Gladys Berejiklian has resigned as NSW Premier as she battles allegations of dodgy dealings from the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).
An emotional Berejiklian made the 6-minute statement on Friday, 14 weeks into the state’s latest COVID-19 lockdown.
In her parting statements, she said: “Resigning at this time is against every instinct in my being and something which I do not want to do. I love my job, and serving the community, but I have been given no option following the statement issued [by ICAC].”
It’s a departure from politics that no one wants.
This is what led to Berejiklian’s resignation.
First off, what is ICAC?
The NSW ICAC is the thorn in state politicians’ sides. It’s an independent agency established in 1988 tasked with investigating and eliminating corruption in state politics.
It describes itself as an “important and exciting place to work”, with much of its work investigating the misuse of power and funds.
So far, ICAC has investigated dozens of politicians, and triggered the resignation of former Liberal Premier Barry O’Farrell in 2014 among several other high-profile names. O’Farrell was eventually cleared by ICAC.
Why is ICAC launching the investigation now?
In her parting words, Berejiklian took a swipe at ICAC for the timing of the investigation which comes as NSW fights its Delta outbreak and manages lockdowns.
“My resignation as Premier could not happen at a worse time, but the timing is completely outside of my control as the ICAC has chosen to take this action during the most challenging weeks of the most challenging times in the history of NSW,” she said.
The announcement of the inquiry comes after an explosive ICAC hearing last year uncovered Berejiklian’s relationship with disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
What is Berejiklian being accused of?
The ICAC on Friday announced it is investigating whether Berejiklian faced a conflict of interest due to her close personal relationship with Maguire.
Specifically, it’s probing whether two funding grants promised to Australian Clay Target Association, a gun club, and the Riverina Conservatorium of Music occurred due to her relationship with the then-local MP Maguire.
The state government gave the Maguire-electorate gun club $5.5 million in 2017, while Berejiklian was state Treasurer.
And in 2018, it awarded an additional $20 million in funding to the conservatorium. Some $10 million had already been approved in funding, meaning the Maguire-electorate conservatorium had received more funding than all the other conservatoria in regional Australia combined.
In March this year, Berejiklian denied approving the funding for the conservatorium. She said she “may have” discussed the funding with Maguire, but said that this was normal practice for a Premier to discuss funding with members of parliament.
“I can’t confirm, I have no vivid recollection,” Berejiklian said.
ICAC is also asking whether Berejiklian broke public trust by not revealing her relationship with Maguire.
The agency will begin this inquiry on Monday 18 October 2021 at 10am, and it’s expected to run for 10 days.
Why did Berejiklian resign?
Berejiklian said the pandemic made it impossible for her to merely step aside during the inquiry, as her presence would distract the state from the bigger issue of tackling the COVID-19 crisis.
“I have made it clear on numerous occasions that if any of my ministers were the subject of allegations being investigated by an integrity agency or law-enforcement, then he or she should stand aside during the course of the investigation until their name was cleared,” she said.
“Standing aside is not an option for me as the Premier of New South Wales. The people of New South Wales need certainty as to who their leader is during these challenging times of the pandemic.”
Here’s a full timeline of Berejiklian’s downfall:
March 2015: Berejiklian and then-Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire form a relationship
Around the time of the 2015 NSW election, Berejiklian who is then the state transport minister and Maguire, a parliamentary secretary, begin seeing each other.
April 2015: Berejikilian appointed NSW Treasurer
January 2017: Berejikilian appointed NSW Premier
Berejiklian replaces fellow Liberal Mike Baird as Premier.
Maguire stays as parliamentary secretary.
August 2017: Berejiklian asks Maguire to quit parliament so they can have a public relationship
September 2017: Berejiklian and Maguire have notable phone call
In the phone call, Maguire discusses his financial interests in the Badgerys Creek Airport development. It’s a land deal that could be lucrative for Maguire.
Berejiklian says she “didn’t need to hear that bit”.
November 2017: Maguire gives Berejiklian’s private email address to western Sydney racing heir and landowner Louise Waterhouse
Waterhouse twice emails Berejiklian asking for help with rezoning changes around the airport. The changes would benefit the bit of land she owns.
Berejiklian doesn’t respond to the emails.
13 July 2018: Maguire captures ICAC’s attention
Maguire gives evidence at another ICAC inquiry, Operation Dasha. This inquiry is examining claims against public officials and Canterbury councillors.
ICAC hears that Maguire was attempting to broker large property deals connecting property developers with large Chinese investment firms.
“I was shocked by the events of Friday and I spoke to Mr Maguire late that afternoon to express in the strongest possible terms my deep disappointment [in his behaviour],” Berejiklian says.
August 2018: Maguire resigns from parliament
1 September 2020: ICAC reveals it is investigating Maguire
It’s not over yet. ICAC reveals it has been investigating Maguire’s activities from when he was MP.
Now, it’s looking into whether Maguire was aiming to “monetise his position” as an MP.
13 September 2020: Berejiklian cuts off contact with Maguire
21 September 2020: First day of ICAC hearings
It’s clear that ICAC has tapped Maguire’s phone.
1 October 2020: ICAC hears Maguire helped racing heir with questionable land sale
ICAC receives evidence that Maguire was trying to connect Chinese property developer Country Garden with racing heir and southwest Sydney landowner Louise Waterhouse.
If the $330 million sale goes through, Maguire can score as much as $690,000 in commission.
The inquiry hears that Maguire lobbies officials in the Roads and Maritime Services, the premier’s office and planning officials to make the deal work.
The deal does not happen.
2 October 2020: ICAC hears that Maguire brings developer client, Waterhouse, to Berejiklian’s office
While attempting to get the deal over the line, ICAC hears that Maguire brought Waterhouse with him to a meeting with top planning officials.
Additionally, the inquiry hears Maguire used Berejiklian’s office for a meeting between Waterhouse and roads minister Melinda Pavey.
6 October 2020: ICAC hears Maguire shared Berejiklian’s private email address
The inquiry hears Maguire in 2017 told Waterhouse to be careful with the email, since although it may help her get Berejiklian’s support, it’s also “ICAC-able”.
12 October 2020: ICAC hears of Maguire, Berejiklian’s close relationship
“When I was asked to support this inquiry it became apparent to me that I should have absolutely no contact anymore and I ceased all contact,” Berejiklian says. “More substantially, I’m a very private person and I didn’t feel the relationship had sufficient substance for it to be made public.”
12 November 2020: The NSW upper house votes to refer Berejiklian to ICAC for failing to disclose her relationship with Maguire
28 December 2020: One Nation leader Mark Latham refers Berejiklian to ICAC
1 February 2021: NSW Parliamentary Committee hears Berejiklian personally approved $20m in funding for Riverina Conservatorium
4 March 2021: Berejiklian denies personally approving the funding
26 June 2021: Much of Greater Sydney enters lockdown
7 September 2021: Growing suspicion Berejiklian is now being investigated by ICAC
By this stage, Berejiklian has refused to answer if she is the subject of an ICAC investigation.
“It is not appropriate for anyone to comment on activity which the integrity agency is undertaking, let them do their work, I have nothing to add,” she says.
1 October 2021 - Berejiklian resigns as NSW Premier
And another one bites the dust.