Furious Gladys goes on the attack as rivals circle
The Premier is battling to see off rolling attacks on her credibility as she could not say on Wednesday whether security agencies were aware of her relationship with disgraced politician Daryl Maguire amid concerns about Chinese intercepts.
Gladys Berejiklian, facing intense scrutiny, also would not comment directly on what access Mr Maguire had to the highest levels of government saying simply: "I had no knowledge of any wrongdoing."
Under pressure, Ms Berejiklian lashed out after two days of grilling over what she knew about Mr Maguire's business interests.
In a dramatic press conference at state Parliament, the Premier dismissed questions and staunchly denied any wrongdoing before shifting from defence to attack.
She was questioned on multiple fronts, ranging from accusations she had deleted an email from a property developer friend of Mr Maguire's to whether she had put the state in the crosshairs of Chinese intelligence by failing to declare her relationship.
"I know the people of this state know that I've done nothing wrong," she declared in a direct appeal to voters. "I never have and I never will."
Knocking back concerns from senior Liberals that her relationship with Mr Maguire made her of more interest to potential foreign intelligence activity, Ms Berejiklian said as premier she has "passed security clearances that nobody else has to pass".
"I have access to information … which gives me assurance (of) what I need to be aware of, and I always adhere to that," she said.
But when she was asked if our security services were aware of her relationship with Mr Maguire, she said: "At all times I'm provided with advice on matters of a sensitive nature, which enable me to do my job."
Following Mr Maguire's evidence to the corruption watchdog which heard the former MP was seeking to sell access to high levels of government, Ms Berejiklian also refused to answer questions about how much access her former partner had during their relationship.
"That's not new information," Ms Berejiklian said of his evidence.
"I would be the first one to admit if I'd done something wrong, but I have not," she said.
In a heated exchange, Ms Berejiklian told journalists to "respect" her position as premier.
"I appreciate the questions you all need to ask; and I've answered them in full detail over the course of a number of days, but you also have to respect my position as premier, and let me do my job," she said.
Ms Berejiklian on Wednesday narrowly avoided parliament's upper house declaring it had lost confidence in her as premier. The no-confidence motion was only defeated with the casting vote of president John Ajaka.
However if Shaoquett Moselmane had been able to vote, he could have swung the vote in favour of the opposition. Mr Moselmane has taken a leave of absence after being suspended from the Labor Party over ICAC raids in June.
It came as significant questions were raised on Wednesday about how an email sent to Ms Berejiklian's private ministerial address by a developer was deleted, meaning it could not be accessed by ICAC investigators. Documents tendered to the corruption watchdog show the ICAC asked Ms Berejiklian's department for the email, but it could not be found.
"A search conducted of the Department of Premier and Cabinet IT systems found that this email had been deleted," the Premier's chief of staff, Neil Harley, told ICAC in response to a request for the correspondence.
Ms Berejiklian could not recall why the email was deleted yesterday.
It also emerged that Ms Berejiklian attended a meeting in 2016 with the Wagga Wagga City Council and Mr Maguire to discuss local roads funding. A government source last night suggested the meeting related to a roads project in Bomen.
A PwC report prepared for Transport NSW at the time raised concerns about the commercial viability of the project.
But The Daily Telegraph was told the project received money from the federal government, and was staunchly advocated for by the council.
A former adviser to then-roads minister Duncan Gay said the Wagga Wagga project received funding ahead of a more attractive option, raising questions about why it was approved.
Photos also emerged of the Premier appearing in a photo with a developer she told ICAC she didn't know. Ms Berejiklian formally opened a heritage centre with Crown Group chairman and group CEO Iwan Sunito in December, 2017.
On Monday she told the inquiry: "I don't know who that person is."
The photo was seized on by deputy Labor leader Yasmin Catley on Wednesday who said the Premier had been "dishonest" in her evidence to ICAC.
Labor also accused Ms Berejiklian of lying about Mr Maguire's responsibilities to declare his business interests.
Ms Berejiklian said Mr Maguire was only required to declare his interests directly to her as premier "in certain circumstances".
Labor's Ryan Park told parliament that statement was "a lie".
"Under the ministerial code of conduct, Daryl Maguire was required to provide Gladys Berejiklian with a declaration of all his conflicts of interests. No exceptions, no limitations," Mr Park said.
Originally published as Furious Gladys goes on the attack as rivals circle