Australia

New documents prove John Barilaro appointment process wasn’t independent, Labor says

Embattled NSW deputy Liberal leader Stuart Ayres continues to defend the appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to a US trade job, as a tranche of new documents about his recruitment raise more questions about the process.
The fresh documents were released on Monday before a parliamentary the upper house inquiry resumes hearings into the matter on Wednesday.

Among the documents are Investment NSW “Selection Panel Reports” for the trade role that Labor says show Mr Barilaro was not initially considered the best candidate, before his ratings were upgraded and those of his “main rivals” were downgraded.

“What these documents make clear is that the independent circuit panel after the interviews with four candidates had decided that John Barilaro was not the best person for the job,” Labor finance spokesman Daniel Mookhey said on Monday.
“We need to hear a clear and precise explanation from Stuart Ayres as to how it was possible that that report was changed days before the Barilaro announcement.”
Labor leader Chris Minns said the new documents were further proof the recruitment process was not independent, transparent or meritorious.

Senior public servant Jenny West – the person first offered the job – did not get the position “for one reason: her name is not John Barilaro”, he said.

Jenny West speaks during the inquiry into the appointment of John Barilaro as Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas at NSW Parliament House in Sydney, Monday, 11 July, 2022. Source: AAP / BIANCA DE MARCHI/AAPIMAGE

Labor has previously said the government’s “fingerprints” are all over the controversial appointment and accused Mr Ayres of lying after he said he did not meet with Mr Barilaro during the recruitment process.

With pressure mounting on the government ahead of the March election, Mr Ayres is standing firm as deputy leader and trade minister in the face of criticism over his role in Mr Barilaro landing the $500,000-a-year job.
“I’ve not done anything wrong,” Mr Ayres told reporters on Monday.

“There is no reason for me to stand aside.”

Mr Ayres again defended Mr Barilaro’s appointment as senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas, saying it was a public service appointment made by Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown.
“I wasn’t involved in this recruitment process. I wasn’t involved in the selection process,” he said.
Mr Barilaro relinquished the job in June, less than two weeks after it was announced, and his appointment is the subject of two inquiries.
Labor says more documents will be released in the next 24 hours.

The saga continues to dog Premier Dominic Perrottet, who returned at the weekend from a trade mission to Asia that was overshadowed by the escalating controversy at home.

In a lengthy Facebook post on Sunday night, Mr Ayres insisted he was never personally close to Mr Barilaro and did not consider him a close friend.
However, Mr Ayres let Mr Barilaro know the role would be re-advertised, and sent him a copy of the ad after Mr Barilaro sent Mr Ayres a personal text message inquiring about the recruitment process.
“A number of other people reached out and I directed all of them back to the public service,” Mr Ayres said on Monday.

Tabled documents into the appointment so far include an email sent by Ms Brown in February, saying she had discussed a shortlist of candidates with Mr Ayres.

She said Mr Ayres had requested adding a candidate, whose name has not been made public.
Mr Ayes on Monday defended the correspondence, saying that was an ordinary update for a minister to receive from a department secretary or agency head and he was not requesting any names be added.
Another Investment NSW document shows Mr Ayres and Mr Barilaro met on or before 16 June – the day before it was announced the former deputy premier had secured the role – and Mr Ayres had indicated he supported the appointment.

Ms Brown will give evidence to the parliamentary inquiry for a second time on Wednesday and Mr Barilaro will appear there next week.

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