Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire repeatedly pushed staff in government ministers’ offices for help to advance Sydney property projects, one of which was owned by a long-time friend and another by a developer from whom he has admitted seeking commissions.
The Herald can reveal the disgraced politician lobbied ministerial staff over a potential 25-storey residential tower in Campsie, and also over a parcel of land at Camellia on which more than 2000 apartments could be built.
The lobbying took place from mid-2016. Staff have described frequent phone calls, emails, and face-to-face meetings requesting assistance.
However the offices of the current and former planning ministers – Anthony Roberts and Rob Stokes – are also confident Mr Maguire was given no special help, other than the sort of information typically provided to MPs.
At one point in 2016 Mr Maguire was challenged by a member of Mr Stokes’ staff on why, as a rural MP, he was so interested in Sydney development. Mr Maguire’s reply to the effect of – “Don’t you know how this works? We have to help our friends” – put staff on notice to be particularly vigilant in their interactions.
Mr Maguire’s political career was effectively finished when the Independent Commission Against Corruption’s Operation Dasha played recordings showing him attempting to obtain commissions on deals involving firms he described as “clients”.
He was subsequently reported to have helped arrange an introductory meeting between Mr Roberts and developer Country Garden. That meeting was not to discuss a particular project, with Mr Roberts having a policy of not discussing individual planning issues.
It has not previously been reported that Mr Maguire, who has still not resigned from Parliament, used his government position to assist particular planning applications or projects.
One project about which Mr Maguire made numerous representations was a planning proposal at 124-142 Beamish Street, Campsie. The land owner, Joe Alha, started purchasing the site in early 2014. Mr Alha’s expectation was that the site would soon be rezoned as plans for the development of the Bankstown rail line were put in effect.
But following the compulsory merger of councils in May 2016, the new City of Canterbury Bankstown Council said it did not support taking the government’s draft Sydenham-to-Bankstown land-use strategy into account in considering the planning application. This has had the effect of frustrating the development, which may have contained about 310 apartments.
Mr Alha told the Herald he went to Mr Maguire for help because the two had been friends for 20 years and he needed assistance in determining the government’s policy.
“Did he make representations on my sites? Yes, he did,” Mr Alha said.
Mr Alha said he had “genuine problems” with his development and did not have other avenues for assistance.
But Mr Alha said he had never paid Mr Maguire. “Do you pay your friends?” he asked.
Mr Maguire, who was requesting meetings about the Campsie site as recently as May, helped arrange meetings between Mr Alha’s planning consultant in 2016 and 2017, Matt Daniel, and department staff.
However these meetings have not come to anything. Last week Mr Roberts said he would allow councils to devise their own land-use strategy for the Sydenham-to-Bankstown corridor, in effect further slowing the development prospects.
Mr Maguire also sought assistance with a site at Camellia owned by Charlie Demian.
In ICAC last month, Mr Maguire admitted to pursing commissions from property transactions involving Mr Demian’s development sites after he was made aware of them in May 2016.
In January 2017, Mr Maguire wrote to staff in the former Roads Minister’s office forwarding a request from Mr Demian for a meeting with Roads and Maritime Services staff about the Camellia site.
“This needs to happen,” Mr Maguire wrote to the staffer. “The response they gave was typical BS,” he said of another response provided to him.
The Camellia site has also not yet been developed. The government has committed to a light rail line near the site, and land owners at Camellia, including Mr Demian, are advocating for a rail station to be built there as part of the proposed Metro West project.
Mr Stokes said he had not met with Mr Maguire.
“I understand that my staff members provided information, as they would do for any MP who sought it,” the Education Minister said. “I have told my staff that if there were any conversations they were in that makes them feel uncomfortable in the light of the revelations at ICAC, they should talk to ICAC.”
A spokesman for Mr Roberts said Mr Maguire approached the Minister’s office in writing on two occasions, seeking meetings on behalf of property developers.
“The meetings were declined,” the spokesman said.
“Since Mr Maguire’s evidence before Operation Dasha, the Minister’s Office has reviewed and audited all contact from him concerning planning matters, and will make them available to the Commission if requested.”
The Herald attempted to contact Mr Maguire and Mr Demian.
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