‘Final decision-maker’ who picked John Barilaro for trade job directly reported to him as public servant | New South Wales

A senior public servant who directly reported to John Barilaro was the “final decision-maker” in appointing the former deputy premier to a plum $500,000-a-year trade job in New York, the premier, Dominic Perrottet, has told parliament.

On Wednesday, Perrottet revealed that Amy Brown, the chief executive of Investment NSW, was responsible for hiring Barilaro over the highly-qualified businesswoman Jenny West, who had previously been identified as the preferred candidate for the job.

It came after the Guardian revealed on Wednesday that Brown was directly involved in hiring Barilaro, despite having reported now to him before he left parliament in October of last year.

It can also be revealed that Investment NSW was in the “final stage” of preparing a draft contract for West before pulling the offer in September and that Perrottet was first informed that Barilaro had been given the job in April this year.

In question time on Wednesday, Perrottet told the parliament that as chief executive of Investment NSW, Brown had the final say on who to appoint to the New York City-based trade commissioner role.

Perrottet told parliament that Brown, also the Department of Enterprise, Investment, and Trade secretary, was the “final decision-maker” both in appointing Barilaro and not offering the position to West.

He said that following a briefing with the minister, Stuart Ayres, on Wednesday, he had been told the actual recruitment process for the position “did not identify a suitable candidate” and that a second round of interviews was conducted.

John Barilaro

“The secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Investment, and Trade was the final decision-maker in respect of both recruitment processes, and she’ll be able to explain the basis of her decision-making,” he said.

Perrottet also told parliament that it “would not be lawful” for him to “intervene in any step of the process” in hiring Barilaro for the job, saying that as department head Brown was “authorized” to hire senior executives, including the trade commissioner positions.

Sign up to receive the top stories from Guardian Australia every morning.

The government’s insistence that the first recruitment process did not find a suitable candidate comes despite the Guardian previously revealing West was told she had got the job by former premier Gladys Berejiklian in August last year.

That timeline is confirmed by an internal email, seen by the Guardian, showing that on 22 September, an HR manager at Investment NSW wrote that a “preferred candidate” had been identified for the position and that a draft contract was in the “final stage” of being written.

“Proceeding with background checks and preparing briefs,” the email stated.

In a statement on Wednesday, Investment NSW said there had been “no formal offer” made “or contract issued” during the first recruitment phase. However, the dot point in the email making those references had a line through it, suggesting that the agency had decided not to go ahead with hiring West by that stage. A spokesperson did not answer whether a preferred candidate was identified or whether a verbal offer was made.

Barilaro first announced the creation of five trade commissioners and one agent general based in London in November 2020. At the time, the government said it would spend $112.4m appointing commissioners in Tokyo, New York, Mumbai, Singapore, and Shanghai.

Internal documents obtained through parliament show that by May last year, at least four candidates had been identified for the US-based trade job, with former treasury secretary Mike Pratt endorsing two applicants. By July, interviews were being held with the applicants.

At the same time, Barilaro announced successful candidates in two other trade roles based in Tokyo and London in July and October, respectively. Brown was also involved in their recruitment.

While the cabinet did not approve Barilaro’s position, the Guardian understands the other trade roles.

But despite answering directly to Barilaro as the chief executive of Investment NSW, Investment NSW told the Guardian that Brown had no conflict of interest in appointing the former deputy premier to the role.

“No conflict of interest precluded the Investment CEO from making this appointment,” an agency spokesperson said.

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.