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MP fights back over Berejiklian return

Independent MP Zali Steggall says federal ministers have lost touch with the public after a number of Liberal frontbenchers welcomed the idea of Gladys Berejiklian making a tilt for the federal seat of Warringah.

Speculation has increased the former NSW premier would put her hand up for Liberal preselection to run against Ms Steggall in the northern Sydney electorate after the independent won it from former prime minister Tony Abbott in 2019.

Ms Berejiklian is being investigated over whether she failed to disclose a relationship with Wagga Wagga MP Daryl Maguire when awarding grants to his electorate and has also been accused of turning a blind eye to Mr Maguire’s corrupt conduct.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said there was no suggestion of criminal conduct, having described the commission’s public hearings as a kangaroo court.

“The way that Gladys Berejiklian has been treated has been shameful. She is a person of great integrity,” he said.

The ICAC has not yet delivered any findings in relation to Ms Berejiklian and does not make criminal determinations.

Ms Steggall says it’s “extraordinary and wrong” Mr Morrison and cabinet ministers continue to undermine the independent commission.

“This is really important work that is being done on behalf of the public to hold government to account, to pull back the curtain and make sure there is no corruption,” she told the ABC on Monday.

Ms Steggall – a staunch supporter of a federal anti-corruption body – accused the Liberals supporting Ms Berejiklian of engaging in opportunistic attacks against the ICAC.

“Where is their moral compass for (acting) in the public interest? How do you use public funds?”

Ms Steggall was also adamant the climate policies of the government – which she described as having been determined by Nationals leader Barnaby Joyce – would hurt any Liberal trying to win back the seat.

Labor frontbencher Chris Bowen also slammed Mr Morrison’s comments as outrageous, saying it undermined every inquiry, investigation and finding the commission has made.

“The ICAC is a truly independent body which should be respected, not undermined by the most senior politician in the country,” he told the National Press Club.

Ms Berejiklian previously ruled out running for Warringah before the ICAC probe concluded but has since walked back her comments to Liberal insiders as she weighs up her options.

Liberals quoted in the Sydney Morning Herald said the ICAC investigation would have no bearing on her decision to run, and that federal members did not care about the outcome.

The Liberal preselection for Warringah has been pushed back to January 14 to give Ms Berejiklian time to consider her position.

The counsel assisting the commission is due to hand down its submission into the Maguire inquiry – through which Ms Berejiklian was questioned – on December 20.

It will be subject to a non-publication order and only delivered to relevant parties.

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