Gladys and Daryl: the secret relationship that shocked the state
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Gladys and Daryl: the secret relationship that shocked the state

On September 1, 2017, Premier Gladys Berejiklian was on the phone with her lover, Daryl Maguire, chatting away in the way intimate partners do, about nothing and anything.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian and Daryl Maguire.Credit:Dominic Lorrimer, Nick Moir

"Hokis," said Berejiklian, using the couple's pet name for each other, an Armenian term of endearment meaning "my beloved" and "my soul".

"Are you coming down on Sunday night or anything?"

"No no no, no, no," Maguire replied.

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"Don't be silly."

Maguire went on to relay his busy travel schedule - he had to go to Griffith, he said, and Canberra and then China.

"Fair enough," replied the Premier, mildly.

"Niall Blair's office don't want me to go to China," Maguire continued, laughing.

Niall Blair was Berejiklian's trade minister, and he was planning a trade mission to China, on behalf of the people of NSW.

The mission would have coincided with Maguire's China trip, which was to further his own business interests.

Blair worried Maguire might embarrass him, or cause a diplomatic incident, if he travelled at the same time. Consequently the Premier's office banned Maguire from going.

"We [had] this random MP proposing to fly to China before we go on an official trade mission," the Premier's former chief-of-staff, Sarah Cruikshank, told the Independent Commission Against Corruption last week.

But Maguire was not "random" to Berejiklian.

Not that her office, her colleagues, her family, her friends, or the people of NSW knew that at the time.

Maguire was, as the Premier told the ICAC this week in excruciating evidence, the man with whom she was in a "close personal relationship".

Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence at the ICAC inquiry.

Gladys Berejiklian gives evidence at the ICAC inquiry.Credit:ICAC live stream

She told the inquiry their relationship with the father-of-two started in 2015, around the time of the election, and ended a few months ago. Maguire has variously said it started in 2013, 2014 or 2015 and was "on again off again".

The Premier has resisted calling Maguire her boyfriend or her partner, and said the relationship was "not of sufficient status" to reveal to anyone, or, presumably, to disclose for reasons of public probity.

"I am an extremely private person and without question, I stuffed up in my personal life," Ms Berejiklian told reporters following her appearance at the ICAC on Monday.

She described the events as a "personal nightmare". "If I had done something wrong, I would be the first one to consider my position. But I haven't," she said.

The taped phone calls reveal a casual intimacy between the pair, with Maguire, an unsuccessful yet relentless deal-maker, wittering on about his business interests, and his dire financial situation.

At times the Premier seems bored or distracted, but she also describes him as her "numero uno".

The inquiry heard the pair hoped to go public with their relationship after Maguire retired at the 2019 election.

In the end, Maguire was forced out of the Liberal party, and politics, by his secret girlfriend, the premier, following his involvement in a separate corruption inquiry in 2018, which heard evidence of Maguire's use of his public office for private gain.

The Premier continued her secret relationship with him for two years after that.

"Had I known then what I know now, clearly I would not have made those personal decisions that I did," she said last week.

Previously, there had been a widely-held perception that Berejiklian led an ascetic existence with no personal life beyond her weekly catch-ups with her close family.

Said one NSW Liberal this week: "My view was that she didn't have a private life. But it was quite stupid to think she didn't have anything. Even politicians are human. Everyone wants to have relationships."

Another Liberal source said the Premier's colleagues and peers were "staggered" by the revelations.

"The assumption by everybody is she was consumed by work," he said. "Everyone is saying, 'Couldn't you have done better, Gladys?' and feeling sorry for her. People support her, and feel disappointed."

For NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, it has been the most tumultuous week of her life.

For NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian, it has been the most tumultuous week of her life.Credit: Jessica Hromas

The whiplash Berejiklian’s colleagues are feeling is replicated among voters, who, for the most part, have huge respect and admiration for their Premier, particularly because of her peerless leadership during the pandemic.

But the esteem in which Berejiklian is held is linked inextricably to her political brand as a hard-working "girly swot" married to the job, a "goody two shoes" who helped restore public trust to NSW government, the scene of so much previous grift and corruption.

It is an image at odds with the concealment of a secret romantic or intimate life, particularly when the object of her affections was a man accused of corruption.

Says the Liberal source: "He is obviously a manipulative gentleman who used that relationship."

But the truth is, no one really knows the nature of the relationship between Berejiklian and Maguire.

Some of the secretly recorded phone conversations between the pair have been deemed so deeply personal they have not been played in open court, only in private sessions of Icac.

Counsel assisting Scott Robertson said Icac should not be a “public trial as to the nature and extent of the relationship”, but that is precisely what commentators, colleagues and voters have been trying to ascertain this week.

What kind of relationship was this, exactly? Why was it kept secret? And how can it be that the by-the-book premier could have chosen such a person as her intimate?

The Premier has always proved adept at batting off questions about her private life - the kind of questions male politicians are rarely asked.

A 2012 Sunday Telegraph profile of Berejiklian, written when she was the 42-year-old Transport Minister, describes her as a “bit of a goody goody” who “doesn’t even swear”.

Asked if she is on the dating website RSVP, Berejiklian laughs.

"God no," she says. "I don't think you choose these things. You live your life as best you can."

Other soft journalistic profiles of the Premier have followed the same line - that a personal life, and the marriage-and-kids track, was something that just hasn't happened for her.

She has never given the impression this is a source of great regret.

"Had I met the right person, of course I would be married," she told Mamamia in 2019. "But that doesn't happen for everyone at the right time."

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, flanked by her family, arrives at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney on election night 2019.

Premier Gladys Berejiklian, flanked by her family, arrives at the Sofitel Wentworth in Sydney on election night 2019.Credit:James Brickwood

Berejiklian's family background is well known - her parents, Krikor and Arsha, are of Armenian descent, part of the diaspora that followed the 1915 Armenian genocide, which claimed Berejiklian’s great-grandparents.

Krikor and Arsha immigrated separately from the Middle East and met in Australia, where their first daughter was born in 1969.

Her younger sisters Mary and Rita are her "best friends" and the extended family meets every weekend at her parents' place in North Ryde for a catch-up.

Berejiklian didn't leave the family home until she was nearly 30, and even then, it was only because she was eyeing off pre-selection and Liberal Party elders told her she needed to live independently.

She moved into a flat in Willoughby that she had bought with money saved from her successful banking career.

Her parents, who raised her in the strict Armenian Orthodox church and discouraged her from dating outside the faith, worried that this would mean she would never marry.

In 2011 Berejiklian pleaded with journalist Shelley Gare, who was writing a Sydney Magazine profile piece: "Can you please not write anything that's going to upset my mother?"

The same article describes Berejiklian as "overwhelmingly nice" with "a list of qualities that would satisfy Queen Victoria" and likens her to a Jane Austen heroine - "not so much the flirty Elizabeth Bennet, as the cautious but passionate heroine of Sense and Sensibility, Elinor Dashwood".

Former federal Treasurer Joe Hockey, a political ally and friend, is quoted as saying that Berejiklian "won't cop fools, she'll get rid of them".

Former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire enters the ICAC ahead of a day of questioning.

Former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire enters the ICAC ahead of a day of questioning.Credit:Nick Moir

But just a few years later, she became involved with a man who was married (Berejiklian said last week "my understanding was that he was separated"), and who was, if not a fool, then not nearly as good a businessman as he passed himself off as.

"He was always talking about big deals and they always seemed to fall through ... they always seemed quite fanciful to me," Berejiklian told the ICAC.

Daryl Maguire is a 61 year old from Wagga Wagga, who, prior to entering politics, owned and ran a local Harvey Norman franchise with his wife Maureen. They had two (now adult) children together, James and Kara, and divorced a few years ago.

On his parliamentary profile webpage, Maguire’s interests were listed as "antiques, gardening, the olive industry" and "collecting and restoring motor vehicles".

But his business interests were his undoing.

Maguire was regarded by his colleagues in politics as unprepossessing at best, and despite being in parliament for 19 years, his career never ascended beyond the position of government whip, and parliamentary secretary.

This week Berejiklian framed herself as someone who trusted the wrong man, and alluded to the difficulties of dating in public life.

"I've sacrificed my life to public office and I'm proud of that," she said. "I trusted someone that I'd known for a long time, and I feel really, really let down."

There were many women, in particular, who could relate to a female leader who had chosen a dud boyfriend.

Men had sympathy too. As former Prime Minister Malcolm Turnbull said: "She fell in love with the wrong guy ... she was probably too loyal for too long."

Former federal Labor leader Bill Shorten told the Today show that he had sympathy for the Premier, who had been "punching below her weight with perhaps a much more average guy".

As the week ended, Berejiklian's premiership was weakened but not yet fatally wounded.

She insisted that "at all times I have maintained a distinction between my personal and private life, and the public office I hold".

But that carefully managed distinction was obliterated this week, by forces beyond her control.

No doubt the Premier will be bitterly regretting a relationship that has caused her private pain, public embarrassment, and may yet cost her her job.

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