New South Wales Premier Resigns over Investigation into “Breach of Public Trust”

The Premier of New South Wales (NSW) has resigned following the announcement that the Australian state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) is investigating her conduct between 2012 and 2018 that “constituted or involved a breach of public trust”. Reuters has the story.

Berejiklian’s shock resignation comes as the state, which has an economy larger than Singapore, Thailand or Malaysia, battles the biggest Covid outbreak in the country and is poised to begin ending months-long lockdowns as Australia sets to reopen international borders in November.

Berejiklian said the issues being investigated were “historical matters” but she felt compelled to resign because of the long time frames likely to be involved in the investigation. She also said the state needed certainty over its leadership amid the coronavirus pandemic.

“I state categorically I have always acted with the highest level of integrity,” she said at a news conference.

The ICAC said in a statement on its website that it will hold further public hearings as part of its ongoing investigation, Operation Keppel, on October 18th.

That investigation has already heard Berejiklian was once in a secret relationship with a state legislator who is the focus of its corruption investigation. …

Berejiklian is the second NSW premier to resign because of an ICAC investigation. NSW leader Barry O’Farrell quit in 2014 after giving evidence in which he forgot to tell the commission he had accepted a gift of a $3,000 bottle of Grange wine.

Berejiklian said she had told ministers in her Government if they were the subject of an integrity investigation they should stand aside until their name was cleared, but in her case, as Premier this wasn’t an option. She will leave parliament as soon as a by-election can take place. …

Berejiklian gave evidence at an ICAC hearing 12 months ago, and denied any wrong doing.

ICAC on Friday said the scope of its investigation had widened and includes whether between 2012 and 2018 Berejiklian “engaged in conduct that constituted or involved a breach of public trust by exercising public functions in circumstances where she was in a position of conflict between her public duties and her private interest” as she was in a personal relationship with the then NSW MP Daryl Maguire.

The potential breach involved grant funding promised to community organisations in Maguire’s electorate of Wagga Wagga, and whether she failed to report, or encouraged, corrupt conduct by Maguire. Maguire’s legal representative declined to comment.

Worth reading in full.

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