A rift has emerged between the NSW Premier and Treasurer on the eve of the state election, over Dominic Perrottet’s attempts to mask his ties to the scandal that felled his predecessor Gladys Berejiklian.
As previoulsy revealed, it was Perrottet, as NSW Treasurer, who approved the $5.5 million grant to the Wagga Wagga gun club that is the focus of an ongoing state corruption probe.
Perrottet has formally sought to deflect responsibility over the matter to NSW Treasurer Matt Kean — yet Kean’s office has fought back, pointing out it was Perrottet who was Treasurer when the $5.5m grant was approved.
“The Treasurer was obvioulsy not the Treasurer at the time this occurred,” a spokeswoman for Kean said Friday.
“The Treasurer was obvioulsy not the Treasurer at the time” — Matt Kean spokeswoman
As previously revealed, the grant was illegal because the project — $5.5m for a new club house and “convention centre” for a private gun club — did not meet the legal requirements for projects under the Restart NSW Fund Act.
The split between NSW’s two most powerful politicians draws the spotlight on Perrottet’s direct ties to the scandal, and comes ahead of Saturday’s NSW election.
Sharpe told The Klaxon Friday that she had also received no response from Kean.
Perrottet approved the $5.5m gun club grant from the Restart NSW Fund.
The fund is governed by the Restart NSW Fund Act 2011, which expressly stipulates the types of infrastructure projects that fund money can legally be used for.
Allowable projects include transport and roads infrastructure, health and public services infrastructure, infrastructure in areas “affected by mining operations” and infrastructure “required for the economic competitiveness of the State”.
In January the ICAC announced its findings would be delayed, for the third time, until the “second quarter” — which starts April 1.
Berejiklian resigned as NSW Premier in October 2021 after the ICAC announced she was formally under investigation under Operation Keppel.
The ICAC had been previously only formally “investigating” former NSW MP Daryl Maguire. Maguire heavily advocated for the $5.5m grant, as has been credited by the club — the Australian Clay Targets Association in Wagga Wagga NSW — for it receiving the money.
Berejiklian is being investigated over whether she engaged in a “breach of public trust”, given her “personal relationship” with Maguire, which ran from at least 2015 until 2020.
On May 2018 – nine months after Perrottet made the $5.5m grant – Berejiklian told Maguire, in a telephone conversation recorded by ICAC, that Perrottet “just does as I ask him to do”.
“Perrottet ‘just does as I ask him to do’ Berejiklian told Maguire in a recorded telephone conversation”
Berejiklian was appointed to a senior executive role at telco Optus in February last year, despite the ICAC’s ongoing investigations, by Optus CEO Kelly-Bayer Rosmarin, under chair Paul O’Sullivan.
As revealed by The Klaxon earlier this month, Optus made $69,900 in political “donations” last financial year — despite it being illegal for “foreign donors” to make payments of $100 or more to political parties.
Perrottet’s office has confirmed it was Perrottet who approved the $5,5m gun club grant, but both Perrottet and his office have repeatedly refused to comment when asked if the grant was legal — and if so, which of the requirements of the Restart NSW Fund Act it meets.
The ICAC has heard the grant was approved despite senior NSW Government officials formally warning it was “suss” and that it should not be granted; the NSW Office of Sport wanting no involvement in the project; and the NSW Department of Infrastructure describing it as “unusual” and warning that grants had to be for “public infrastructure” and not “private assets on private land”.
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