Former NSW Deputy Premier and Monaro MP John Barilaro has pulled out of today’s (12 August) parliamentary inquiry hearing about his US trade job.
The Public Accountability Committee issued a statement this morning about why his day-long appearance had been cancelled.
“Mr John Barilaro has informed the committee that due to mental health reasons he is unable to attend today’s hearing,” committee chair Cate Faehrmann said.
“The committee is scheduled to have another hearing on 18 August. The witnesses for that hearing have not yet been confirmed.”
He had previously faced the inquiry on Monday (8 August) but the committee wished for him to return and give further evidence.
“There are still questions that need to be answered about the transparency of the process of his appointment as well as that of the other Senior Trade and Investment Commissioners (STIC),” Ms Faehrmann said.
During his hearing on Monday, Mr Barilaro spoke of his previous mental health issues.
“What I was enduring with the online abuse, the trolling [during my defamation case] … I decided at that point I would not contest the next election,” he said.
“I just couldn’t do it anymore, emotionally, mentally … I worked damn bloody hard to get myself back together.”
Committee members said during his questioning on Monday he would face questions about what his girlfriend knew about the lucrative US trade appointment.
It was revealed during Monday’s questioning of Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown that Mr Barilaro’s girlfriend and former chief of staff Jennifer Lugsdin had been copied into a confidential email that contained a draft copy of the STIC Americas job advertisement.
At the time, she had a position with Investment NSW.
NSW Shadow Minister for Better Regulation and Innovation Courtney Houssos said Mr Barilaro’s statements that he had applied for the role as a private citizen weren’t accurate.
“What we’ve uncovered is that he was talking to the Premier about it, multiple conversations with the Trade Minister, and texting with the Treasurer,” she said.
“The person he was in a relationship with was inside the very organisation at the time that he was applying for this role.
“Now, the revelations in the committee … told us that he was actually having these conversations when he was still a backbench member of the government, not as a private citizen.”
Mr Barilaro has since stood down from the $500,000 a year salaried position.