Gladys Berejiklian has snapped after being quizzed about her alleged involvement in one particular government grant application.
Gladys Berejiklian has demanded respect after being challenged about her alleged involvement in a grant sought by her former boyfriend.
An ABC investigation has alleged the NSW premier intervened in the 2017 reassessment of a $5.5 million grant application after being approached by Daryl Macguire.
The money was being sought for the Australian Clay Target Association’s clubhouse and convention centre in Mr Maguire’s former electorate of Wagga Wagga.
Documents suggest the reassessment came after Mr Maguire, who is currently being investigated by the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) for his business dealings, wrote to Ms Berejiklian asking for help in funding the project.
One document references a request from Ms Berejiklian to reassess the project, which had initially failed a cost-benefit analysis.
During a press conference on Monday, ABC reporter Paul Farrell asked the premier, “You requested a reassessment of the $5.5 million that Dary Maguire stood to gain from.”
“Why did you do that and isn’t that a serious conflict of interest given you were in a secret relationship with him at the time?”
Ms Berejiklian responded: “Can you please stand back a bit? Thank you”, and then denied the allegation furiously.
“Firstly the proposition you’re putting is absolutely ridiculous. And second, all proper procedures were followed and that’s all I will say on the matter,” she said.
The reporter then followed up: “But you exchanged letters with Dary Maguire about this project.”
“You wrote to him and thanked him for bringing it to the government’s attention. Wasn’t this a serious conflict of interest, getting involved in any way in that grant process, given you were in a relationship at the time?”
Berejiklian snapped in response: “I refer to my previous answer, and please respect this press conference.”
The ABC’s story was based on a trove of documents released to parliament after a request by Greens MP David Shoebridge.
The pages number in the hundreds and include correspondence from the Office of Sport, Treasury, Department of Regional NSW, and the premier’s office.
The documents include a June 2017 email where a top Regional NSW official wrote to a staffer in Ms Berejiklian’s office to update him on the funding for the shooting facility.
“Just wanted you in the loop given premier‘s interest,” the Regional NSW official wrote.
Ms Berejiklian had become premier in January that year.
In another email from June 2017, a different Regional NSW official referenced a “request by the premier” to assess the updated business case.
The ICAC’s ongoing investigation of Daryl Maguire is an offshoot from a previous probe into allegations of dishonest conduct at the former Canterbury City Council in Sydney.
Mr Maguire was caught up in the 2018 probe after he was secretly recorded discussing property deals involving a Chinese developer over the phone.
He resigned shortly after publicly testifying before ICAC in July 2018.
Last year, the ICAC went public with its new investigation, this time focused on Mr Maguire himself.
Ms Berejiklian was told to testify in October and made the stunning revelation that she had been in a “close personal relationship” with Mr Maguire for five years, an affair that ended shortly before her appearance.
The ICAC was set to complete its investigation of Mr Maguire in late 2020 but the commission said in December it was undertaking “further investigative steps”.
It is unclear what the matters are that the watchdog continues to investigate.
Ms Berejiklian’s office has been contacted for comment.
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