Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro.
John Barilaro will appear before a NSW inquiry probing his appointment to a New York trade job. Image by Bianca De Marchi/AAP PHOTOS
  • politics

Barilaro to appear at NY trade job inquiry

July 28, 2022

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro will give evidence before a parliamentary inquiry investigating how he landed a taxpayer-funded job in New York, as pressure mounts on the trade minister over his role in the fiasco.

Labor says the public accountability committee has scheduled hearings after brokering a deal with the government to release three large tranches of documents relating to the hiring of the former NSW Nationals leader.

“This is a victory for the public’s right to know and it’s a defeat of the government’s attempt to cover up these documents and the information they contain,” Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said on Thursday.

Mr Barilaro, who was last month announced as the state’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas, will finally give his side of the story to the upper house inquiry on August 8.

He relinquished the role less than two weeks after his appointment, as the political fallout heaped increasing pressure on the Perrottet government.

The inquiry’s hearings will resume on Wednesday and will call Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown for a second appearance.

On Thursday, Labor accused Trade and Investment Minister Stuart Ayres of lying after he said he did not meet with Mr Barilaro during the recruitment process, and said he had maintained a distance from the hiring process.

However, newly-tabled documents seen by AAP include an email sent by Ms Brown in February, where she says she discussed a shortlist of candidates with Mr Ayres.

In the email, she says Mr Ayres requested adding a candidate to the selection process.

The candidate’s name has not been made public.

Another Investment NSW document shows Mr Ayres and Mr Barilaro met on or before June 16, and Mr Ayres had indicated he supported his appointment.

“Stuart Ayres hasn’t been arm’s length from this process,” Mr Mookhey told media on Thursday.

“He’s had his fingers all over this process from the moment he became the minister for trade.”

Mr Ayres, who is in Mumbai with Premier Dominic Perrottet, told reporters he had “absolutely not” misled the parliament about the recruitment process in June, and was simply relaying information given to him by Ms Brown.

He insisted Mr Barilaro applied as a private citizen, he did not have conversations with his former colleague, and his role as a former deputy premier did not give him a leg up into the position.

“I have not under any circumstances influenced the decisions of Amy Brown in who she is selecting as senior executives of the public service,” Mr Ayres said.

Mr Perrottet continued to defend the appointment, saying he believed the former deputy premier was the strongest candidate.

“I think John Barilaro was somebody who had that experience in NSW, and ultimately, from my advice was selected on merit in an independent process.”

Another hearing is set for next Friday, with multiple witnesses called including Mr Barilaro’s former chief-of-staff Siobhan Hamlin, Department of Regional NSW secretary Gary Barnes as well as staff from Investment NSW.

Plans to recall the NSW Legislative Council on Friday were scrapped after the government agreed to release the additional documents by Monday.