12 July 2022

'Explosive evidence' from Barilaro Inquiry sent to corruption watchdog

| Claire Fenwicke
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The transcript from the 11 July Public Accountability Committee inquiry will be sent to NSW ICAC. Photo: Public Service Association.

Evidence from the Parliamentary Inquiry into how John Barilaro received a top trade job has been sent to the NSW corruption watchdog.

The Public Accountability Committee heard from the former chosen candidate for the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner (STIC) to the Americas Jenny West yesterday (11 July).

She claimed that when she was told she would no longer have the position, it would instead “be a present for someone”.

READ ALSO Barilaro Inquiry: Dropped candidate told top US trade job would be a ‘present for someone’

Committee chair and Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann said a copy of the 11 July transcript would be sent to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC).

“The evidence that the Public Accountability Committee heard from Ms Jenny West, former Deputy Secretary of Investment NSW, about the circumstances and reasons why she did not get the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas role, was nothing short of explosive,” she said.

“The committee was particularly concerned at Ms West’s evidence that the role was being given as a ‘present’ to someone else.

“The public demands that public service roles, funded by the taxpayer dollar, be recruited with the highest level of integrity. It is clear that this has not been the case in this situation.”

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Committee member and shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey said the “explosive evidence” raised questions over how involved Trade Minister Stuart Ayres was in the hiring process.

“This raises very, very serious questions to do with the culture that’s taken root inside the NSW government after 12 years in office,” he said.

“All the evidence in front of us suggests Minister Ayres and his office were closely involved in this process from the moment he became minister.”

Premier Dominic Perrottet has called the claims made at the inquiry “concerning”.

“There is absolutely no place for gifts of government jobs, whether they are statutory appointments or whether they are government sector appointments,” he said.

Mr Perrottet confirmed the separate inquiry he ordered into the matter was still underway and he expected a result in “a couple of weeks”.

He also reaffirmed his commitment to make the report’s results public and to adopt any recommendations made “as soon as possible”.

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Mr Ayres has rejected any suggestion he used “political influence” during the STIC Americas recruitment process.

“I did not say the job was to be a ‘present’ for anyone and I find that idea to be offensive,” he said.

“The fact is, all my actions have been to ensure the independence of the public service during this recruitment process.

“[Investment NSW CEO] Amy Brown is and was the decision-maker for this role. Her evidence has been clear and consistent that this is a decision for the Secretary and one I did not influence.”

Another hearing into this matter has been scheduled for Tuesday, 19 July, with invitations issued to the General Counsel of the Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment and two former staffers of Mr Barilaro.

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Does this mean NSW will loose another Premier.

Reading the article (which doesn’t necessarily mean it’s true), it appears that Trade Minister Stuart Ayres might have “some ‘splainin’ to do” – whereas Perrotet either had no direct knowledge or kept himself in the ‘plausible deniability’ sphere.

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