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Australia’s Gladys Berejiklian quits as state premier over probe

Gladys Berejiklian

Australia’s Gladys Berejiklian quits as state premier over probe:

A corruption investigation into the Australian state of New South Wales’ (NSW) premier, Gladys Berejiklian, has led to her resignation on Tuesday. The premier of Australia’s most populous state had been under fire since the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) said on Monday that it was investigating whether she was involved in conduct that “constituted or involved a breach of public trust.” The commission did not provide any details about nature.

Berejiklian said she had made the decision to step down after the Independent Commission Against Corruption (Icac) on Tuesday said it was investigating whether she was involved in conduct that “constituted or involved a breach of public trust” over a plan to lease out part of the state’s network of electricity poles and wires.

The announcement came in a statement by Gladys Berejiklian, the premier of the Australian state of New South Wales (NSW). She said she was resigning to avoid public disruption. “I have always put NSW first,” she said. “I believe it is in the best interests of the government for me to step aside so the new premier has full freedom to choose their cabinet.”

NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian has resigned as leader of the governing Liberal-National coalition, following a damning finding from the state’s Independent Commission Against Corruption. At a press conference in Sydney on Wednesday, Berejiklian said she had made the “difficult decision to step down” after the ICAC released its findings into alleged misconduct by former energy minister Chris Hartcher in 2014. The commission found that Hartcher and his staff had engaged in widespread corruption.

Berejiklian has been under significant pressure in recent weeks following inquiries by the Herald into issues raised at two major transport agencies, Transport for NSW and Sydney Trains. After the inquiries began, Berejiklian announced an independent inquiry into rail safety in NSW would be led by former High Court justice Michael McHugh.

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 18. The announcement comes after the Australian Federal Police (AFP) raided the home and office of NSW planning minister, Mr Paul Toole, on October 2. The ICAC said the raid was conducted under Section 8 of the ICAC Act. Mr Toole is also NSW Labor’s candidate for the federal seat of Charlton.

The Berejiklian government has been rocked by a fresh scandal with a senior minister embroiled in a secret relationship with a state MP who is the focus of an investigation into corruption allegations. The Herald can reveal that the Minister for Better Regulation Matt Kean, 32, embarked on a relationship with former NSW police minister and now Nationals MP Troy Grant’s chief of staff, Ines Rockman.

The ICAC said the allegations related to a period after Ms Berejiklian became transport minister in 2013 and were separate from the findings of the Operation Spicer inquiry into alleged corruption at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption. The ICAC said it had received new information that “raised serious questions as to whether Ms Berejiklian was exercising her powers of Ministerial office to confer an advantage on Mr Maguire, or was improperly conferring a benefit on him”.

He has consistently denied any wrongdoing and has not been charged with a crime. Maguire was a member of the Operation Spicer taskforce, which examined allegations of corruption involving NSW Police and parts of the former Labor government. A decision on whether to pursue charges is expected within weeks.

The premier, who was deputy Liberal leader when she began the relationship with Maguire in 2015, told the commission that she only disclosed the relationship to her cabinet colleagues about a year ago, after being pressed by senior staff. She said she had kept the relationship secret because she was a “very private person” and because her partner was a member of Parliament.

Ms Berejiklian said she was not scared of tackling the problem, which had been a political hot potato in the state for years. “I’m absolutely determined to fix this problem,” she told reporters. “The public has a right to expect a safe and reliable train service. I’ve seen the delays and cancellations first hand – they are simply not acceptable.”

 

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