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What John Barilaro really thought of Gladys Berejiklian's secret boyfriend - 'a pain in the a**e'

The Independent Commission Against Corruption inquiry into Gladys Berejiklian has heard her former deputy John Barilaro thought her secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire was 'a pain in the a**e'.

Mr Barilaro told ICAC that if he had known about the clandestine relationship between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire, a controversial shooting centre funding proposal from the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) could have been handled differently. 

Ms Berejiklian's years-long secret affair with the former Liberal MP was not revealed until a year ago when ICAC was investigating Mr Maguire.

The shooting centre was to be located in Mr Maguire's former electorate of Wagga Wagga and he was a keen backer of it getting state funding of $5.5million. 

'It's very possible because of the conflict that we would have managed it differently,' said Mr Barilaro.  

Gladys Berejiklian prepares to leave her home for a coffee meeting with the former head of the Rural Fire Service Shane Fitzsimmons and his wife Lisa

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro (left) arrives at the Independent Commission Against Corruption hearing in Sydney on Monday

The ICAC is investigating if Ms Berejiklian was 'liable to allow or encourage the occurrence of corrupt conduct' by Mr Maguire, with whom she was in a 'close personal relationship' between 2015 and 2018.

It's also looking into whether she 'exercised her official functions dishonestly or partially' by not reporting any reasonable suspicions about Mr Maguire to the ICAC. 

Earlier on Monday, the former NSW premier was pictured having coffee with respected former Rural Fire Service head Shane Fitzsimmons and his wife just a few hundred metres away from where the ICAC hearings were under way.  

Ms Berejiklian struck up a strong bond with Mr Fitzsimmons during Sydney's 'summer from hell' in 2019-2020 and made time for a coffee with her former colleague as the ICAC probe that saw her resign as premier entered its second week.   

Just a few hundred metres away from their coffee date, counsel for ICAC Scott Robertson was asking Mr Barilaro about Mr Maguire's advocacy for projects in his electorate. 

'I would say he was a pain in the a**e … (like) a dog with a bone,' he said. 

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) on Monday morning in Sydney with former Rural Fire Service head Shane Fitzsimmons (with back to camera) and his wife Lisa

Gladys Berejiklian's former secret boyfriend Daryl Maguire was called 'a pain in the arse … (like) a dog with a bone,' in evidence given by former deputy premier John Barilaro to ICAC on Monday

Mr Barilaro joined cabinet's expenditure review committee (ERC) in November 2016 after he became leader of the NSW National Party and deputy premier. 

Ms Berejiklian was then the state treasurer and chair of the ERC, which was considering the ACTA funding request.

Mr Barilaro agreed with Mr Robertson that Ms Berejiklian's support for putting the ACTA application on the ERC agenda indicated she supported it.

Mr Barilaro said that if the relationship between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire was known at the time, her cabinet colleagues would have expected the 'treasurer would have excused herself from the debate'.

It was disclosed to the commission that he said in his private hearing that if the relationship had been known 'I would not have supported the agenda item, I believe my colleagues would not have supported the agenda item.'

Mr Barilaro said he first became aware the ACTA was looking for funding was when it appeared on the ERC agenda in December 2016. It was the 'third or the fourth' ERC meeting he had attended.

Mr Robertson asked Mr Barilaro if any one had lobbied him about the ACTA proposal. 'Not that I can recall,' Mr Barilaro replied. 

Mr Barilaro became the minister responsible for administrative details, such as the finalisation of a business case, for the ACTA project. 

An updated business case was prepared by an external company in consultation with the NSW government.

He said he did not direct that the project have any particular priority or emphasis in his office.

'No, absolutely not,' Mr Barilaro said.

Peter Minucos, a former adviser to the ex-deputy premier John Barilaro, was the first to give evidence on Monday.

Public servant Chris Hanger told the ICAC last Thursday that Mr Minucos was a key figure in developing a business case for the ACTA facilities upgrade. 

Ms Berejiklian's relationship with Mr Maguire was a closely guarded secret at the time, and was not disclosed to her colleagues in her then positions of treasurer, initially, followed by becoming premier upon the resignation of Mike Baird in January 2017. 

On Monday morning, Mr Minucos was asked by Mr Robertson if he understood the money for ACTA was guaranteed by January 2017, or contingent on that business case.

He said it was a 'bit of both' and it was a 'fine line in my mind at the time'. 

The funds were to come from Restart NSW, which required a business to cost (BCR) ratio above one to be demonstrated for the funds to be paid. 

Last week, Mr Hanger said Mr Minucos was the 'key contact' and was 'heavily involved in the development of the (ACTA) project, in particular the advice back to the consultants ... in regards to an addendum to the original business case'.

Neither Mr Minucos nor Mr Barilaro are accused of wrongdoing.

The former Premier made time for coffee with a friend as the ICAC heard evidence from Mr Barilaro

Mr Robertson asked if it was 'unusual to have someone in a ministerial office involved in procuring a business case as an addendum to a business case?' 

'It's peculiar for them to be involved in advice around that in the way Mr Minucos did,' Mr Hanger answered.

Mr Robertson asked: 'As a longtime public servant with responsibility for procurement of infrastructure, did you regard it as inappropriate that there was the kind of advice ... provided at the political level rather than the agency or departmental level?' 

'We indicated that it wasn't ... where or how they should be providing advice,' Mr Hanger said, adding that this view was expressed to Mr Barilaro's office.

Mr Hanger then worked for a regional NSW agency which sat under the Department of Premier and Cabinet and whose relevant minister was Mr Barilaro.     

ICAC assisting counsel Scott Robertson will question former NSW National Party leader John Barilaro

Ms Berejiklian first appeared before ICAC more than a year ago. 

On Monday, October 12, 2020, she told an inquiry into Mr Maguire that she had been in a secret 'close personal relationship' with him for years. 

A tapped phone call entered into evidence that day featured the pair discussing a business deal. 

'I don't need to know about that bit,' the then premier of NSW said to her then partner. 

She announced on October 1 2021 that she was resigning as NSW premier because she herself was being investigated by ICAC. 

Ms Berejiklian had known for at least two weeks that was the case, as ICAC had already interviewed her. 

In an excruciating 22 second clip played entered into evidence last week she was asked if she had suspicions that her former boyfriend, Mr Maguire may have been involved in corrupt behaviour. 

'I was in shock, I didn't know what to think. I didn't have enough detail. I hadn't read what was happening. I can't remember what I thought at that time,' she said. 

Mr Robertson pressed her, saying 'I'm not asking what you knew, I'm asking whether at the time you asked for Mr Maguire's resignation you suspected that he may have been engaged in corrupt conduct?'

'I didn't, I didn't, I didn't know. I wasn't, I wasn't sure,' Ms Berejiklian replied in the recording of an interview from September 18.

That term Mr Robertson used - suspected - is important. The ICAC Act holds that leaders must report 'suspicion' of possible corrupt behaviour straight away. 

Ms Berejiklian has repeatedly and strenuously denied all wrongdoing.

The Australian Clay Target Association is part of an ICAC inquiry into former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian 

The revelation of former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian's (pictured left) secret relationship with Daryl Maguire (right) left another former premier, Mike Baird 'incredulous'

Gladys Berejiklian (pictured right) is under investigation by ICAC for her conduct while NSW premier in relation to her former boyfriend, ex-MP Daryl Maguire (pictured left)