A senior NSW government bureaucrat has told an inquiry the lucrative New York-based trade job given to John Barilaro was “put on a slightly separate path” to similar roles.
- Amy Brown is giving evidence for the second time at the parliamentary inquiry
- Trade Minister Stuart Ayres this morning resigned
- John Barilaro has withdrawn from the $500,000 a year role
Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown is being grilled for a second time at a parliamentary inquiry into the appointment of the former deputy premier as the state’s senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas.
This morning, Ms Brown told the inquiry she had a meeting with former trade minister Stuart Ayres on October 12 last year.
The inquiry was shown an email sent by one of Ms Brown’s staff shortly after that meeting, which included the line “the Minister would like to leave the New York post vacant for now”.
But Ms Brown told the inquiry it had actually been her decision to leave the post open, because of various factors, including tax hurdles and “serious performance issues” with a candidate who had initially been successful in applying for the role, Jenny West.
“I didn’t go into any particular detail about some of the performance issues I was starting to become aware of with regard to Ms West,” she told the inquiry.
“That was more conversations I was having with her team, as at that point, they were directly reporting to me because she was on extended leave.
“I said, ‘well, in light of the fact that we can’t offer anyone the job for some time, is it your view that we should keep that recruitment process closed and reopen it at another time?'”
She told the inquiry that Mr Ayres agreed.
“Any conversation I had with Minister Ayres were, therefore, to a degree, influential on my decision but in my view, it did not amount to undue influence because at all times, I felt that the decision was mine, ultimately mine to make, she said.
Labor MLC Daniel Mookhey Ms Brown asked whether this meant the Americas position was put “on a slightly separate path” to other similar roles around the globe, to which she replied “yes”.
“I think it was a pragmatic piece of advice from me that we couldn’t fill the role for some time and his response was, ‘well then it makes sense to keep it vacant,’ she told the inquiry.
“I think we both concluded, given everything that had happened, it would be sensible to go back to market when we were ready to put a contract on the table and when we could take stock of where things were at.”
Mr Ayres, who maintains he has done nothing wrong throughout the process, this morning resigned from the NSW ministry, after weeks of being linked to Mr Barilaro’s appointment.
Mr Barilaro’s appointment has been put under the microscope for several weeks and is the subject of two separate inquiries.
He has since withdrawn from the $500,000-a-year position.
Mr Barilaro is due to appear before the inquiry on Monday.
Premier Dominic Perrottet has also ordered a separate review into the recruitment process for the role.