Liberals nervous over fears Gladys’ affair a security risk
Senior Liberals are privately breaking ranks to raise alarm about Gladys Berejiklian's judgment and whether her secret relationship with Daryl Maguire has exposed her as a target for Chinese intelligence agencies, as the Premier braces for his ICAC appearance on Wednesday in the most crucial moment of her political career.
The concerns were raised as the corruption commission revealed a photo of Ms Berejiklian and Mr Maguire meeting Chinese President Xi Jingping in November 2014, when Mr Maguire was still a backbench MP.
ICAC has heard how Mr Maguire worked relentlessly behind the scenes to broker deals for Chinese business people and is considering whether he used his influence as chairman of the Asia Pacific Parliamentary Friendship Group to strike commercial deals.
Ms Berejiklian told the ICAC on Monday that she relied on Mr Maguire to follow the rules by declaring his myriad deals but in at least one case she actively dissuaded him from informing her, telling him in a phone tap: "I don't need to know about that".
Multiple ministers have privately raised concerns that Mr Maguire's business activity may have attracted the attention of Chinese intelligence agencies and that Ms Berejiklian's secret relationship could put her in the spotlight of intelligence gathering operations, especially after she became Premier.
Knowledge about the NSW Premier's secret relationship would "absolutely" be of "significant interest" to Chinese intelligence agencies, one Minister said.
Another suggested Ms Berejiklian could have been targeted for attempted blackmail if a foreign power discovered she was in a secret relationship.
A third Liberal also had concerns, saying "foreign influence is part of the problem".
"The Chinese are across these things like no one else. All of Daryl's information goes back into the nest," the senior MP said.
The suggestion was fiercely refuted by Ms Berejiklian's office on Tuesday night.
"The Premier is always kept informed about national security concerns," the spokesman said. "The suggestion that anyone who does not publicly declare every aspect of their personal and financial life would be subject to hypothetical blackmail is fanciful and offensive."
Members of the Liberal caucus and senior Ministers are closely eyeing today's ICAC testimony from Mr Maguire, which will directly determine the support for the Premier's leadership.
The corruption watchdog probed the Premier on Monday about a photo showing her and Mr Maguire meeting the Chinese President in 2014 in a room with other MPs.
Ms Berejiklian was asked why Mr Maguire was ahead of her in the queue to meet President Xi.
"I have no recollection but ordinarily in those matters - and I can tell you now that I'm the Premier - you are given advice as to where to stand and which order to do things so we would have been following the advice we were given," she said.
She said she "had nothing to do with organising this event," and it "would have been organised by the Premier's office at the time".
Foreign policy experts said Chinese intelligence agencies could have sought to exploit the secret relationship.
"The nature of Mr Maguire's relationship with the Premier would have been of substantial interest to Chinese intel services if they were aware of it," Australian Strategic Policy Institute boss Peter Jennings said.
Author Clive Hamilton said Mr Maguire could have been targeted by people seeking to get close to Ms Berejiklian as Premier.
Originally published as Liberals nervous over fears Gladys' affair a security risk