Ms Berejiklian ahead of the ICAC inquiry
Scott Morrison has blasted the NSW corruption watchdog for its ‘disgraceful’ treatment of Gladys Berejiklian and accused it of investigating her love life instead of criminal conduct.
In his first significant comments on the investigation into the former NSW Premier, Mr Morrison said she was ‘done over’ and ‘humiliated’ by ‘shameful attacks’.
Ms Berejiklian resigned in October after investigators said they were probing whether she encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her secret ex-boyfriend and former MP Daryl Maguire between 2012 and 2018.
Speaking in Parliament about his plans for a federal integrity commission, Mr Morrison said he would avoid replicating the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption because of what happened to Ms Berejiklian.
‘Those opposite want to support the sort of show in NSW, which has seen the most shameful, the most shameful attacks on the former Premier of New South Wales, Gladys Berejiklian,’ he said.
‘What was done to Gladys Berejiklian, the people of NSW know, was an absolute disgrace. And I’m not going to allow that sort of a process, which seeks to publicly humiliate people on matters that have nothing to do with the issues before such a commission… and seek to reduce the integrity of people like Gladys Berejiklian.’
Mr Morrison said the uber-popular former Premier was ‘done over by a bad process, and an abuse’.
‘I’m not going to have a kangaroo court taken into this Parliament,’ he said.
Scott Morrison slammed the ICAC for its investigation into Ms Berejiklian. Pictured: Mr Morrison in Parliament on Thursday
The NSW corruption watchdog ICAC investigated whether Ms Berejiklian encouraged or allowed corrupt conduct by her ex-boyfriend, former MP Daryl Maguire (pictured together)
The ICAC probe investigated whether Ms Berejiklian breached public trust by not reporting any suspicion of corrupt conduct and probed what role she had to play in two government grants handed out in Mr Maguire’s electorate.
It heard taped phone calls between Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire in which they called each other affectionate nicknames such as ‘hawkiss’, which means ‘my beloved’ in Armenian.
‘These things, these matters should be looking at criminal conduct, not who your boyfriend is,’ Mr Morrison said.
‘That’s what it should be, these things should be looking at criminal conduct. Criminal conduct is what this should look at not chasing down someone’s love life,’ he said.
The inquiry heard Ms Berejiklian said she would ‘throw money’ at Mr Maguire’s electorate and said she had secured him $170million for a new hospital in ‘five minutes’.
Ms Berejiklian has denied any wrongdoing. An outcome of the investigation is expected early next year.
During the inquiry her popularity slumped by at least 10 percentage points but has now recovered to its previous high levels, according to Resolve Political Monitor.
Mr Morrison made the comments after he came under pressure in parliament to introduce a federal corruption watchdog.
Liberal MP Bridget Archer, who represents the marginal Tasmanian seat of Bass, crossed the floor and supported independent MP Helen Haines who wants a debate on her integrity commission bill.
Ms Archer was pictured talking to Mr Frydenberg about her controversial decision after the vote in parliament on Thursday.
Bridget Archer was confronted by Treasurer Josh Frydenberg about her decision after voting against the government because Scott Morrison has taken too long to deliver on his promise of creating a corruption watchdog
Independent member for Indi Helen Haines and Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer leave the chamber together after the vote
Ms Archer, who represents the marginal Tasmanian seat of Bass, supported independent MP Helen Haines who wants a debate on her integrity commission bill
She said it was a ‘difficult’ decision to go against her own party and the Prime Minister
Ms Archer said it was a ‘difficult decision’ to vote against Scott Morrison but said he has taken too long to introduce a corruption watchdog which he promised in 2018.
‘I don’t take this decision lightly at all. I take this decision very seriously to stand here. And it’s a difficult decision. This is one of the most important things that we come to this place to do,’ she said.
‘There is a place for politics, there’s a place for the partisan point-scoring, but on something as important as trust and confidence in elected officials, that is not it.’
Ms Archer’s seat of Bass is the Liberals’ most precarious seat, held with a margin of just 0.41 per cent.
Earlier this week Tasmanian senator Jacqui Lambie – who also wants a federal corruption watchdog – said the Liberals would lose their two marginal seats in the state over the issue.
Ms Haines was also supported by the Opposition, Greens MP Adam Bandt and independent MPs Craig Kelly, Bob Katter, Zali Steggall and Rebekha Sharkie.
Liberal member for Bass Bridget Archer (centre) speaks to crossbench MPs Helen Haines (right), Zali Steggall and Rebekha Sharkie after crossing the floor
Ms Archer speaks to Crossbench MPs Zali Steggall and Rebekha Sharkie
Ms Archer chatted to Ms Haines as she crossed the floor to vote against the Government
Together they defeated the Government by 66 votes to 64 but debate did not continue because an absolute majority of 76 votes, required for procedural motions, was not reached.
Ms Haines described Ms Archer as a ‘hero’ and a ‘lioness’.
‘Bridget Archer is a true Liberal. Bridget Archer today walked across the aisle for the single most important thing that any parliamentarian could do. She walked across the aisle to vote for integrity in this parliament,’ she said.
‘She walked across the aisle to make sure that her constituents knew that, that the nation knew, that she stands for accountability, transparency, decency and honour in parliament. She truly is a hero.’
Ms Haines slammed the ‘technicality’ which meant her bill could not be debated.
‘We were prevented by an undemocratic technicality. The prime minister and the government are standing in the way now of not only the will of the people but the will of the parliament,’ she said.
‘This is an extraordinary moment, I think, in the history of the House of Representatives. That we can have a vote of 66-64 in favour of bringing on debate of the most important bill this nation needs and we were defeated on a technicality, a technicality of the prime minister’s doing.
‘It’s absolutely clear now that this prime minister, this government, does not wish to instigate a federal integrity commission.’
Ms Archer sits next to Ms Haines in solidarity after she voted against the Government
Prime Minister Scott Morrison looked irritated after Ms Archer crossed the floor
The Government has previously stopped debate on Ms Haines’ bill, with Communications Minister Paul Fletcher saying it has an alternate proposal in the works.
The Opposition says a federal corruption watchdog – similar to the NSW ICAC which brought down Gladys Berejiklian – is urgently needed to stop rorts.
Calls for the integrity commission ramped up as the Federal Government faced scandals including the so-called car-park rorts and sports rorts where sports facility grants were funnelled to marginal seats.
A total of 73 per cent of the projects approved were not recommended by Sport Australia.
Ms Archer said: ‘I don’t take this decision lightly at all. I take this decision very seriously to stand here’