NSW Trade Minister Stuart Ayres has conceded that he should have advised former deputy premier John Barilaro not to apply for an overseas trade role.
- Mr Ayres accepts his position would be untenable, if he is proven to have acted improperly
- The NSW Premier says an independent review into Mr Barilaro’s appointment to the trade role is due “very shortly”
- Leaked emails revealed Mr Ayres put forward a name to be added to a shortlist of candidates for the role
Mr Ayres has told Nine Radio that Mr Barilaro’s application for Trade Commissioner to the Americas came too soon after he left parliament, and that he should have advised him not to apply for the role.
“If I had my time again, I would have said to him: ‘The time frame between the end of your parliamentary career and you applying for this job will be too politically sensitive and you should not consider doing the role’,” Mr Ayres said.
He accepted his job was on the line and he would be unable to continue as trade minister if the review found he acted improperly.
“I am confident that all of my actions have been in the best interests of the public and I think that’s what that review will show,” Mr Ayres said.
“If the [Graham] Head review shows that I have not done the right thing, then I don’t think my position would be tenable, but I don’t believe that’s the case.”
Mr Ayres has confirmed he texted a copy of the job advertisement to Mr Barilaro when it was first advertised after Mr Barilaro expressed an interest in the role.
But Mr Ayres has denied he had any role in Mr Barilaro’s subsequent appointment to the role.
“Of course, I undertake my own reflections on my course of action, but everything I’ve done as a minister has been about making sure we deliver the best outcomes for the people of New South Wales,” Mr Ayres said.
“I’ve always acted in the interests of the public.
“I’ve always undertaken my ministerial duties with the highest level of integrity and I’ve always wanted to make decisions in the best interests of the public.”
Mr Barilaro was announced as the successful candidate in June.
The position is based in New York and comes with a $500,000 salary package.
Mr Barilaro later withdrew from the position, saying it had become untenable.
Mr Ayres said Premier Dominic Perrottet had not asked him to stand aside over the matter but admitted it had been a “challenging” few weeks.
“[Mr Perrottet] has been really supportive through this whole exercise,” Mr Ayres said.
“He’s made it pretty clear that he’s put in place the independent review that’s been conducted by Graham Head, a former public service commissioner, and he wants to wait until that review’s completed and he’ll make his decisions after that.”
Deputy Premier and Nationals leader Paul Toole refused to comment directly on whether he supported Mr Ayres but said public confidence in ministers was critical.
“As the leader of the National Party and as the Deputy Premier I have very high standards and I have very clear expectations of my ministers,” he said.
“I expect them to be acting with honesty and integrity at all times.”
Leaked emails last week revealed Mr Ayres put forward a name to be added to a shortlist of candidates for the role, but he maintains that name was not John Barilaro’s.
Documents released yesterday revealed another candidate was recommended ahead of Mr Barilaro before he was later ranked higher.
Mr Perrottet said he was expecting the independent review into Mr Barilaro’s appointment “very shortly”.
Mr Perrottet initiated the review in late June and it has been conducted alongside a parliamentary inquiry.