Insidious corruption: looking beyond the narrative of Gladys Berejiklian’s secret failed romance

“Who hasn’t dated a dickhead?”: Gladys Berejiklian’s close personal relationship with disgraced former MP Daryl Maguire is not about a scandalous rendezvous, it’s about political corruption and conflicted interest. 

Last Monday, NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian stood in front of 46 Liberal parliamentary colleagues to give what was presumed to be a mundane testimony to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC). The commission was investigating the level of personal gain Gladys’ former colleague, former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, manoeuvred whilst in power.

In a bombshell revelation, Berejiklian disclosed that she had been in a “close” and “personal” relationship with the disgraced MP since 2015. With the room taken by surprise, questions began to fizz about the NSW Premier’s involvement in and knowledge of Maguire’s crooked payments and backroom deals, which were followed by calls for the NSW Premier to resign.

gladys berejiklian

Following this, Gladys Berejiklian went on air in an interview with talkback radio station 2GB where she cleared up that her and Maguire were never official. She admitted that she “stuffed up” by maintaining her relationship with the defamed MP, but that she would not be stepping down from her position as premier.

Meanwhile, media coverage of the scandal quickly positioned Gladys as an unwitting victim. According to news headlines, the ICAC hearing left Gladys’ feeling “betrayed” and “used”, ignorant of Maguire’s “bad boy” antics. This is despite revelations that Gladys was still in contact with Maguire from September 13, less than a month prior to the commission.

Ex-Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull was quick to get on board, rejecting calls for the premier to resign, because, poor, silly Gladys simply “fell in love with the wrong guy.” UGH. Relatable Queen.

Whilst Australian news tabloids are keen on reframing the narrative to position the NSW Premier as a heartbroken victim, the critical question of corruption easily falls between the cracks of public debate.

In the end, the “bad-boy boyfriend” story becomes a simplistic way to package and interpret the ICAC inquiry as something less about corruption and more about scandalous inter-parliamentary rendezvous.

But let’s look at the facts: Maguire is a shady dude. And he has been for a while.

He was pressured to resign from parliament in 2018 after his admission of wrongdoing in a separate anti-corruption inquiry, where it was found that the MP had made payments to aid broker deals for property developers. Basically, using his power and political clout to deepen his own pockets.

At this time, Gladys was seeing Maguire, and she had been for years.

When asked how she avoided being involved – and whether she used her own status as Premier of NSW to help cover up the scandal – she said she simply didn’t take a personal interest. She said Mr Maguire’s finances, despite their relationship, were his own, and that she was an “independent woman” with her own concerns.

This could pass off as well and good if the circumstances were different. But these two are critical political players, in highly powerful positions. The evidence that was given to ICAC treads a tightrope between serious corruption and seriously questionable ethics.

During the inquiry, ICAC played numerous tapes of the pair’s private phone conversations in which Maguire isn’t shy about disclosing his schemes to take a percentage of various developments.

At one point, upon Maguire mentioning a recent “deal” (he’s talking about the Waterhouse land deal in which he was set to make hundreds of thousands), Berejiklian can be heard offering her now-infamous reply: “That’s good. I don’t need to know about that bit.”

“No you don’t,’’ Maguire says.

Ms Berejiklian insists that her response was not evidence of her attempting to turn a blind eye, but instead that she was simply “bored” or “wasn’t interested”.

“I always assumed, rightly or wrongly, that he was making full disclosures when he needed to,” she told ICAC on Monday.

Which, for your knowledge, no, he did not.

Other intercepted phone calls played to the inquiry exposed Maguire using Gladys’ private email to lobby for changes that would benefit high-profile elites. In the calls, Maguire suggested the premier would be able to provide a “tickle from up top” and would “light a fire” to help garner support for interests of his own.

Following the ICAC inquiry, NSW Opposition Leader Jodi McKay heavily criticised the premier, arguing that by standing by Maguire while he was doing dodgy deals, Gladys Berejiklian was effectively a “sounding board for corruption.” 

The reality is that the widespread sentiments of “poor Gladys”, which have been espoused across the 2GB interview, tabloid headlines, and social media, is perhaps a bigger disgrace than the tapes played to ICAC.

One Twitter user commented this week: “Who hasn’t dated a dickhead?”

Gladys Berejiklian is a grown adult serving as the Premier of New South Wales whose decisions affect millions. The image of an oblivious, lovesick Gladys is so demeaning and superficial, it just might work to cover up the real scandal.