Labor is now questioning Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown about the recruitment process for the trade commissioner role based in London.
While it does not relate directly to former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s appointment to the New York position, the opposition is focusing on whether candidates for other trade roles were given special treatment, and whether that involved any government ministers.
Brown has told the inquiry that the London process was run out of NSW Treasury in 2020 and 2021. She said the successful London candidate had been added to the process “late” and, when he was negotiating his contract, felt he had an “elevated status”.
“When negotiations got particularly difficult he said, ‘I’ll just escalate this to the deputy premier or the premier,’” Brown said.
This has been the dialogue:
Work: Has there been a situation in which a person has been appointed to a [trade commissioner position] who wasn’t a shortlisted candidate?
Brown: I don’t have visibility of the process that occurred inside NSW Treasury for the first two appointments … My understanding is that they had a first go at the shortlisting and interview process [for the London position]. There was a front-running candidate and the view was taken that that person was not acceptable.
Work: The view was taken by whom?
Brown: I’m not sure precisely. [Former treasury secretary Mike] Pratt was running the process.
Work: The first process wraps up and there is no suitable candidate found. Is that fair?
Brown: I’m not able to give very much detail because I wasn’t involved… The process was transferred to me once [successful candidate Stephen Cartwright] had been identified as the preferred candidate and reference checks were under way in contract negotiations.
Work: How was Mr Cartwright identified, because I can’t see any repeat of the process?
Brown: I’m not entirely sure of the process, I just know that he was recommended into the process by [former] Secretary Pratt and considered late, and then was the preferred candidate.
Work: Do you believe Mr Pratt would have had conversations with [then-treasurer Dominic Perrottet and then-trade minister John Barilaro] in relation to this appointment?
Brown: I can’t provide any knowledge or understanding on that… In contract negotiations with Mr Cartwright, I got the impression that he felt he had some sort of an elevated status.
Work: What do you mean by elevated status?
Brown: When negotiations got particularly difficult he said, “I’ll just escalate this to the deputy premier or the premier.”
Brown said the contract negotiations took place in late October last year, meaning Dominic Perrottet was the premier being referred to at the time.