Daryl Maguire got a “sweetheart deal” from his secret lover Gladys Berejiklian on a shooting club grant in 2016, the NSW corruption watchdog has heard.
A top staffer for then-premier Mike Baird cringed in the witness chair at the Independent Commission Against Corruption on Wednesday when he was read from a memo he wrote to his boss about the grant.
The colourful December 2016 memo from Nigel Blunden to Mr Baird contained a reference to the 1983 Tom Cruise movie Risky Business, as well as the line about a “sweetheart deal”.
Camera IconGladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire were in a close personal relationship. Credit: Supplied
Referencing Tom Cruise's character from the movie, Mr Blunden described his feelings about the grant Mr Maguire sought in the following words: “As Joel Goodson would say, sometimes you have to say WTF.”
He said the $5.5 million funding bid for the Australian Clay Target Association “goes against all of our principles of sound economic management” and wouldn't be politically smart.
Mr Blunden also described the proposed project as the “Maguire International Shooting Centre of Excellence.”
“Is it fair to say you were saying that in jest?” counsel assisting ICAC Scott Robertson asked.
“That's correct,” Mr Blunden replied.
“I have a way of speaking … and I write things in a manner that I think those who knew me understood.”
The grant to the Australian Clay Target Association is a key issue being probed by the ICAC in relation to an allegation Ms Berejiklian’s close personal relationship with Mr Maguire caused a conflict of interest.
Neither Mr Blunden, Mr Baird, or any gun club officials have been accused of wrongdoing.
Mr Maguire, who was the MP for Wagga Wagga until July 2018, was described to the ICAC as one of parliament’s most “enthusiastic” members and lobbied for years to have the gun club funded.
Despite being knocked back twice, including earlier in 2016, the funding bid was accelerated at the end of that year by then-sports minister Stuart Ayres and Ms Berejiklian, who was treasurer at the time.
Camera IconFormer NSW Premier Mike Baird was advised he should oppose the funding bid. NCA NewsWire / Damian Shaw Credit: News Corp Australia
Mr Ayres is scheduled to give evidence to the ICAC on Friday and has not been accused of wrongdoing.
In late 2016, government staffers understood Ms Berejiklian to be supportive of the funding and said she wished for the project to be heard by the powerful expenditure review committee – which she shared – before the year’s end.
But many in the bureaucracy had concerns the business case didn’t stack up and were wondering why the politicians were in such a “rush” to fund the club, the ICAC has heard.
Mr Blunden took a similar view of the project after looking at the proposal.
He wrote in his memo to Mr Baird the project backers should “should go away, test the assumptions, verify the business case and then come back when it‘s solid”.
But, he added: “This was suggested and it was taken off the agenda, but Daryl fired up and Gladys put it back on”.
Mr Blunden recommended Mr Baird oppose the submission.
Camera IconThe ICAC is investigating whether Gladys Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Maguire created a conflict of interest. Credit: News Corp Australia, by John Grainger
“Gladys and Ayres want it. No doubt they've done a sweetheart deal with Daryl, but this goes against all the principles of sound economic management,” Mr Blunden wrote.
He also remarked it would not be politically beneficial to “target” Wagga Wagga with the money, because it was considered a “safe” seat for the Liberal party.
“At the very least, let’s target our marginal seats, not one of our safest,” Mr Blunden wrote.Internet Explorer Channel Network