6 February 2023

"All the hallmarks of a 'jobs for the boys' appointment": Inquiry delivers interim report into Barilaro's trade role

| Claire Fenwicke
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John Barilaro

John Barilaro facing the parliamentary inquiry into how he received the STIC Americas appointment on 8 August 2022. Image: Screenshot.

A “sorry saga” with “all the hallmarks of a ‘jobs for the boys’ appointment”: that’s the scathing report delivered by a NSW Parliamentary Inquiry into John Barliaro’s appointment to a top trade position shortly after his retirement from politics.

The inquiry was launched in June last year, with the Opposition at the time calling his appointment as a Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner (STIC) to the Americas “one of the murkiest” it had seen.

The interim report made several findings, including that former Deputy Premier Mr Barliaro’s proposal to convert the STIC appointments to ministerial appointments was “brought without a reasonable basis” and “pursued with unnecessary haste” and that this created the STIC Americas vacancy, which he then applied for, and that former Trade Minister Stuart Ayres’ discussions with Mr Barliaro showed “poor judgement” and were “inappropriate”.

Committee chair and Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said the interim report showed the “lack of transparency and integrity” in how this public sector recruitment process was conducted.

“Despite assurances from senior public servants and ministers that the appointment process was conducted by the public service under a merit-based process, it is clear that the process was flawed and that the Executive was not at arm’s length from the process,” she said.

“The interference of former Minister for Trade Stuart Ayres, the numerous denials about his involvement and the lack of transparency surrounding the process have all the hallmarks of a ‘job for the boys’ appointment.

“This whole sorry saga has shaken the public’s confidence in the integrity of Public Service recruitment.”

She said not only had the inquiry uncovered how a preferred candidate was selected and offered the position before Mr Barliaro, but that there were “many ‘intersection points'” between a senior public servant and the then Trade Minister Stuart Ayres, which she described as “all highly inappropriate and unacceptable”.

“The committee found that when it comes to the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner recruitment processes, there was a pattern of Ministerial interference and lack of transparency conducted by the government,” Ms Faehrmann said.

Mr Ayres was previously accused of having “his fingerprints all over this [process]” after documents suggested reports were altered so Mr Barliaro could receive the position.

Ms Faehrmann said while the committee had found Mr Ayres had misled the public, the NSW Legislative Assembly would need to decide whether he had also misled the Parliament.

“Stuart Ayres was quick off the mark in telling the public, via a statement to Parliament, that everything was above board regarding the process used to appoint John Barilaro to the New York trade role. This inquiry proved those statements false,” she said.

“The committee now leaves it to the Legislative Assembly to determine whether Minister Ayers misled the Parliament when he made those statements.”

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However, committee members Wes Fang (Nationals MLC) and Liberal MLCs Scott Farlow and Peter Poulos issued a dissenting statement to the interim report, labelling it “nothing short of a politically motivated hit job in the lead-up to an election”.

“Everything contained within this report should be seen through that lens,” their statement read.

They noted the appointment had been subject to two independent inquiries.

The Graeme Head inquiry looked into the STIC Americas appointment process’ ethical framework and found it did not meet the public’s expectations for the process to have been merit-based.

While a separate inquiry into whether Mr Ayres breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct found he had complied with his obligations.

The three MLC’s statement said the findings, particularly around Mr Ayres, had been “ignored” in “an attempt to score political points” and recommended its findings be “rejected”.

“This was not the ‘jobs for the boys’ appointment that has been alleged by this partisan report,” the dissenting statement said.

“Panel members asserted, while the process was imperfect, Mr Barilaro was appointed by a competitive GSE selection process, which was endorsed by all panel members.”

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There were 12 public hearings where witnesses were grilled for the inquiry, including recruitment panel member and former Investment CEO Amy Brown and Mr Barilaro’s former Chief of Staff Mark Connell, who claimed his boss said, “this is the job for when I get the f*** out of this place” at the time.

Mr Barilaro fronted the inquiry for several hours – calling himself the “unluckiest man in NSW” – before pulling out of further questioning for mental health reasons.

Some evidence has also been referred to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

The issue will continue to be investigated, particularly the Agent General appointment process, in the final report.

Mr Barliaro withdrew from the STIC Americas post last year, with the position on hold due to the inquiry.

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Charges of assault and malicious damage against Mr Barliaro were also dismissed on mental health grounds.

The order was made at the Sydney Downing Centre local court on Friday (3 February).

Mr Barilaro previously entered not guilty pleas to both charges.

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But did not Albanese say on a number of occasions he was not going to offer Rudd any posting or position. Now Rudd is going to the US as Ambassador. Heaven help the US.

Good to see Catherine focusing on the big issue here by obsessing about the terminology used.
As Barilaro is a man then “Jobs for the Boys” is actually totally appropriate.

Marco Prevost2:28 pm 06 Feb 23

I find it disappointing that we don’t seem to have an open conversation about the use of ‘nangs’ and the destructive effects of these things on young minds, not to mention the appalling mess that is left in areas where they are consumed such as Glebe Park. I work in the health industry and in the course of a conversation at work I mentioned these issues, what surprised me was the lack of knowledge amongst some the parents of teenage children. Lets not sweep this under the carpet it an appalling health risk to mind, body and the environment.

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