It comes after Ms Berejiklian was called to give evidence at the inquiry investigating Mr Maguire. The Premier said she was “pleased to be assisting” next week.
Mr Maguire will also give evidence, for three days.
The Independent Commission Against Corruption is investigating whether Mr Maguire misused his position as the member for Wagga Wagga for his own financial interest between 2012 and 2018.
The commission on Friday heard evidence from three former government staffers, including Mr Cull, Ms Cruickshank and Robert Vellar, who was the chief of staff to then-planning minister Anthony Roberts.
Mr Cull told the commission he learnt of Mr Maguire’s intended travel to China when he was forwarded an “appalling and provocative” letter in August 2017. The letter had been sent by Mr Maguire to a Chinese conglomerate after it attempted to exit a joint venture with an oaten hay company, with which he had financial ties.
Mr Maguire wrote that Australian governments would reconsider future joint ventures with Chinese companies over the issue, which was causing “loss of face” for his political leaders.
Ms Cruickshank later recalled the letter during her own evidence and described Mr Maguire’s travel plan as “ridiculous”.
“We’ve got this random MP proposing to fly to China before we go on an official trade mission. The simple reality is … not even the Minister of Trade or the Premier would write a letter in that tone,” she said.
Over the past three weeks, the commission has heard extensive allegations that Mr Maguire told private business interests he could open channels to government.
In 2018, Mr Maguire used lounges in Ms Berejiklian’s office foyer to host Louise Raedler Waterhouse when she was trying to iron out a planning issue affecting land she owned in 2017. He also gave Ms Waterhouse the personal email address of Ms Berejiklian.
As chief of staff, Ms Cruickshank said it was unusual and inappropriate for a private landowner to write to the Premier about a planning issue. “The Premier would not be involved in something like that.”
This week, the ICAC also heard extraordinary claims that Liberal Party donor and property developer Joseph Alha was “a bit tipsy” when he and Mr Maguire visited Ms Berejiklian’s office in November 2017.
Mr Alha was trying to salvage two projects when he accepted an invitation to drinks in Mr Maguire’s office, on the backbencher’s urging that “you never know who drops in”. That afternoon, Mr Maguire sent a text message to Mr Vellar, then-chief of staff to Mr Roberts, saying, “Mate having a drink in my office want to join me for a red?”
Mr Vellar on Friday told the commission it was very unusual for Mr Maguire to text him, but that he agreed because he always tried to provide “a level of customer service to backbenchers”.
When he arrived, he said he was surprised to see another man – Mr Alha. Red wine was flowing and there was a model of a building on the table.
He said he listened to Mr Alha for about 10 minutes, gave him his business card and did not give any advice.
“I remember sliding their glass of wine away from me and I left. I was pretty cranky … I’d been asked up there on the basis of false pretenses.”
Mr Vellar gave evidence about another terse exchange with Mr Maguire, when he claimed two “shifty” characters had applied to be on a new independent development panel, a signature anti-corruption reform at the time.
He told Mr Maguire his claims were “bloody ridiculous” and to stay out of it. The commission has heard phone calls in which Mr Alha asked Mr Maguire to stop the appointment of two individuals he considered “bad news” for his projects.
Mr Vellar agreed he was frustrated to see a politician trying to lobby the minister’s office, when the purpose of the panel was to keep development at an arm’s length from the political process.
He said neither he, nor Mr Roberts “had a high opinion of Mr Maguire”.
The inquiry continues.
Lucy Cormack is a state political reporter with The
Sydney Morning Herald.