politics

"It was a nightmare." Gladys Berejiklian on what happened when her private world became public.

NSW Premier Gladys Berejiklian has always considered herself to be "a very private person".

It's a characterisation she makes of herself even now, a period in which her national profile has never been higher. 

By virtue of steering our most-populous state through the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, the Premier's name was already on front pages, at the top of news bulletins and on the lips of ordinary Australians in all corners of the country.

Then came October and headlines of a different ilk.

Gladys Berejiklian tells ICAC she had a 'close personal relationship' with ex-MP Daryl Maguire. Post continues after video.


Video via ABC News.

Evidence presented during an Independent Commission Against Corruption probe into former Liberal MP Daryl Maguire revealed that he and Premier Berejiklian had been in an on-and-off relationship for five years. 

While she was not accused of any wrongdoing, the revelation drew fevered commentary; from the sympathetic ('Gladys Berejiklian is guilty — of falling for a bloke named Daryl Maguire', one headline read) to the scathing ('Time for the Premier to pick a story; ideally one that's real') and the salacious ('Ex-MP's secret nickname for Premier revealed in texts').

In an exclusive interview with Mamamia's No Filter podcast, Premier Berejiklian shared what it was like behind the scenes when her private world became public.

"It was a nightmare because a lot of things that were said or asserted weren't even true," she said. "But you just have to deal with what is thrown at you, and for me, the most important thing was not losing focus of what I had to do every day."

Daryl Maguire. Image: AAP. 

ADVERTISEMENT

Maguire resigned from Premier Berejiklian's government in 2018, following a separate ICAC inquiry, during which he admitted that he sought payment to broker a deal with a Chinese property investor.

The pair's relationship may never have been public knowledge were it not for the corruption watchdog's more recent investigation, which featured secretly taped phone calls between them among the evidence.

One such call captured Maguire telling the Premier about a successful property deal with a Chinese-backed company, a win that he said would help clear some of his debts. Her response? "I don't need to know about that bit." 

During the inquiry (the findings of which have been delayed until an unconfirmed date), Maguire admitted to using his status as an MP for financial gain. 

Meanwhile, the Premier maintained that her relationship with the disgraced former member for Wagga Wagga represented a personal failure and nothing more: "I always had made the assumption that [Maguire] was always doing the right thing in terms of his disclosures and his interests," she told the inquiry. 

Despite not being implicated in any misconduct, there were mounting calls for the Premier's resignation when the news of their relationship broke. Yet Premier Berejiklian told Mamamia that she never worried the saga would cost her her job.

"I didn't think about it," she said. "I know in my heart I've done nothing wrong. How others comment on it is their business. What I need to do is lead, lead from the front, make good decisions, and therefore, I didn't think about it."

Listen: Gladys Berejiklian tells Mamamia about the loss of her twin sister, her path to politics and how she coped with the pandemic out of the public eye. (Post continues below...)

Speaking of the commentary surrounding the revelation at the time, she said she "blocked it out".

"I just didn't read everything, I didn't listen to things," she said. "I had gotten myself into a routine about getting up, getting my [COVID-19] health briefings. I did not let myself get distracted; I couldn't, and I wouldn't, and I still won't. 

"But looking back, I realised I'm a stronger person than I thought I was, and I think I'd underestimated how determined I was to do my job without distraction."

She credits her parents as a key source of support during the period.

"We don't over share in my family," she said. "[My parents] were just practical. They said all the right things. We're just very practical and get on with life. We're a very resilient kind of family."

And it seems the Premier was intent on maintaining that professionally, too.

"When the public voted for me in March 2019, I made a commitment to get up every day and work for the people of the state," she said, "and nothing was going to get in the way of that. And nothing will get in the way of that. So that was my determination."

Feature image: Getty/Mamamia.

00:00 / ???