An explosive email is threatening to discredit claims the New South Wales Coalition wasn’t closely involved in ensuring John Barilaro got a $500,000-a-year job in New York.
An email between high-ranking public servants suggests colleagues of the former deputy premier were involved in the hiring process that saw him handed a cushy New York job that had already been offered to someone else.
It comes despite the state government protesting that hiring for the NSW government’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner to the Americas role was conducted at ‘arm’s length’ from the government.
Barilaro had hoped his exit from state politics would be softened with the highly-paid posting in the US, but the circumstances surrounding the job offer have left the state government embroiled in an embarrassing scandal.
An email between a senior public servant Amy Brown (pictured) and the New South Wales Trade Minister threatens to blow away previous claims the NSW government weren’t involved in the appointment of John Barilaro to a cushy job in New York
The government was forced to hand over a cache of sensitive documents on Thursday afternoon to the NSW Legislative Council inquiry.
One of the more eyebrow-raising documents was an email from Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown to a colleague, revealing Trade Minister Stuart Ayres had reviewed and added a name to the short-list for the New York posting.
‘Min Ayres and I have run through the ‘long’ shortlist and our recommended ‘short’ shortlist for NYC,’ the email read.
‘He’d like to add (redacted name) to the short shortlist please.’
That person’s identity has not been confirmed.
The email (mock-up pictured) seems to imply trade minister Stuart Ayres was consulted in the hiring process of the American commissioner role, despite previous claims the government was kept at arm’s length from the hiring process
Ms Brown was responsible for overseeing the recruitment process for the trade commissioner role.
Minister Ayres has so far maintained hiring procedures were conducted at ‘arm’s length’ from the government.
‘I have not under any circumstances influenced the decisions of Amy Brown in who she is selecting as senior executives of the public service,’ Ayres said, while in Mumbai, where he is finishing up a visit with Premier Dominic Perrottet.
Mr Ayres insisted Mr Barilaro applied for the job as a private citizen.
Another document shows Mr Ayres and Mr Barilaro met on or before June 16, and Mr Ayres had indicated he supported his appointment.
Labor said the public accountability committee has scheduled hearings after brokering a deal with the government to release three large tranches of documents relating to the hiring of the former NSW Nationals leader.
‘This is a victory for the public’s right to know and it’s a defeat of the government’s attempt to cover up these documents and the information they contain,’ Labor’s Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said.
‘Stuart Ayres hasn’t been arm’s length from this process.
‘He’s had his fingers all over this process from the moment he became the minister for trade.’
The inquiry previously heard Mr Barilaro had stated he’d get ‘them’ to put an office in New York – ‘that’s where I’m off to’ he reportedly said
Earlier, Barilaro’s former chief of staff accused the former NSW deputy premier of boasting about moving to New York for a top trade job and ‘getting the f*** out’ of Sydney.
In sensational evidence to a parliamentary inquiry, Mark Connell recalled that Mr Barilaro had just come from a meeting with then-Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and minister Mr Ayres when he made the alleged comments.
Mr Barilaro had only been appointed the state’s trade minister the month before, Mr Connell said, adding he had come directly to his office after the meeting.
‘He said, “I’ve just come from a meeting with Dom and Stuart regarding trade and we’re going to bring back the Agent General in London as well as a bunch of other postings around the world”,’ the staffer said.
‘I responded to Mr Barilaro and stated, “but John, the Agent General role will be filled well before you retire from this place”.’
He claimed Mr Barilaro then said: ‘I don’t want to go to London, f*** that, I’m off to New York.’
When told the office wasn’t in New York, but California, the former deputy premier then allegedly said: ‘I’ll get them to put one in New York, that’s where I’m off to.’
The bombshell statement came amid growing criticism around the decision to appoint Mr Barilaro to the top trade posting, which was allegedly offered to another top public servant, Jenny West.
Ms West had been given the job and documents show she had been approved to receive additional allowances for living expenses in New York so she would not have to ‘dip into her savings’.
Mr Connell said he served as the chief of staff to the former deputy premier from April 2017 to December 2019.
Ms Brown revealed to the inquiry the total cost of fitting out a ‘shell’ of an office within the Australian Consulate in New York for the job was $943,260.