‘I am the boss’: The truth behind the secret relationship Berejiklian tried to downplay – Sydney Morning Herald

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When Gladys Berejiklian was forced by a corruption inquiry to admit she had been in “a close personal relationship” with former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire, the then-premier maintained it was never of “sufficient status” to warrant prior disclosure.
In the public relations blitz that followed, Berejiklian swung the other way, telling gossip columnists and shock jocks how she had fallen for the man from Wagga Wagga, but had now “given up on love”.
Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire.Credit: Marija Ercegovac
It could never be the case that their relationship was simultaneously so trivial it didn’t need to be disclosed, and so deep it changed Berejiklian’s life forever, as she told The Daily Telegraph.
In Thursday’s findings, the Independent Commission Against Corruption made clear it believes the relationship was indeed of sufficient status. Berejiklian and Maguire had an intimate relationship of “profound importance”. They used pet names, holidayed with each other and contemplated having a child together. They called and messaged each other regularly.
Some of those messages were so “deeply personal” the ICAC has not published them, and never asked witnesses about them in either public or private hearings, so as not to cause unnecessary embarrassment.
But the couple’s intimacy was underscored in other private communications revealed by the watchdog – extracts the former premier asked the watchdog not to publish.
“Normally you’re the boss, and it’s hard when we have to switch it around, that’s the truth,” Berejiklian told Maguire in an intercepted phone call on Valentine’s Day 2018.
“Glad, even when you are the Premier, I am the boss, alright,” Maguire said.
“Yes, I know,” Berejiklian replied.
During a private examination, Berejiklian told the ICAC it was difficult for someone in her position – premier – to deal with the consequent power imbalance in a personal setting. “He wanted to feel equal in the relationship,” she said, while she wanted to “make him feel less insecure”.
“It’s actually making him feel that because I was the boss during the day, that I wouldn’t necessarily be exercising that relationship in the private relationship,” Berejiklian said.
On April 12, 2018, Maguire texted Berejiklian: “I am busy killing mmc you do your job and lead the state.”
She replied: “I can’t without you.” He assured her he was her biggest supporter and had her back. “But you are my family,” Berejiklian said.
The ICAC said it accepted these messages and phone calls were the kind of personal exchanges that couples were ordinarily entitled to keep private, and that they only amounted to circumstantial evidence about Berejiklian’s actions in office relating to Maguire’s interests.
But it said these communications were important because they spoke directly to the seriousness, duration and depth of their relationship. The Valentine’s Day phone call in particular was probative because it showed Berejiklian was concerned to address Maguire’s insecurities, and that this could manifest in a desire to assuage his feelings and support him to the best of her ability.
“That would include supporting him bringing to fruition two Wagga Wagga projects for which he was a fervent advocate,” the ICAC said.
Berejiklian was well practised in downplaying her relations with Maguire. The watchdog found she lied to her chief of staff and old friend Sarah Cruickshank about the nature, length and intimacy of the relationship in a fateful phone call on the night of July 13, 2018.
In that conversation, Berejiklian left Cruickshank with the impression her fling with Maguire was in the distant past, when in fact it was ongoing, and “the prospect of Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire getting married was also still a possibility”.
The ICAC believes the then-premier lied because she was engaged in “damage control”, needing to tell Cruickshank about the relationship but wishing to downplay it for various reasons – including the possibility that if Cruickshank thought the two were still together, she might have asked whether Berejiklian needed to speak to the ICAC about Maguire, who was at that point under investigation.
Cruickshank was on leave that night and had been out to dinner with friends when her boss called. Berejiklian told her a close friend who worked in corporate affairs – the only person to whom she had disclosed the relationship at that point – had urged her to disclose it to Cruickshank, too.
Cruickshank told the inquiry she’d had “a few wines” that night, a fact Berejiklian suggested may have contributed to Cruickshank “misunderstanding” the status of the relationship as she had conveyed it that evening. Nonetheless, the ICAC clearly preferred Cruickshank’s account.
Over and over, the report found Berejiklian tried to minimise the depth and extent of her relations with Maguire. He said it started some time in 2015. She agreed it went back to at least the March 2015 election.
But the ICAC unearthed hundreds of SMS messages between July 2013 and August 2018 indicating that “from at least the early part of 2014 onwards”, they were engaged in “physical and emotional intimacy, and a romantic relationship”. The messages demonstrated “the indices of a continuing deep attachment and love”, the ICAC said.
“These messages include plans for meals and drinks together after work, plans for holidays and attending social events together, references to Ms Berejiklian’s Sydney residence by both of them as ‘home’ and mundane domestic arrangements such as requests to pick up bread and things to eat on the way ‘home’.
“The messages are replete with terms of endearment, the use of pet names and other indications of mutual affection and love. They include discussions about marriage and the possibility of having a child together.”
During the inquiry, Berejiklian pointed to the fact she and Maguire never shared finances and said their relationship could not be considered “normal”. She was very busy, and while they were in regular contact, they did not see each other often.
The commission was philosophical on this point. “No two relationships are alike,” it said, but the fact a relationship did not conform to society’s usual template did not necessarily detract from its quality or strength.
Ultimately, counsel assisting the inquiry submitted that Berejiklian and Maguire were not merely friends; they shared a relationship of mutual love and close emotional connection. This kind of relationship was capable of influencing a person’s conduct for the “completely legitimate and entirely human reason” that people try to please those they love and avoid disappointing them.
Berejiklian called that assessment “puerile”. The watchdog countered that her view was “both supercilious and unworldly”. In other words: it was love, and she should have acknowledged it.
In a statement on Thursday, the former premier said she had always worked in the public interest. Nothing in the ICAC’s report demonstrated otherwise, she said, and her lawyers were reviewing it.
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