NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet says his departmental head will review the controversial appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to a plum trade post in New York.
The government last week announced Mr Barilaro’s appointment as a senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas, on a $500,000 pay packet, saying it followed a “highly competitive and rigorous global talent search”.
However questions have been raised about the appropriateness of the appointment process amid reports that the position was originally offered to a senior public servant but rescinded.
According to the Guardian, former deputy secretary trade and international at Investment NSW and general manager of digital transformation and client services at Austrade Jenny West was offered the role last August but it was rescinded last September.
Mr Barilaro resigned from parliament the following month.
Mr Barilaro was Minister for Regional New South Wales, Industry and Trade in 2020 when he created five senior trade and investment commissioner positions, including the one he now holds.
Conflict of interest
Labor Leader Chris Minns has raised questions of a conflict of interest during the recruitment process.
“It’s been revealed that an official who interviewed John Barilaro for the NYC role – used to report to him when he was Minister,” Mr Minns tweeted.
“They claim there is no conflict of interest. This is the same role Barilaro created. A role he now has.”
Mr Perrottet has previously defended the appointment as “a public service appointment” but on Thursday he said he would direct the head of his department, Micheal Coutts-Trotter, to conduct a review.
“I’ve directed the secretary of the Department of Premier and Cabinet to conduct a review,” he told reporters.
“He will provide that report to me … I will review it and I will make it public.”
Public sector positions
On Wednesday a motion passed the upper house temporarily blocking Mr Barilaro from taking the role pending a parliamentary inquiry.
In moving the motion, Opposition Leader in the Upper House Penny Sharpe described Mr Barilaro’s appointment as “unacceptable” and “one of the murkiest that we have seen from this 12-year-old Government.”
But Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade Stuart Ayres said senior trade and investment commissioners were public sector positions and as such it was inappropriate for them to be endorsed or approved by Cabinet.
“I reject in the strongest possible terms that the appointment of Mr Barilaro, as quoted in some media outlets, was a ‘captain’s pick’ or a unilateral decision by me or any other minister” Mr Ayers told parliament on Wednesday.
“I am advised that Mr Barilaro was appointed following an independent and open recruitment process.”