The next phase in the political life of NSW Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, depends on answers to three questions.

First, was her former relationship with Daryl Maguire not just ‘close’ but, in fact, an “intimate personal relationship”? Second, did the Premier make or participate in any decisions that could reasonably be expected to confer a private benefit on Mr Maguire? Finally, if the answer is ‘yes’ to each of these questions, then did Ms Berejiklian declare her interest in the Ministerial Register of Interests and seek the permission of Cabinet to continue to act? 

Nothing else matters – not the Premier’s choice of friends, not her judgement … only the answer to those three questions. 

The reason for this can be found in the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct (the Ministerial Code) which has the force of Law. As might be expected, the Ministerial Code imposes obligations that are in addition to and are more onerous than, those applying to Members of Parliament. 

The Preamble to the Ministerial Code of Conduct says, amongst other things, that, “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.” With that end in mind, the Code not only takes account of the personal interests of individual Ministers – but also those of members of their families. It is here that the precise nature of the Premier’s relationship with Mr Maguire risks becoming a matter of public, rather than personal, interest. This is because the Ministerial Code of Conduct defines a “family member”, in relation to a Minister, as including, “any other person with whom the Minister is in an intimate personal relationship”. 

‘Intimate’ is not a word used in the ICAC hearing to describe the Premier’s relationship with Mr Maguire.

Instead, it was agreed that theirs had been a “close personal relationship” – the precise nature of which was never explained. However, the evidence suggested that the words ‘close’ and ‘intimate’ may have been synonymous. If so, then Mr Maguire will have fallen within the definition of ‘family member’ during the period of his relationship with the Premier. 

However, this (in itself) is neither here nor there. The nature of Ms Berejiklian’s relationship with Mr Maguire was (and should have remained) aentirely private matter up until the point where the Premier became involved in any Ministerial decision that “could reasonably be expected to confer a private benefit” on Mr Maguire. Only then did the public interest become engaged. 

So, did any such decisions come before the Premier (acting alone or in Cabinet) during the period of her relationship with Mr Maguire? And if so, did she declare her interest as she is required to do under the Ministerial Code? The matter would then have been in the hands of her Cabinet colleagues as the final provision of the Code states that, “a ruling in respect of the Premier may be given if approved by the Cabinet”. 

The Premier obviously knew something of Mr Maguire’s hopes and plans – even if she thought them to be fanciful. She knew of his financial exposure and the material impact that NSW Government decisions might have on his personal wealth. We also know that, for a time, Mr Maguire was at the centre of the Premier’s private affections. The issue is not that the Premier would have acted against the public interest for the benefit of Mr Maguire. I sincerely doubt that she would ever do so. It is most importantly a question of what was done to ensure the maintenance of both the actuality and appearance of Ministerial integrity. 

The Premier had a formal obligation to declare her relationship with Mr. Maguire if, a) it was intimate, b) she was involved in deciding any matter that could reasonably be expected to confer a private benefit on him. It was then up to her Cabinet colleagues to rule on how she should proceed from there. Beyond settling these questions, the public has no legitimate interest in the private life of Gladys Berejiklian – except, perhaps, to extend to her our sympathy if she has been drawn inadvertently into a web of grief spun by a former friend.