On Tuesday morning, NSW Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade (DEIT) general counsel Chris Carr appeared in front of the upper house inquiry into the appointment of John Barilaro as senior trade and investment commissioner (STIC) to the Americas.
The legal counsel said former public servant Jenny West had never been “fully offered” the job. Carr pointed out US tax implications delayed the signing of a contract, and described West’s status in her job application was ‘well-advanced but not at the end of it’.
Carr refuted West’s statements that she was not communicating with Investment NSW and she had “heard nothing”.
“That is not correct, and could create the perception of an uncaring public service,” Carr said.
According to Carr, Investment NSW’s lawyers and West’s lawyers had been in contact since October 2021 on a variety of matters.
The legal counsel added West did have an opportunity to explain her situation when she received her letter of termination from secretary of the NSW Department of Premier and Cabinet Michael Coutts-Trotter.
In his opening statement, Carr said he had never been contacted by Barilaro’s office on whether the appointments could be changed from public service appointments to ministerial, with the request for advice coming from Investment NSW.
Carr said he had not been in contact with Barilaro until he was offered the job earlier this year, when Barilaro had become a private citizen.
Carr added there could be limitations in his evidence as legal privilege may apply.
West had said she had spoken to Carr about her employment issues, having verbally been offered the STICs Americas role, then had that offer withdrawn and was then made redundant from her role as deputy secretary at Investment NSW.
West said Carr was “horrified” at how she had been treated.
Another inquiry, led by former NSW public service commissioner Graeme Head, has been set up at the direction of NSW premier Dominic Perrottet.
There have been rumours of a third inquiry, with the upper house inquiry sending West’s evidence to the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) last week.
At the federal level, independent member of parliament Sophie Scamps has said she will introduce legislation later in the year to “establish an independent and merit-based process” for candidates for government jobs.
“We need to depoliticise political appointments to help restore trust in our public institutions and to ensure we do not have another Barilaro-style scandal at a federal level,” Scamps said in a statement.
We need to depoliticise political appointments. I will be introducing a Private Members Bill to establish an independent & merit-based process to select candidates. We need to restore trust in our public institutions & ensure we don't have a Barilaro-type scandal Federally pic.twitter.com/KJz1ma2Cl6
— Dr Sophie Scamps (@SophieScamps) July 18, 2022