NSW Liberal leader Mark Speakman did not hold back when it came to the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s (ICAC) findings on the behaviour of his former parliamentary colleague, Daryl Maguire.
“The findings suggest completely reprehensible behaviour by Daryl Maguire. He has bought disgrace upon himself and disgrace upon parliament by the conduct found in the ICAC report,” he said at a media conference on Thursday (29 June).
“When you’re elected in this place, you’re elected to serve the people of NSW, not yourself, and that is something Mr Maguire has demonstrably failed in his disgraceful behaviour.”
Sadly for Wagga Wagga, where Maguire had been the popular and almost untouchable Liberal member from 1999 to 2018, the city continues to be dragged through the mud in his wake; guilty by association and name-checked in connection to dodgy deals, mostly done outside the electorate.
While the Riverina Conservatorium of Music (RCM) and the Australian Clay Target Association (ACTA) have been mentioned repeatedly in connection to the findings made against former premier Gladys Berejiklian, there is no suggestion of impropriety by either institution.
Both were caught in the crossfire of a secret affair and the failure of the clandestine couple to declare a conflict of interest as Maguire lobbied his parliamentary superior/lover, for funding.
In acknowledging the ICAC findings, current Wagga MP, Dr Joe McGirr said there was a “need to improve education and standards for parliamentarians,” and defended the Riverina’s claim on the $20 million that was allocated for the RCM’s Stage 2 development and subsequently withdrawn.
“In my view and in light of the previous government’s commitments to Stage 2 of the Riverina Conservatorium of Music, the people of Wagga Wagga expect this Government to recognise their legitimate aspirations to have improved arts and entertainment facilities and I will continue to advocate for this,” he said, indicating that the funds should go towards Wagga City Council’s current proposal for an entertainment centre.
Former Wagga mayor and current city councillor Rod Kendall said that the city’s dealings with Maguire throughout his almost two decades in parliament were always in good faith.
“There was nothing under the table in any dealings with Daryl and he was a very, very strong supporter of Wagga,” he said.
“With the projects that have been held up by ICAC as having proceeded with undue influence … I don’t think there’s a single person in Wagga that would say that they were not worthwhile projects and the type of projects we’d been fighting for over very many years without any success.”
Mr Kendall said that both the RCM and ACTA projects stood on their own merits.
“I think what Daryl did was to effectively lobby as a local member, however, what none of us understood was that he had a close relationship with the premier,” he said.
“They both had the opportunity to declare it and they share the responsibility in that.
“We had many meetings with state governments in regards to funding, some were successful but many were not and I’m not sure that the outcomes on those projects would have been any different with or without that relationship.”
Maguire may now face criminal charges for misconduct as outlined in the two volumes and almost 700-page report from the Operation Keppel investigation which recommended the matter be referred to the Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP).
Maguire, along with associates, including Wagga businessman Phillip Elliott, were singled out for DPP scrutiny.
“The Commission is of the opinion that consideration should be given to obtaining the advice of the DPP about the prosecution of Mr Maguire, G8way International director Phillip Elliott and Maggie Wang, an associate of Mr Maguire, for various offences,” the report declared.
G8wayInternational, an ‘International Business Club’ that linked Chinese contacts with developers and influential contacts, was registered to a Turvey Park address and its dealings are laid out in excruciating detail in the report.
It’s all there, from early meetings at the No.3 Wagga Wagga Cafe in Guangzhou in China to bags full of cash and recorded conversations between Elliott and Maguire, confirming the MP’s undeclared interest in the company and his intention to take the helm upon retiring from parliament.
“When you give your other job away we just appoint you as a director and away we go,” Elliott told Maguire in a transcript from a recorded phone conversation.
The report concluded that the pair had “engaged in a sham by creating G8wayInternational as the vehicle, yet shield, for Mr Maguire (and select associates including Mr Elliott) to profit from using his parliamentary position.”
The so-called “cash-for-visas” scheme has also seen the Riverina dragged through the mud as local business owners were paid in cash by Maguire and his associate Maggie Wang, to sponsor Chinese nationals seeking visas.
The corruption watchdog found that “almost without exception, none of the Chinese nationals ever worked in the Wagga Wagga businesses as the legislation providing for such visas required”.
In his testimony, business operator Angus McLaren, said he had been “sucked in” by the scheme, and it was only when he realised that the “employees” weren’t turning up, but large cash payments were, that the penny dropped.
“At that stage I thought we’d already crossed the Rubicon,” he said.
Other Wagga businesses were more wary of the offer of “free staff”, including the Wagga RSL Club, whose CEO Andrew Bell recognised that the scheme was “dodgy” and rejected an approach from the G8wayInternational team.
Where it goes next is a matter for the DPP, but sadly any further litigation is likely to take time as the department will need to compile its own evidence apart from the ICAC’s findings.
Wagga is unlikely to wash out the stains any time soon as “Dodgy Daryl’s” dirty laundry continues to be aired in public over the coming years.