AUSTRALIAN ASSOCIATED PRESS
Gladys Berejiklian has resigned as prime minister of NSW after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog announced she was under investigation for breach of public trust.
Gladys Berejiklian’s four-and-a-half-year term as prime minister of NSW has come to an end after the state’s anti-corruption watchdog announced she was under investigation for possible breaches of public trust.
Ms Berejiklian will also resign from the NSW Parliament as soon as a by-election can be held for her North Sydney seat, Willoughby.
The NSW Independent Anti-Corruption Commission said in a statement on Friday that it was investigating whether Ms Berejiklian held “public functions” in a position of conflict between her public duties and private relationship with ex-MP Daryl Maguire, revealed in late 2020.
A weary Ms Berejiklian said Friday she could not step aside temporarily while ICAC conducted its investigation and then resume the premiership.
She agreed that she was required to resign as prime minister while under ICAC investigation, but again denied that she had been accused of anything.
She also said her resignation “couldn’t have happened at a worse time” as the state prepares to leave the lockdowns enforced by COVID in the coming weeks.
“History will show that I have always performed my duties with the highest degree of integrity on behalf of the people of NSW whom I have had the privilege of serving,” Ms Berejiklian told reporters.
“The people of NSW need certainty about who their leader is during these challenging times of the pandemic…I cannot predict how long it will be before ICAC completes this investigation, let alone issues a report.”
The prime minister did not answer questions from journalists, but thanked the COVID frontline workers, the Liberal Party, her family and voters.
Ms Berejiklian will remain Prime Minister until the NSW Liberal Party elects its new leader and the new Prime Minister of the state, with Dominic Perrottet leading the way.
“We will soon come out of this lockdown and move on with our lives. NSW and its people will come out of this lockdown stronger and together we will build a future full of optimism and hope,” said Ms Berejiklian.
Beginning October 18, an ICAC public inquiry into the matter will be held for approximately 10 days, overseen by Assistant Commissioner Ruth McColl SC.
ICAC said Ms Berejiklian would be under investigation on grant funding to the Australian Clay Target Association in 2016/17 and grant funding to the Riverina Conservatorium of Music in Wagga Wagga in 2018.
It plans to investigate whether Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Maguire, when the Wagga Wagga MP, influenced these arrangements and constituted a breach of public trust or a partial exercise of official functions.
ICAC will also investigate whether Ms Berejiklian should have “reasonably suspected” that Mr Maguire was guilty of corrupt conduct, and thus failed to report him to ICAC as required.
It will examine whether she would “possibly allow or encourage” his behavior.
Maguire is accused of abusing his public office between 2012 and 2018.
The former MP is accused of using his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain an advantage for himself or for G8way International, a company Mr Maguire allegedly “controlled effectively”.
Mr Maguire left the government in 2018 after a separate ICAC investigation heard evidence that he was seeking payments to help property developers brokerage deals.
The couple’s five-year relationship was kept a secret until Ms Berejiklian revealed it during an ICAC hearing on Mr Maguire in October 2020.