Gladys Berejiklian: ‘I’ve given up on love’
A shattered Gladys Berejiklian has admitted she loved the man she had to sack "brutally" from government in 2018, disgraced Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire, and she had hoped to one day marry him.
Speaking exclusively to The Sunday Telegraph on Saturday, the Premier said she was paying a painful price for loving and trusting Mr Maguire, who had embarrassed her and left her feeling "silly" after she was dragged before ICAC's corruption inquiry last week.
After shedding bitter tears "in private" during the week, a reserved Premier said she would never speak to Maguire again, such is the personal and professional injury he has done her after she learned, via the inquiry, the extent to which he hawked her name around town to business associates and used government resources in his dodgy sideline enterprises.
"I'm never going to speak to him again," she said, sounding rattled by the events of recent days. "My life's changed forever."
The romantically inexperienced politician's private life was laid bare before ICAC's inquiry, something that has left her "embarrassed and humiliated" - a new low for a woman with an impeccable reputation.
"I can formally say to people I've given up on love," she said. "I'm just going to say I have always put my job first, rightly or wrongly, and that will now continue indefinitely."
Describing the events of the past week as "horrific", Ms Berejiklian said she spent the week feeling like she was having an out-of-body experience after being called as a witness before ICAC.
"I'm still trying to process it. I feel like it's someone else living this … It's like I'm the main protagonist in a movie. It's like I'm the feature and the film is going to end and my life is going to go back to normal but it will never be normal again."
For a private woman who has never married and never spoken in public about her love life, being put through the wringer by ICAC in an open session that seemed to unnecessarily plumb the depths of her private life and was much dissected by the media, was a mortifying experience.
Until last week, she had not even told her own family about her years-long affair with Maguire.
She confirmed yesterday she still hasn't discussed it in any detail with her Armenian migrant parents, Krikor and Arsha, who during her younger years actively attempted to "matchmake" their professionally absorbed daughter.
Sworn to secrecy before giving her testimony last week, the Premier informed her sisters, Mary and Rita, that something was in the wind at the start of the week before asking them to take care of their octogenarian parents.
"I told my sisters that I was going to have a rough week but I didn't give them details. I said you're going to hear something shocking on Monday and I'll talk to you afterwards because I really wasn't able to go into any detail about anything, for obvious (legal) reasons," she said. "I told them to be ready, and I told them to make sure they looked after mum and dad in case I didn't have time to, because it was going to be pretty brutal."
Mary and Rita, who have seen their eldest sibling weather many storms during her political life, took the warning a "bit lightly", Ms Berejiklian said.
"I tried to hint at what would be really embarrassing for me but I didn't want to go into detail (and said) I would talk to them afterwards and then I haven't really had a chance …"
In her first interview, the Premier confirmed she was still emotionally raw from her week in ICAC's spotlight. The circumspect language used by Ms Berejiklian to describe her relationship with Maguire during the inquiry only served to provoke greater media intrigue in the affair, one she's still reluctant to define.
When the words "boyfriend" and "partner" are suggested, she winces.
"It was hard to define because it wasn't of a sufficient status," she says ambiguously. "It wasn't a traditional type of relationship."
What it was, in the simplest of terms, was a friendship that started at parliament 20 years ago and that, according to her, became something more around 2015 when the pair became intimate.
But, with Maguire living in the Wagga Wagga electorate and Ms Berejiklian based in Sydney, the couple saw each other infrequently: "Sometimes if parliament was sitting but very infrequently," she said.
When asked if she fell in love with Maguire, with whom she admits she only had public service work in common, the Premier stiffened: "I did. That's all I'll say. I'm embarrassed now, but I did."
In her mid-forties, when the affair began, she admits she hoped the relationship might lead to marriage.
"I thought it could, yes," she replied.
"We were friends for a long time. We were in parliament together for a long time. I was elected in 2003. He was elected in 1999. He was a colleague … we became close friends and were friends for a long time. Over time (we) got closer."
But not close enough for her to introduce Maguire to her Armenian-Australian family: "I wouldn't have wanted to introduce him unless it was definitely going to go anywhere."
She said she fell for Maguire, ironically, because she trusted him. "The irony is because I trusted him … because I'd known him for a long time (and) trusted him," she said. "Around the traps he was a generally likeable person, down to earth. Not everybody liked him but then in politics not everybody does."
She batted away further questions about the pairing, saying she finds it too "embarrassing and humiliating" to talk about, but said she only learned his nickname was "Dodgy Daryl" recently.
"Being a single woman with a high public profile, you're not going to have a conventional relationship are you? I was very young when I got into parliament, it was never going to be easy … (and) this was never going to be a conventional relationship because of my job.
"I have been (married to the job) and I don't mind that, it's the truth. As corny as it is, it's not really the job … it's the public service. Serving the public is what I love to do."
Close observers noted her responses to Maguire - "Nope … mmmm" - as recorded by ICAC in phone taps and played during the inquiry, sounded less like a loved-up sweetheart and more like a bored housewife.
"Yeah, I was completely bored," she said wearily. "It's because I wasn't listening (to him). My staff said: 'Glad, that's what you do to us when you don't want to listen to what we're saying'. One of them goes: 'We even heard you turning pages through that conversation'."
She said she dumped Maguire in 2018 after sacking him over the corruption allegations - "I sacked him on the spot. It was pretty brutal" - though they remained in contact until earlier this year because, she said, he was "friendless".
Asked if she believes Maguire was any good at the deals he was running, she is blunt: "Clearly not. Everything he tried amounted to nothing."
The Premier's misfortune has still struck a chord with voters, who interrupt during our interview, one woman shouting: "It's okay Gladys, every man I've ever been with has been a dud!"
Her electoral office is filled with flowers and her mailbox overflowing with letters of support, yet the emotional impact has left her raw - as anyone might be when a love affair fails.
Has Maguire apologised? "He'll never have the chance because I'll never speak to him again," she said.
When asked if she's thought about quitting, she is adamant: "No, because it's a very low benchmark to quit when you've done nothing wrong."