Gladys in ‘real trouble’ over key claim
The NSW Premier could be in "real trouble" if claims she was cohabitating with her secret ex-lover were proven true, experts have said.
In an explosive day in parliament on Thursday, One Nation leader Mark Latham claimed MP Daryl Maguire, who is being investigated over corruption claims, had a key to Gladys Berejiklian's Sydney home.
"Given that Daryl Maguire had a key to the Premier's north shore home for many years, and while cohabitating came and went as he liked, as recently as last month - doesn't this demonstrate an intimate personal relationship, and the Premier's failure under the ministerial code of conduct to declare all of Maguire's business interests?" Mr Latham asked.
Gladys Berejiklian has been careful to describe her relationship with Daryl Maguire, a former MP under investigation for alleged corruption, as a "close personal relationship".
That's close and personal, as opposed to "intimate" - which Mr Latham suggested in parliament put the relationship in a category that triggered a requirement for greater disclosure by the Premier.
The former head of the NSW Department of Public Prosecutions Nicholas Cowdery said if Ms Berejiklian was in an "intimate" relationship, she would be required to disclose Mr Maguire's financial interests.
The Premier is bound by the ministerial code of conduct, which defines a family member as including "any … person with whom the minister is in an intimate personal relationship".
That definition of family member becomes important on the page of the code that deals with conflicts of interest.
"A conflict of interest arises in relation to a minister if there is a conflict between the public duty and the private interest of the minister, in which the minister's private interest could objectively have the potential to influence the performance of their public duty," the code says.
The code demands such conflicts must be disclosed.
Ms Berejiklian has maintained for the past two weeks that she has done nothing wrong, and that she never became aware of any wrongdoing by Mr Maguire that would require her to alert others.
"If I was aware of any wrongdoing, I would have reported it," she has previously said.
The claim on Thursday by One Nation member Mark Latham in the NSW upper house - that Mr Maguire had a key to the Premier's house and that the two cohabitated - would strengthen the case that the relationship was intimate, according to Mr Cowdery.
"If it's true Maguire had free access to the Premier's house, and you add that to all the other things that are known about the relationship, it strengthens the argument," he said.
Mr Cowdery said it will be up to ICAC to make the call. And if the Premier were to be found in breach of the code, which falls under ICAC Act, the commission could make an adverse finding against her.
"It would render the person who has failed guilty of corrupt conduct, and in that case there are sanctions available," Mr Cowdery said.
An adverse finding against the Premier could come as part of the investigation into Mr Maguire, even though she has only been involved as a witness, Mr Cowdery said.
Stewart Jackson, a senior lecturer in politics at the University of Sydney, said the new claims could be crucial if proven true.
"If they were cohabitating, then everything has changed," he said.
"I think there may well be a finding against the Premier."
But Dr Jackson, who was an Australian Greens party activist prior to becoming an academic, said that the Premier's immediate problems could be in the political sphere rather than the legal one.
"I would say that it's the court of public opinion where she could get herself into real trouble," he said.
When asked about the issue, Mr Berejiklian did not reject the claim outright that Mr Maguire had a key to her home, but she did say false accusations had been made.
"I've read and heard things said, including today, which are just factually incorrect," she said on Thursday.
"I respect the (ICAC) process, I have faith in the process, I'd ask everybody to have faith in that process, of which I was a witness."
Originally published as Gladys in 'real trouble' over key claim