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In a bombshell revelation that has sent shockwaves through the political landscape, the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) has released its Operation Keppel report, uncovering serious corrupt conduct by former New South Wales Premier, Gladys Berejiklian. The report sheds light on a concealed relationship between Berejiklian and disgraced former MP, Daryl Maguire, and raises critical questions about her judgment and handling of her dual roles as a public figure and private individual.

Gladys Berejiklian’s tenure as NSW Premier came to an unexpected end in October 2021 when ICAC expanded Operation Keppel to focus on her alleged conflict of interest. This move evoked various emotions among the public, ranging from shock and disappointment to indignation and even feelings of abandonment. As a constant presence during the tumultuous COVID-19 pandemic, Berejiklian garnered significant support and admiration for her competent leadership. Nevertheless, the newly released 700-page ICAC report reveals a more concerning side to her legacy.

Central to the report is the revelation of the extent of the relationship between Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire, the former MP for Wagga Wagga. The public was first made aware of this secret liaison during Icac hearings in 2020, which were focused on Maguire’s involvement in dubious property deals. Maguire had already resigned from parliament in 2018, following his dismissal from Berejiklian’s ministry and the Liberal party.

The ICAC report paints a detailed picture of the relationship, disclosing intimate text exchanges dating back to mid-2014. These messages, previously unknown to the public, continued until September 2020, merely a week before the Operation Keppel hearings. In one revealing text, Berejiklian referred to her Sydney home as “home” while communicating with Maguire, further emphasizing the depth of their connection.

Throughout the investigation, Berejiklian sought to minimize the significance of the relationship, describing it as “not of sufficient status” to warrant disclosure to colleagues or her family. However, ICAC’s findings challenge this narrative and suggest that the relationship was, in fact, relevant to the potential conflict of interest she faced as the premier. As a seasoned politician with nearly two decades of parliamentary experience, Berejiklian should have been well aware of her obligations as a public figure, including disclosing any personal interests that might create conflicts of interest.

ICAC has recommended that the NSW parliament clarify ministers’ obligations and provide education for all politicians regarding their responsibilities. The report’s revelations also raise concerns about Berejiklian’s failure to report suspicious conduct to ICAC. Despite the public inquiry into Maguire’s alleged secret commissions, Berejiklian did not disclose her relationship with him to even her closest confidantes.

While the ICAC report does not recommend criminal charges against Berejiklian, the findings are undeniably serious and have far-reaching implications for her reputation and political career. Her failure to navigate her personal life and public duty separately has called into question her judgment as a leader and her adherence to ministerial codes of conduct. As other politicians take note of these findings, it becomes clear that ministerial codes are not merely symbolic but carry a significant weight, demanding adherence even from the highest-ranking officials.

In the wake of the report, Berejiklian has maintained her stance of having worked in the public interest with the utmost integrity. However, ICAC’s recommendations for further investigation of Daryl Maguire for potential criminal charges underscore the gravity of the situation. Berejiklian’s legacy, once seen as one of a competent and popular leader, now faces scrutiny and doubt. The report serves as a cautionary tale for all politicians, highlighting the critical importance of transparency, accountability, and maintaining public trust while serving in public office.