Michael Pascoe: The ‘soft’ interview that could cost Berejiklian her job

Michael Pascoe analyses what the exclusive interview means for Gladys Berejiklian's future.

Michael Pascoe analyses what the exclusive interview means for Gladys Berejiklian's future. Photo: AAP/ TND

A tale of two Sunday papers: Murdoch’s Sunday Telegraph runs an exclusive soft interview with Gladys Berejiklian; Nine’s Sun Herald suggests the Premier stalled on a proposal for a political probity inspector.

But it is the soft interview that could cost Ms Berejiklian her job – or at least another appearance on the ICAC’s Daz and Glad Show – to explain exactly what sort of relationship she had with the former member for Wagga Wagga.

There’s nothing accidental about an exclusive interview with someone in the eye of a scandal. Gladys Berejiklian chose to give her story to the Telegraph’s Annette Sharp and chose to go further than she did in the ICAC hearing.

It is a sad story that will add to the sympathy many – most – people have for Ms Berejiklian, the story of a person who felt betrayed by her lover.

“A shattered Gladys Berejiklian has admitted she loved the man she had to sack ‘brutally’ from government in 2018, disgraced Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, and she had hoped to one day marry him,” Annette Sharp reports.

And that is now the Premier’s biggest immediate problem.

A secret affair with someone you love and hope to marry sounds awfully close to being an “intimate relationship” – a description Ms Berejiklian has been at pains to avoid.

“When the words ‘boyfriend’ and ‘partner’ are suggested, she winces,” reports Ms Sharp.

With good reason. The NSW Ministerial code of conduct includes in the definition of a Minister’s family members “any person with whom the minister is in an intimate personal relationship”.

Welcome to the family, Daz.

Except Glad says the relationship was kept secret from the family because it lacked sufficient “status”.

A “code” can sound like a rather inconsequential thing, like the waffly voluntary “codes of conduct” put forward by various industries to avoid enforceable regulation. Whip-me-with-a-limp-lettuce-leaf codes.

The Ministerial code is not in that category. It forms a regulation under the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act. It has consequences.

“A substantial breach of the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct (including a knowing breach of any provision of the Schedule) may constitute corrupt conduct for the purposes of the Independent Commission Against Corruption Act 1988,” states said code.

It requires a minister to give the Premier: “a notice in writing of any pecuniary and other interests of their immediate family members, the disclosure of which would be required … if the relevant interest were instead that of the Minister.”

Here the interaction of the code with the Daz and Glad Show gets fuzzy. An “immediate” family member seems to mean partner or de facto, as opposed to the merely “intimate relationship” family member.

Darul Maguire (left) was taped speaking to Gladys Berejiklian. Photo: AAPTND

The care Ms Berejiklian took in describing her relationship with Mr Maguire to the ICAC might suggest to the reasonable person that she was aware of the importance of not letting anyone think Daz was her partner – or even in an intimate relationship despite the aforementioned love and hope to marry.

Nobody drafting a code of conduct, whether substantial or waffly, can envisage all the permutations and combinations of what might come to be considered unethical.

Whoever knocked up the Ministerial code acknowledged as much:

“The NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct is not intended to be a comprehensive statement of ethical conduct by Ministers. It is not possible to anticipate and make prescriptive rules for every contingency that might raise an ethical issue for a Minister. In all matters, however, Ministers are expected always to conform with the principles referred to above.

(Primarily, “to pursue and be seen to pursue the best interests of the people of New South Wales to the exclusion of any other interest”.)

“In particular, Ministers have a responsibility to avoid or otherwise manage appropriately conflicts of interest to ensure the maintenance of both the actuality and appearance of Ministerial integrity.”

You say “partner”, I say “departed”, let’s call the whole thing off.

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