Gladys Berejiklian, ICAC: Staffer spat water out when he learned of her affair ...

Gladys Berejiklian, ICAC: Staffer spat water out when he learned of her affair ...
Gladys Berejiklian, ICAC: Staffer spat water out when he learned of her affair ...

A former adviser to Gladys Berejiklian was so shocked to learn of her secret affair with disgraced ex-Liberal MP Daryl Maguire that he spat out the water he was drinking. 

Zach Bentley gave sworn testimony to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption six months ago, but it has been suppressed until now.

The ICAC is investigating if between 2013 and 2018 the former NSW premier engaged in conduct that constituted or involved a breach of public trust.

As the corruption commission builds its case against Ms Berejiklian before her highly anticipated appearance next week, late last night the watchdog released the transcript of an interview with Mr Bentley, a former close adviser to her. 

Counsel for ICAC, Scott Robertson SC asked Mr Bentley on April 29 when did he 'first become aware of the existence of, to use Ms Berejiklian’s phrase, or at least the phrase that she adopted, close personal relationship?'

'When I received a text message during the course of Ms Berejiklian’s evidence, to which I spat my water out,' Mr Bentley replied. Mr Robertson asked if he 'literally spat your water out?' 

He had.

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian's (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) was so shocking it caused one of her advisers to spit out the water he was drinking

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian's (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) was so shocking it caused one of her advisers to spit out the water he was drinking

Asked if he was shocked at the revelation, Mr Bentley said 'I can’t express to you, Mr Robertson, my horror upon learning that. 

'Not horror, sir, but more, these are two people I’ve known quite well and the fact that I had no knowledge of it, like, yeah, it was quite shocking.'

The extent of how secretive the affair between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire was laid bare when Mr Bentley was asked if there were any 'rumours circulating in the corridors of power as to the existence of such a relationship?' 

'I can’t stress to you the number of people who have asked me whether I knew or suspected anything, given that I’m the only person who’s worked for, actually one of only two that have worked for the two of them. At no point in time did I ever suspect that they were in a relationship,' said Mr Bentley. 

A concerned looking Gladys Berejiklian will front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption next week

A concerned looking Gladys Berejiklian will front the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption next week

Asked if he would have performed his duties as an adviser differently if he had known of the relationship, Mr Bentley answered that Ms Berejiklian is 'very good at siloing certain components of her life, so ... I don’t know whether I would have acted differently.'

He added: 'I must say, Mr Robertson, and you surely appreciate this by now through the hearings, (ministerial) staff, by and large, acted ... at the direction of their particular principal.' 

Pressed by Mr Robertson if he would have done anything differently if he'd known that his boss and Mr Maguire were in a relationship at the time she was backing a pet project of his in his constituency of Wagga Wagga, Mr Bentley replied 'No, I don’t believe so.' 

In Tuesday's ICAC hearing, a seemingly run of the mill email Mr Bentley linked Gladys Berejiklian to a controversial project being investigated by the corruption watchdog.  

ICAC was shown reams of correspondence about an apparent pre-Christmas rush to get a multi-million dollar project favoured by Mr Maguire onto the agenda of a major budget meeting. 

It was December 2016 when a funding proposal which public servants repeatedly rubbished as a 'low priority' was suddenly rushed to a cabinet committee meeting with the help of Ms Berejiklian, who was then NSW Treasurer.  

With a subject line of 'Wagg (sic) Wagga Clay Target Shooting', Mr Bentley wrote: 'The Treasurer has requested this issue be put on the agenda for the ERC meeting on 14 December.'

Those 18 bland words were presented to ICAC on Tuesday as part of its evidence against the former NSW premier.  

A seemingly bland, 18-word email is causing difficulties for former NSW premier Gladys Berjiklian

A seemingly bland, 18-word email is causing difficulties for former NSW premier Gladys Berjiklian

An email presented in evidence to ICAC said Gladys Berejiklian, who was then the state treasurer, gave approval for a controversial project to be taken to the NSW government's expenditure review committee

An email presented in evidence to ICAC said Gladys Berejiklian, who was then the state treasurer, gave approval for a controversial project to be taken to the NSW government's expenditure review committee

ICAC is investigating whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her secret ex-boyfriend and disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire. 

Counsel for ICAC Scott Robertson SC spent the day questioning former public servant, Paul Doorn, who is now the chief executive officer at NSW Rugby Union and NSW Waratahs.

If he'd known Ms Berejiklian was in a close personal relationship with the MP pushing for the project, it would have been a 'red flag', Mr Doorn told ICAC. 

He said there was 'a lot of push' from local MP Mr Maguire to get funding for the shooting facility in Wagga Wagga.  

Mr Doorn had repeatedly classified the proposal as 'low priority', raising concerns about a lack of detail and the fact it would be in competition with an Olympic-standard clay shooting facility the government owned in Sydney.

'We didn't think it stacked up,' he said.

Mr Doorn said there were 'very clear rules' for disclosing conflicts of interests. If he'd known about the former premier's relationship with Mr Maguire, he would have had to approach his department secretary

'Ultimately that would be then drawn to the attention of organisations like ICAC,' he said.

At the end of Tuesday's hearing, Mr Robertson, tendered documents relating to witnesses who are not expected to give evidence during the public hearings.

This included an email on December 6, 2016, from a Yogi Savania in NSW Treasury to Josh Milner, also in Treasury, that said, in part: 'FYI Josh. Could you try and get her hands on this from OOS [Office of Sport].

'I spoke to Zach (Bentley) re this. The treasurer has requested this be brought forward and has indicated an inclination to support the proposal.'

Paul Doorn, chief executive officer at NSW Rugby Union and NSW Waratahs, arrives at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Tuesday, October 19.  ICAC's Operation Keppel is in its first week of hearings into whether former premier Gladys Berejiklian breached public trust

Paul Doorn, chief executive officer at NSW Rugby Union and NSW Waratahs, arrives at an Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Tuesday, October 19.  ICAC's Operation Keppel is in its first week

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