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John Barilaro gives evidence to NSW Parliament inquiry into $500k New York job over Jenny West 

The former deputy premier of NSW, John Barilaro, has begun giving evidence to an inquiry into his appointment to a ‘dream job’ in New York paying $500,000 a year. 

In his opening statement, Mr Barilaro said the upper house inquiry is ‘an inquiry to clear my name’.

He said being a former MP did not take away his ‘fundamental right’ to a presumption of innocence. 

‘I refute any suggestions that I sought out any special treatment during the public service job process where an independent panel, on merit, put me forward as the preferred candidate,’ he said. 

Mr Barilaro said he had ‘endured what can only be described as a personal hell, unfair and unjust’. 

A senior public servant was initially promised the elite level trade job in New York before it was given to Mr Barilaro. 

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro is pictured leaving the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney, Wednesday, March 23, 2022

The scandal surrounding the appointment of Mr Barilaro to a New York trade role dragged in three high-flying female executives and destroyed a friendship between two of them.

The public servant in charge of hiring for the job, Investment NSW executive Amy Brown, told a parliamentary inquiry looking into the recruitment process on that the experience had been a ‘confusing’ and ‘disheartening’ one.

The political drama has also drawn in highly accomplished businesswoman Kimberley Cole and former NSW Investment executive Jenny West, once a friend of Ms Brown’s.

Both lost out to former NSW deputy premier Mr Barilaro for the New York role even after Ms West received a text, complete with champagne and Statue of Liberty emojis, from Ms Brown that she had job before seeing it ripped away in 2021.

The job was readvertised this year and Ms Cole was the preferred candidate after interviews but failed to impress trade minister Stuart Ayres after being given just 12 minutes to chat with him over video link.

The job eventually went to Mr Barilaro, who signed a contact in June but stepped down last month after public outcry.

The now abandoned Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas job has seen two months of negative headlines for the NSW Liberal-National Coalition government and has already cost one minister his job.

Deputy Liberal leader Stuart Ayres resigned last Wednesday after a draft review into the scandal found Mr Ayres may have breached the ministerial code of conduct. 

Award-winning Australian businesswoman Kimberley Cole (pictured) was drawn into the NSW New York trade job scandal

Award-winning Australian businesswoman Kimberley Cole (pictured) was drawn into the NSW New York trade job scandal

Speaking at a lengthy press conference last week, a stressed-looking NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet said Mr Ayres’ ‘intention to resign follows a briefing I received from the Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary yesterday afternoon’.

‘I subsequently discussed the issues raised in that briefing with Mr Ayres,’ said Mr Perrottet. 

He added that the draft report ‘raised a concern as to whether Mr Ayres had complied with the ministerial code of conduct’.

‘When I put these matters to Mr Ayres, he offered his resignation from the ministry and as deputy leader Parliamentary Liberal Party,’ Mr Perrottet said.

‘An investigation will now be undertaken to determine if Mr Ayres has breached the ministerial code of conduct.’

The Premier hinted that Mr Ayres had little choice but to resign, saying ‘very simply, I based my decision making on the information that I received’.

Mr Ayres was the second NSW ministerial casualty in just four days. 

Mr Perrottet sacked NSW Fair Trading Minister Eleni Petinos over bullying allegations.

Ms Petinos was accused of calling a staff member ‘ret**ded’ and ‘stupid’, allegations she strenuously denied.

In a dreadful couple of months for the Liberal-National Coalition, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption also found former minister John Sidoti engaged in ‘serious corrupt conduct’ over family-owned properties.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (pictured) is under pressure following an alleged 'jobs for the boys' scandal

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet (pictured) is under pressure following an alleged ‘jobs for the boys’ scandal

And Kiama MP Gareth Ward resigned from the ministry and moved to the crossbench due to a police investigation into him.

In March, Ward was charged over allegations of sexual abuse against a man and a 17-year-old boy.

The appointment of the former NSW deputy premier and Nationals leader Mr Barilaro to a US trade job earlier this year has been an escalating scandal for the government.

Mr Barilaro and his new partner were filmed lunging at camera crews after being confronted outside a bar on Sydney’s northern beaches late last month, in a sign the pressure of the situation may have been getting to him.

He was locked in a scuffle with two cameramen after he was confronted during a night out, with police now investigating the very public row.

Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s opening statement to NSW Parliament inquiry into trade commissioner to the Americas role

‘I refute any suggestion of wrongdoing. Refute the suggestion that I created the role for myself.

‘I refute any suggestions that I sought out any special treatment during the public service job process where an independent panel, on merit, put me forward as the preferred candidate.

‘We’ve heard from long term, professional senior public servants, that I was a credible and capable candidate that brought many attributes to fill this important role for the people of our great state.

‘For that, I had my credentials and application publicly derided and what is nothing less than an abuse of my privacy.

‘Let me make this clear. I applied for a public service job as a private citizen. Nothing excluded me in doing so. 

‘I followed the exact same process that was afforded to others.

‘I went through several interviews, psychometric testing and police checks. I was offered a job. I accepted the job. I then withdrew from this job.

‘From that moment, I’ve enjoyed what can only be described as a personal hell, unfair and unjust. 

‘I look forward today to stating my case to this committee.’

 

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