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Perrottet defends Wagga hospital spend

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says a $170 million funding boost for a regional hospital was already in the budget by the time Gladys Berejiklian told her secret lover she’d got him the funding.

The Independent Commission Against Corruption on Friday heard phone taps of conversations between Ms Berejiklian, then premier, and former MP Daryl Maguire about the Wagga Wagga Base Hospital.

Ms Berejiklian was heard telling Mr Maguire she got him “$170 million in five minutes” for the hospital in his electorate.

“I just spoke to Dom and … he goes, ‘No worries’. He just does what I ask him to,” Ms Berejiklian said of then-treasurer Mr Perrottet.

Ms Berejiklian was in a secret relationship with Mr Maguire at the time.

On Sunday, Mr Perrottet shot back, saying the expense was already in the 2017-18 budget.

“When the Health Minister (Brad Hazzard) came to see me in that first budget, 2017-18, we went through capital expenditure and decided to expand it,” Mr Perrottet said.

“We have always provided significant funding in every budget for health support. That is the case for Wagga Wagga Hospital (and) hospitals right across the state.”

Mr Hazzard told reporters that the hospital had been identified as a major hospital that needed upgrading.

“It was already in the budget,” he said.

He said it was normal for local MPs to lobby ministers for their electorates.

Mr Perrottet told a conference on Friday that twelve months before his conversation with Ms Berejiklian the $170 million had already been allocated in the budget, off the back of a government promise.

“As a government we came and delivered it,” he said.

“I don’t think you’ll find anybody in Wagga Wagga who believes that we shouldn’t have invested in that hospital.”

Counsel assisting the ICAC inquiry into Ms Berejiklian said on Friday there was no suggestion of any wrongdoing on the part of Mr Perrottet or Mr Hazzard.

The premier said on Sunday that he “completely disagree(d)” with pork barrelling.

“My belief is that whatever community you are in, you should have the access to the best healthcare, education, and transport to get to your family faster,” he said.

The ICAC probe is exploring whether the former premier breached public trust by failing to declare her clandestine relationship with Mr Maguire while she was making decisions about projects he lobbied for.

She denies any wrongdoing.

Mr Perrottet and Mr Hazzard were speaking at the construction site of a new ambulance superstation to be built at Glebe in Sydney’s inner city.

It’s the 11th and final superstation to be built across the state in a $184 million program.

From 2023, the station will be home to around 65 paramedics and 30 ambulance bays.

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