John Barilaro’s trade appointment in New York showed signs of a ‘job for the lads’, NSW research finds

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The appointment of former New South Wales Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro to a New York trade post followed a “flawed” process that “showed all the hallmarks of a ‘job for the lads’ position,” a report found. parliamentary inquiry.

An interim report published Monday also found that former Commerce Secretary Stuart Ayres, who left cabinet during the saga, “showed poor judgment and impropriety” in his dealings with Barilaro in the run-up to the appointment.

Related: The John Barilaro Factor: Former NSW Deputy Prime Minister becomes central to state campaign

Months after Barilaro’s appointment as senior trade commissioner sparked a firestorm of controversy on Macquarie Street, the cross-party parliamentary inquiry released a damning review of the process that led to him receiving the $500,000-a-year position.

“Despite assurances from senior officials and ministers that the public service appointment process was conducted on a merit-based process, it is clear that the process was flawed and that the executive was not aloof from the process,” said the inquiry chairman. , Cate Faehrmann, MP from the Greens, said in the report.

The saga gripped the government for months last year after revelations by Guardian Australia that Barilaro’s job had been first offered to senior businesswoman and former civil servant Jenny West.

The verbal offer from the agency charged with filling the position, Investment NSW, was withdrawn a month later.

Ayres left cabinet after a separate report commissioned by NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet raised concerns that he may have breached the state’s ministerial code of conduct by having “input” in the shortlisted candidates during the recruitment process. That report, carried out by former NSW public service commissioner Graeme Head, found that the appointment had not been carried out remotely from the government.

Ayres was later cleared of any wrongdoing in the saga in another report, paving the way for his return to cabinet should the coalition return to government in the March election.

Following the release of the report on Monday, Perrottet targeted the investigation, calling it a “political committee”.

“Labour is focused on politics, I’m focused on solving problems,” he said.

“This is a political committee. That’s what it is. I, in my role as Prime Minister, have initiated an independent review [by the] former inspector of the ICAC [Bruce McClintock SC] who has cleared Mr. Ayres of any wrongdoing. I will listen to an independent former inspector of the ICAC over Labor and the Greens on a political committee.”

Despite previously admitting that Barilaro’s nomination was not a step away from the government, Perrottet sought to address those concerns on Monday.

“It is very clear in the report of the former inspector of the Icac … which was covered by the former inspector of the Icac, they can play politics. I am focused on solving problems,” he said.

But the parliamentary inquiry, which consisted of a majority of Greens, Labor and crossbench MPs, focused on his involvement in the saga, saying his dealings with Barilaro “showed poor judgement” and were “inappropriate”.

It found that Ayres was “not aloof during the hiring process” for the position, and that he had “misled the public” by telling parliament that Barilaro’s appointment to the position had been carried out entirely by the public service.

Faehrmann said the investigation found “a lack of transparency and integrity in the way a public sector recruitment process was conducted”.

“The inquiry also revealed the many ‘crossroads’ between a senior civil servant and the then Trade Minister, Mr Stuart Ayres, Member of Parliament, all of which were highly inappropriate and unacceptable,” she wrote.

“The commission found that when it comes to the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner’s recruitment processes, there was a pattern of ministerial interference and lack of government transparency.”

Ayres and Barilaro have consistently denied wrongdoing during the nomination process, and Monday’s report included a dissenting statement from the inquiry’s coalition MPs who rejected the findings.

Labour’s shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey, who sat on the committee and spent hours grilling officials over the appointments during the inquiry, said the saga “would live on in infamy as one of the most notorious jobs for the boys’ scandal that swept New South Wales ever had”. seen”.

“There are two people responsible for this debacle: John Barilaro and Stuart Ayres,” he said. “The contact between the two was inappropriate. It was poor judgment and it should never have happened.”

He also berated Perrottet for rejecting the findings and accused the Prime Minister of “spending more time defending Stuart Ayres rather than holding him accountable for what he did.”

In a statement, Ayres also took aim at the study’s findings, calling it “a poor attempt at political mudslinging” and “politically motivated.”

“At no point did I directly or indirectly encourage the public service to appoint Mr. Barilaro,” he said.

“That decision was taken independently of me as minister. To suggest otherwise is flat out wrong.”

Barilaro has been contacted for comment.

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