Fri. Jan 21st, 2022

The leaders of both major parties in New South Wales will not commit to tightening the rules on ministers’ use of private telephones until the state’s anti-corruption body publishes its report on former Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian’s behavior, which the watchdog says will not be until at least after February next year.

On Tuesday, Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet told reporters that he and many other NSW MPs use a private phone to keep “professional work separate” from their privacy.

He answered questions in the wake of evidence by the Independent Commission against Corruption that former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire called on Berejiklian to “get a private phone” after he was summoned to appear before the body in 2018.

Icac also heard Maguire tell Berejiklian “they can read texts” and suggested that she download the Chinese messaging app WeChat.

Perrottet said on Tuesday that he did not know about WeChat, but he was aware that many MPs use WhatsApp for private communication.

While Perrottet said it was “important that information relevant to ministerial decision-making is carried out in accordance with rules in place”, he stopped committing to changing the rules on the use of private communication methods , including encrypted messaging apps.

While Perrottet said he thought the NSW ministerial code of conduct was “incredibly strong”, he also said the government would consider changes. But only if it came with a recommendation from Icac.

“Whose [the ministerial code] must be [reviewed] from time to time, based on changes in technology, the government will always look at it, ”he said.

“One of the important roles that Icac also plays is in preventing corruption and advising the government, which they do from time to time on the changes. [that] should be made and I would assume that it will also include potential changes to the Code of Conduct. “

On the last day of her hearings on Berejiklian’s behavior, the former NSW premier told the inquiry that it was common for MPs to have private phones and that she had often been encouraged to use one of colleagues.

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NSW opposition leader Chris Minns also stopped calling for changes to the phone use code.

“Ultimately, ministerial communication and communication on behalf of any Member of Parliament is subject to scrutiny by investigative bodies, and I think all Members of Parliament know that,” he said.

“We would wait for the Icac results to come down before I change or recommend a policy [one] to the NSW Government, but you know we are public officials and that must be at the forefront of our minds when we make decisions. “

But these results will not be published for some months. On Tuesday, the watchdog released a schedule that said submissions from the investigation’s adviser, Scott Robertson, should not be delivered until December 20th. The responses of Berejiklian and Maguire’s lawyers did not expire until February 14, 2022.

Icac hears Daryl Maguire ask Gladys Berejiklian to 'get a private phone' - video
Icac hears Daryl Maguire ask Gladys Berejiklian to ‘get a private phone’ – video

Icac has been the subject of fierce criticism in some circles over the timing of her investigation into Berejiklian, prompting her to step down as the state navigated at the end of its long Covid-19 lockdown in October.

On Friday, the commission’s inspector, Bruce McClintock SC, presented a report to the NSW Parliament, which revealed that he had decided to carry out an inquiry into the decision to launch the inquiry after receiving “several complaints” about the decision.

“Icac itself has informed me that it also received complaints from members of the public in connection with this case,” he wrote in the report.

But after reviewing the watchdog’s behavior, McClintock found that it had acted “lawfully and in accordance” with the act and was not unreasonable. He also denied complaints about the timing of the investigation, saying Icac could have been charged with “bias” against Berejiklian if it did not launch the probe.

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“Having concluded that there were sufficient grounds to further investigate the matters in question and to conduct a public inquiry, I consider that the Commission was correct in continuing as it did,” he wrote.

“If it had failed to do so, it itself could rightly have been accused of failing to perform its statutory functions and, in fact, of bias towards the premiere.”

During his first press conference as prime minister, Perrottet said changes in the watchdog’s power were not a priority for him, and on Tuesday he said he would not comment on the body’s powers until its report was completed.

“The independent commission must have, free from political interference, the opportunity to complete its work and deliver a public report, and when they submit a public report, we will consider that report and if there is any action… we must take it. we will, “he said.

By Victor

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