During Question Time on Wednesday, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet said it would have been inappropriate and unlawful for him to intervene in an apolitical public service appointment process, adding he had consulted with the minister on Wednesday morning.
Perrottet and others were questioned about the recent appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to the role of senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas.
When asked who terminated the offer to experienced public servant Jenny West, who had reportedly been offered the position and then had it withdrawn, NSW premier Dominic Perrottet said it was the CEO of Investment NSW.
“Here are the facts: the first recruitment process did not identify a suitable candidate. As such, a second recruitment process was undertaken. That process was independent and led by a third-party recruiter.
“The secretary for the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade was the final decision maker, irrespective of both recruitment processes, and she’ll be able to explain the process of her decision making,” Perrottet said.
Perrottet went on to say the employment of Barilaro has already been finalised.
Amy Brown is both the secretary of the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade (DEIT) as well as the CEO of Investment NSW, having led the agency since its inception in 2021. When it was set up, the agency reported into Barilaro, then-premier Gladys Berejiklian, and then-jobs minister Stuart Ayres.
During the same Question Time, NSW minister for enterprise, investment and trade, tourism and sport Ayres denied he intervened in the rescinding of West’s appointment to the position.
Ayres continued to say Barilaro applied as a private citizen and was appointed following due diligence and reference checks. The minister further argued it was correct the decision did not go to cabinet.
“If you want to level an accusation, the only accusation that you can level is that I, or any other minister, did not intervene to prevent the appointment of Mr Barilaro following an independent, open, merit-based recruitment process that recommended a qualified, suitable candidate to represent our state’s trade and investment interests,” Ayres said.
Meanwhile, a motion by leader of the opposition in the NSW Legislative Council Penny Sharpe has passed the upper house to delay the appointment, asking first for the Public Accountability Committee to hold an inquiry and report its findings to parliament.
Former NSW premier Bob Carr has also weighed in on the issue, criticising the creation of the position itself.
“I never created such a job when I was premier because I knew an expensive NY office won’t deliver a single new trade contract or dollop of investment. Savvy US business will make its own decisions, not listen to a retired hack spruiking payroll tax concessions. Expensive joke,” Carr tweeted.