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Has Wagga ever staged the Olympics? No. So why did it need an Olympic-standard shooting range?

Crikey logo Crikey 19/10/2021 Margot Saville
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Why would NSW taxpayers pay millions for an Olympic-standard shooting facility in Wagga Wagga when there was one at Sydney Olympic Park?

This was the central issue being debated at ICAC’s Operation Keppel, which began in Sydney yesterday. 

This morning Paul Doorn, executive director of sport and recreation in the office of sport within the Department of Premier and Cabinet, and then the executive director of the NSW government’s sport infrastructure group, gave evidence that he did not consider it a worthwhile use of public money. 

He said then-member for Wagga Wagga Daryl Maguire wrote to the sports minister in 2012 wanting money for a new centre — a shooting range plus extra facilities — for the Australian Clay Target Association. 

Doorn seemed quite dismissive of the proposal, saying it “wasn’t necessarily a good use of funds” because Sydney had built at great expense a shooting facility for the Sydney 2000 Olympics.

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The department gave the project a low priority and in July 2013 the sports minister told Maguire his request had been denied. 

Former NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian, who resigned from the NSW Parliament two weeks ago, is the focus of this inquiry — in particular her secret, undisclosed relationship with Maguire. 


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The ICAC is examining whether she facilitated the potential misuse of $35 million of public money to help the electoral prospects of her former boyfriend. And if so, was it “corrupt conduct” under the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption Act

Berejiklian has strenuously denied any wrongdoing in connection with these matters and will give evidence next week. 

The examination of Doorn by counsel assisting ICAC, Scott Robertson, is akin to that of a bricklayer building a wall. Robertson is painstakingly, word by word, building the case that Maguire’s requests for millions of dollars of taxpayers’ money did not meet any relevant criteria for funding. 

Doorn, and the public servant who gave evidence yesterday, Michael Toohey, correctly fulfilled their duties by denying the requests. Public servants at this level are custodians of public money and take their duties extremely seriously. Both men seemed perplexed and annoyed these requests had been taken out of the department’s hands and then fast-tracked by their political masters. 

Robertson said in his opening address yesterday that ICAC would investigate whether Berejiklian engaged in conduct between 2012 and 2018 that was “liable to allow or encourage the occurrence of corrupt conduct” by Maguire. 

She gave evidence to ICAC last year that she had been in a “close personal relationship” with Maguire between about 2015 and 2018, which had not been publicly disclosed.

Robertson also said ICAC would be investigate whether Berejiklian exercised her official functions dishonestly or partially by refusing to exercise her duty to report any reasonable suspicions about Maguire to the ICAC.

Yesterday Toohey said he had first seen the funding proposal in October 2016, when he was on secondment in the office of sport from the Premier’s Department, and it came up as one line in an email from his then boss detailing some new policy proposals.

Then the proposal was fast-tracked and by mid-November he was given just one day to draft a submission for cabinet’s expenditure review committee to fund the project. Berejiklian was treasurer at this time. But the “purported business case” was a dog’s breakfast, with no design details and no comparative analysis as to whether such a sum might be better spent elsewhere.

By the end of 2016 the committee had approved it and by early January Maguire publicly announced the project, thus preventing the department from requiring more information. 

Former NSW premier Mike Baird is scheduled to appear on Wednesday, and deputy Liberal leader Stuart Ayres, who was the sports minister during the period in question, will be called on Friday.

The hearing continues.

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