An NSW government probe into the appointment of former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro to a plum post in New York is farcical, say the state’s opposition.
Labor leader Chris Minns said Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet’s commitment to an internal review was not enough.
“It’s just, I think, a prank at this point,” Mr Minns said Thursday.
The Government announced last week that Mr Barilaro had been appointed the State’s Chief Trade and Investment Commissioner for the Americas, a role created by the former leader of the NSW Nationals.
“We are meant to believe that global research has taken place, not just the eight million people who live in this state, but everyone around the world, to represent the economic and commercial interests of the people of NSW,” said Mr. Minns.
“And the guy they chose was the guy they’ve sat next to for the last 12 years?
“He happened to be the leader of the National Party?”
“It’s a joke.”
Earlier, Mr Perrottet said Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter would conduct a review of the process that led to Mr Barilaro’s appointment.
“He will provide me with this report,” Mr. Perrottet said.
“I will review it and make it public.”
A parliamentary inquiry will also examine the process. It should start in a few weeks.
On Wednesday, Mr Perrottet and Investment Minister Stuart Ayres insisted the appointment had been made through an “independent process”.
Both have named Amy Brown, the former secretary to the Prime Minister’s Department and now CEO of Investment NSW, as the ultimate decision maker.
Ms Brown reported to Mr Barilaro when he was minister responsible for the Department of Business, Investment and Trade.
Mr Perrottet said the initial recruitment phase, which began in March last year, was derailed when Ms Brown said no candidate had been found.
A second process then began, leading to Ms Brown choosing Mr Barilaro for the role, Mr Perrottet said.
Mr Ayres told Question Time on Wednesday that the role had been advertised publicly and that Mr Barilaro had applied as a private citizen.
“His candidacy was not solicited by me as minister or by Investment NSW,” Mr Ayres said.
He informed Mr. Perrottet and Deputy Prime Minister Paul Toole of the secretary’s recommendation to hire Mr. Barilaro on April 30.
Mr Ayres said he had no involvement in Mr Barilaro’s appointment because it came after an “independent, open and merit-based recruitment process” which recommended a “qualified and appropriate”.
“I reject in the strongest possible terms that Mr. Barilaro’s appointment, as quoted in some media, was a ‘captain’s choice’ or a unilateral decision by me or any other minister.”
He said the decision was not necessary to go to Cabinet.
Penny Sharpe, leader of the Labor upper house, said Mr Perrottet and Mr Ayres had recommended approval and bypassed the cabinet to avoid comments from their cabinet colleagues.
A motion was passed by the upper house on Wednesday, temporarily barring Mr. Barilaro from taking on the role until a parliamentary inquiry looks into the process.
Documents reveal that four people were considered for the position during the recruitment process, and two were shortlisted.
One candidate, Jenny West, was told in August by then prime minister Gladys Berejiklian that she had the job, The Guardian reported.
She was later told the offer had been rescinded and she had received a substantial settlement, he added.
Mr. Barilaro resigned from parliament the following month.
Mr Perrottet disputed claims that Ms West had been offered the role, but said he would ‘clarify that’.
He also denied that Mr Barilaro’s appointment was “a captain’s choice”.
“These were public service decisions made through an independent process.”