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Barilaro ‘changed trading post rules’

by Anthony L. Gonzalez

The chosen candidate for a plum NSW overseas trade role was dumped after changes requested by then-Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro, who later took the job.

An NSW parliamentary inquiry into Barilaro’s appointment as trade ambassador to New York is expected to hear from the dumped candidate, senior NSW Investment Bureaucrat Jenny West.

The upper house committee was told that Commerce Secretary and Investment NSW Chief Amy Brown had to withdraw an initial oral offer of the job to Ms. West last year.

“She was very upset about that, understandably,” Ms. Brown said Wednesday.

The relationship with Ms. West, who did not mention Ms. Brown in her evidence, became “incompatible,” She was deemed unfit for the position.

Barilaro 'changed trading post rules'

The senior trade and investment commissioner position comes with a salary of $487,000 plus a living cost of $16,000.

Mr. Barilaro’s appointment to the lucrative New York post, due to begin July 12, was announced earlier this month and is under investigation by the investigation.

Controversy over the appointment has dogged the government for nearly two weeks, diverting attention from its large spending budget.

Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet has given the green light for an independent review of the recruitment process, which he expects in a few weeks.

“I will look at the recommendations and any measures that need to be taken,” he said on Tuesday.

Ms. Brown, who reported to Mr. Barilaro when he was NSW Secretary of State for Trade, was outraged at how her former boss came to take up the post.

Mr. Barilaro’s office filed a request in late September to move the position of trade commissioner from an internal decision for Investment NSW to a decision subject to cabinet approval.

The cabinet is made up of high-level ministers, including Mr. Perrottet.

Investment NSW was forced to freeze all existing processes, and Ms. West’s oral offer was withdrawn on October 1.

On October 4, Barilaro announced his retirement from MP.

He was one of a handful of MPs who announced their retirement in October following the resignation of then Prime Minister Gladys Berejiklian over the fallout from her evidence to the Independent Commission Against Corruption.

Mr. Barilaro was offered the job in May and signed the contract earlier this month following a global recruitment process billed to taxpayers.

The investigation also found that the NSW government has spent nearly $1 million on refurbishing part of the Australian Consulate in New York so that Mr. Barilaro can occupy it.

Labor has said placing the Trade Commissioner is important and wants Mr. Barilaro fired.

“Every taxpayer needs to know if this is value for money and if we are sending the best person to New York,” said the Labor upper house leader Penny Sharpe.

Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said Mr. Perrottet misled the state parliament last week when he said the initial recruitment process failed to find a suitable candidate.

“The Prime Minister needs to show some leadership and make sure John Barilaro doesn’t fly to Manhattan,” he said.

If Mr. Barilaro is removed from office within the six-month probationary period, the taxpayer will owe him a week’s wages; if later released, he may owe the full three-year service.

Labor would like to hear from other candidates to review the hiring process.

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