‘Do the honourable thing’: NSW minister tells John Barilaro to withdraw from New York job | New South Wales politics

It’s been revealed John Barilaro contacted NSW deputy Liberal party leader Stuart Ayres to enquire about “the status” of a $500,000 New York trade commissioner job before it is publicly advertised, as pressure grows on the former deputy premier to withdraw from the role.

On Thursday, the NSW transport minister, David Elliott, broke ranks and called for Barilaro to “do the honorable thing” and quit of his own accord.

“My very, very strong view is that he shouldn’t be going to New York, and I’m pretty sure that that’s the view of most people in this state,” Elliott said.

Shortly afterward, Ayres, who took over as trade minister after Barilaro announced his resignation from parliament in October 2021, told media he “had some concerns” when the former deputy premier contacted him in December to ask about the trade job.

“He contacted me via text message late last year, indicating that he was interested in it,” Ayres said in his first comments on the saga outside parliament since Barilaro was announced in the job a fortnight ago.

“I made it very clear to him that we were continuing with the existing process [and] I informed him that they would be publicly advertised and he, like any other private citizen, will be able to apply.”

Asked about Elliott’s comments, Ayres, who oversees the department that made the appointment, Investment NSW, gave the clearest signal that the saga has become an unwelcome headache for the government.

“That is an option for John Barilaro to consider,” he said.

“Unfortunately, I cannot direct [Investment NSW CEO] Amy Brown as the employer of this role on what to do.

“She has to come to that conclusion herself, or John can decide that he no longer wants to do the job he’s been selected for.”

On Wednesday, Brown told the first public hearing of an upper house inquiry into the appointment that Ayres had given her a “heads up” that the former deputy premier might apply for the job.

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During the hearing, Brown insisted Ayres had not indicated any opinion on Barilaro’s appointment. Asked why he’d done that, Ayres said on Thursday that he knew it would create “political contention” if the former deputy premier got the job.

“There’s no doubt that I was always of the view and had some concerns that if Mr. Barilaro succeeded in this appointment, it would create political contention,” he said.

But, he said, it would have been inappropriate to intervene in the hiring process.

“I think I can say to everyone here, I’m hardly known as the flag bearer of the John Barilaro fan club, but he’s a private citizen, and we’ve got to be able to make sure that any private citizen who applies for a role gets a fair hearing,” he said.

“I didn’t conduct those processes [but] I do live in the real world [and] I recognize, particularly, there’s going to be media interest around the appointments of former politicians.

“This is an invidious position in many respects. We create a hands-off recruitment process where politicians don’t engage in the recruitment process, and that process selects a former politician and immediately creates questions. That’s a very difficult position for the public service to be.”

On Wednesday, Brown told the inquiry that another candidate – businesswoman and former public servant Jenny West – was offered the role in August but was rescinded after she received instructions to make the trade commissioner jobs ministerial appointments.

She was informed of that “government decision” by Barilaro’s office. A few days later, the former deputy premier announced his resignation, and Ayres took over the portfolio.

Ayres then decided to keep the jobs “at arm’s length from politicians” by allowing them to remain as public service appointments.

On Wednesday, the inquiry heard that before the “government decision” to make the roles ministerial appointments, Brown had been asked by staff in Barilaro’s office for advice on how that could be done.

She was told during the same meeting that the deputy premier “wanted to know”.

Barilaro has been approached for a response.

Bella E. McMahon
I am a freelance writer who started blogging in college. I am fascinated by human nature, politics, culture, technology, and pop culture. In addition to my writing, I enjoy exploring new places, trying out new things, and engaging in conversations with new people. Some of my favorite hobbies are reading, playing music, making crafts, writing, traveling, and spending time with my family.