John Barilaro's office asked if changes to plum trade job recruitment were possible, inquiry told
An inquiry into John Barilaro's appointment to a plum New York-based trade job has heard his office asked if a change to the recruitment process was possible.
Mr Barilaro, the former deputy premier who resigned from parliament last year, was announced as the state's trade commissioner to the Americas almost a fortnight ago, with a salary package topping $500,000.
A parliamentary inquiry into the appointment began on Wednesday.
Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told the inquiry the request, which ultimately stalled the recruitment process for several trade roles, came from an adviser in Mr Barilaro's office during a meeting.
She told the inquiry the person had asked if the recruitment process for the positions could be changed so that they were direct ministerial appointments.
The agency was close to announcing another successful candidate in August last year before the recruitment was stalled while advice was sought about converting the appointment process.
Mr Barilaro announced he would leave politics a day after the recruitment process was formally stopped.
Ultimately, the trade roles were not converted to ministerial appointments.
Ms Brown told the inquiry that the request to look into transitioning the roles to ministerial appointments came from a member of the then-deputy premier's office.
"Did he in any way convey this was a request from the deputy premier himself," Labor MP Courtney Houssos asked.
"Um, yes," Ms Brown replied.
Under questioning from Greens MLC Cate Faehrmann about why there had been a preferred candidate referred to in internal emails up until September, Ms Brown said a previous candidate, Jenny West, was made a verbal offer for the role.
"We conducted a recruitment process including panel interviews, there was a first-ranked candidate … she was verbally offered the role and then I was given a direction by government to cease the recruitment due to a change in government policy to convert the roles into statutory officers appointed by a minister," she told the inquiry.
"It was a decision of government, it would have come through the responsible minister being the minister for industry and trade … Mr John Barilaro."
Ms Brown said she was informed of the decision of government on September 27.
She said in early October she had a conversation with Trade Minister Stuart Ayres in the days following the resignation of Mr Barilaro from state parliament.
She said Mr Ayres decided to push forward with the recruitment of the remaining trade commissioner roles, including the US role because preparing legislation would cause delays.
Labor MLC Daniel Mookhey questioned why, considering only a matter of days had passed, they hadn't then continued with the recruitment of the original candidate.
"Given we'd spent hundreds of thousands of dollars recruiting a person you've just said now was an excellent candidate, you told that candidate … on the first of October she wasn't getting it, and then six days later or thereabouts you're advising Minister Ayres about tax issues (causing delays) but you have a candidate who you've assessed as being excellent for the job," Mr Mookhey said.
"Why don't you just say to Minister Ayres let's just appoint this successful candidate in December rather than having to run a whole second process?"
"That's a very good question… the news was delivered on the first of October, she was extremely upset about that understandably," Ms Brown said.
"To me the fact we couldn't appoint anyone for some period of time and the fact she was very unhappy with the arrangements and government, the whole situation felt quite irreconcilable.
"The relationship declined quite quickly once she was informed that she may not be going to New York so by the end of the first process I'd formed the view there was no suitable candidate."
We acknowledge Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples as the First Australians and Traditional Custodians of the lands where we live, learn, and work.
This service may include material from Agence France-Presse (AFP), APTN, Reuters, AAP, CNN and the BBC World Service which is copyright and cannot be reproduced.
AEST = Australian Eastern Standard Time which is 10 hours ahead of GMT (Greenwich Mean Time)