrase “throw money at Wagga” meant spending money to win a by-election, regardless of the merits of individual projects.
The former premier says she doesn’t believe the two are mutually exclusive. They can benefit the community and be politically beneficial.
Throwing money at by-elections a ‘regular political activity’: Berejiklian
Gladys Berejiklian is shown a letter from her office to John Barilaro, guaranteeing the conservatorium project $20m from the regional communities development fund. The grant was a competitive fund.
The effect of that was to carve out the $20m so that it could only be used for the conservatorium’s new recital hall.
Berejiklian says she made a “high-level, strategic” decision to fund the project and left the detail of how the money was awarded to others.
She said her decision would help the community and improve the prospects of the Liberal candidate in the looming by-election.
It’s a regular political activity that governments try to win seats, try to keep their seats, as does an opposition. I don’t think it would be a surprise to anybody that we throw money at seats to keep them.
The former premier is shown departmental advice on the funding for the conservatorium’s new recital hall, which suggested it did not have widespread support and could be seen as a “political announcement”.
Berejiklian says the department is not expert at “winning byelections”:
At the end of the day, whether we like it or not, that’s democracy.
She said she would not disregard what Maguire, who had held the seat for two decades, thought would win the byelection.
Berejiklian concedes Maguire suggested to her that she should fund the Riverina Conservatorium of Music’s new recital hall before the byelection caused by his resignation.
She was evidently shown evidence to that effect during the private hearing just now. She replies:
The answer is yes, but I wouldn’t have remembered it unless you showed it to me.
She says the project had wide community support:
It’s not uncommon during byelections to make announcements that are going to get you wide support.
Berejiklian says she can’t remember who in her office supported the project, if anyone.
Robertson asks whether Maguire gave any advice to Berejiklian on what she should do about the scandal enveloping him in July 2018.
She says she’s “sure he did”:
He was never backward in giving his advice on these matters.
The commission goes to SMS from 16 July 2018 in which Maguire urges her to “get stuck into me … good for party morale”.
Maguire announced his resignation from parliament the following Saturday.
Robertson asks, given that Berejiklian was encouraging others to come forward, why she didn’t reflect on her own need to make a report to Icac?
Berejiklian said she had already given the matter “considerable thought” from 13 July 2018, the date Maguire appeared at Icac:
I obviously didn’t have any information to report. I commend and congratulate whoever provided this information, but clearly they had something specific.
Robertson again asks if her decision not to come forward was affected by her fear that she would be caught up in the scandal. Berejiklian replies: “Absolutely not.”
If there was any suspicion of corruption, any information I thought I could have passed on to this body, I would have.
Robertson asks if her failure to report was due to her feelings for Maguire:
We’re back from the private hearing.
The commission hears that the former premier was given a ministerial briefing about Maguire and the ongoing Operation Dasher, the probe into Canterbury City Council that led to his resignation.
She’s asked whether she assumed at the time that the information being provided concerned Maguire.
All I’m saying is it was a very general note, I assumed it was about that inquiry, and of course I encouraged my department to pass on any information, allow anyone to report what they needed to report.
Berejiklian said she wrote a note on the briefing to encourage others to proactively go to Icac to give evidence.
Scott Robertson wants to keep pursuing this topic. But he wants to do so in private, away from the public eye, at least in the first instance.
He says he is attempting to balance what is in the public interest with the protection of private matters. This inquiry has had to walk a fine line in that respect.
The commission goes into private hearing mode, with lawyers for Sarah Cruickshank and Gladys Berejiklian allowed to stay in the room.
We’ll be back with you shortly.