The relationship, uncovered at the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption on Oct. 12, sent shock waves through coalition government ranks with MPs blindsided over her connection with disgraced former Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire.
“I stuffed up in my personal life,” Berejiklian told reporters after her appearance at the hearing.
“Had I known then what I know now, clearly I would not have made those personal decisions.”
She faced reporters flanked by senior ministers Brad Hazzard and Dominic Perottet who pledged unwavering support for their leader.
Federal cabinet minister Simon Birmingham on Tuesday said the relationship was surprising but Berejiklian’s personal life was her own business.
“I think people right across NSW can see very, very clearly just how hard Gladys Berejiklian has worked through the bushfires, through dealing with COVID, and she’s got pretty exceptional outcomes for NSW and for the whole country in the management of COVID and we should be all very grateful to her,” he told the Nine Network.
NSW Energy and Environment Minister Matt Kean also defended his leader saying “she is not the first person to suffer from a poor romantic choice.”
“And the reality is, she remains the best leader in the country,” he told Nine.
Kean said Maguire “got no benefit out of that relationship.”
“She’s not accused of any wrongdoing, she hasn’t done anything wrong.”
Transport Minister Andrew Constance also agreed the relationship came as a surprise and backed his leader.
“She would have said something if she knew something was wrong,” he told Seven Network.
He staunchly defended her integrity and hard work for the people of NSW and said her job was safe.
“Gladys is going nowhere,” he told ABC Radio National.
Jobs and Tourism Minister Stuart Ayres also weighed in to support the premier, saying she was “an incredibly strong and determined woman whose primary focus has always been the people of NSW.”
He told Sydney radio 2GB that “she has maintained the integrity of the office that she holds so dear.”
“Gladys will always do what is right for the people of NSW,” he said.
Berejiklian on Monday told the inquiry into Maguire’s business dealings the relationship began in 2015 and spanned five years until she ended all contact last month following a private ICAC hearing.
The ICAC has accused Maguire of using his public office and parliamentary resources to improperly gain a benefit for himself or for G8way International—a company he allegedly “effectively controlled.”
In recordings of intercepted phone calls between the pair played at the hearing, Maguire can be heard discussing his various business deals, including one involving land near the site of a new airport at Badgerys Creek in western Sydney.
Berejiklian told the inquiry Maguire was a “big talker” who came up with “pie in the sky” schemes and “a lot of the time I would have ignored or disregarded what he said as fanciful.”
NSW Labor will move a motion of no confidence in the premier in state parliament on Tuesday that will fail without the support of government MPs, who have so far united behind her.
Opposition Leader Jodi McKay says Ms Berejiklian is a fraud and must resign.
“Many people have been in bad relationships, but you don’t use that as an excuse for not doing the right thing. She hasn’t done the right thing. She has been complicit in the corruption,” she told ABC TV on Tuesday.
But Federal Labor MP Bill Shorten said he sympathizes with Berejilkian, whom he described as dignified.
“She’s a smart lady who I think has been punching below her weight with perhaps a much more average guy,” he told Nine.