New South Wales Government MP Daryl Maguire is in deep poo. This is because of revelations to the Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC), the state anti-corruption body. In an investigation into claims of improper conduct by former Canterbury City councillors Michael Hawatt and Pierre Azzi, a phone conversation between Hawatt and Maguire was recorded. Maguire was acting on behalf of Chinese ‘friends’ from the company Country Garden, which he was trying to help get established in Australia. In this phone conversation, Maguire told Hawatt, that his ‘friends’ were “mega big with mega money” and wanted to invest in as many as 30 properties for which development had been approved. Hawatt suggested a $48 million project on Canterbury Road, and Maguire asked him what his ‘margin’ was on the property. Hawatt replied that his ‘margin’ was 1.5%. Maguire then said “1.5 per cent divided by two isn’t very good. Three per cent is a lot better, if you know what I’m talking about”. In evidence before ICAC, Maguire said he suspected the ‘destination’ for that ‘dividend’ was himself1.
This corruption, as you would expect, is all over the news1,2, even in the digital Murdoch outlet, news.com.au3, and Murdoch’s Melbourne tabloid, the Herald Sun4. However, all Maguire could do was to apologise for causing “embarrassment and disappointment to a lot of people”, and to resign from his parliamentary secretary position as well as from the Liberal Party and to take leave, as if this somehow is supposed to make the stench surrounding the Liberal Party less intense. Deputy Premier John Barilaro accepted Maguire’s resignation, but would ‘not be drawn’ on whether he should quit parliament altogether1.
As parliamentary secretary, Maguire would have been on a salary of $198,079 per annum with an annual electoral allowance of up to $140,000. Now he is a lowly crossbencher, he is on ‘only’ $165,066, but still gets an electoral allowance5. The fact that a politician can admit being corrupt but does not hesitate to keep his snout deep in the taxpayer funded trough, is symptomatic of what is wrong with modern Australian politics. Seemingly unaware of the irony in his statement, Barilaro said that he and the Premier, Gladys Berejiklian, expected “the highest of standards when it comes to integrity for all members of the NSW Parliament”1. This would be hilarious in a satire, but in this context, it is simply criminal.