Californian NSW trade office closed prior to New York office opening

By Anna Macdonald

July 25, 2022

Cate Faehrmann-Robert Borsak
Inquiry Chair Cate Faehrmann (left) and deputy chair Robert Borsak. (AAP Image/Bianca De Marchi)

There has been a new development in the saga of former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro’s appointment as senior trade and investment commissioner (STIC) to the Americas, as it has been reported that a Californian-based New South Wales trade commissioner was made to work from home after the government decided to relocate the office to New York.

The Guardian Australia has reported the public servant was made to work out of their home after their San Franciscan office closed — confirmed in March 2022 — while the government announced in December 2019 it would be opening an office in New York. 

In a statement to the Guardian, Investment NSW said the office closure was due to COVID-19 lockdowns but did not provide reasons for the office move from the west to east coast. 

The news comes after last week Barilaro’s former chief of staff, Mark Connell, alleged to the ongoing upper house inquiry that Barilaro wanted a trade role “when I get the f@#k out of this place”.

In a letter made public by the upper house inquiry, Connell said in April 2019 when he reminded the former deputy premier the office was in California, Barilaro had said: “’I’ll get them to put one in New York, that’s where I’m off to.”

Barilaro has denied this conversation took place, calling it “fictitious, fictitious, false and only serves as a reminder as to why we had to part ways”.

“If this inquiry is genuine in its intent to understand the process and the truth by which I was appointed, then surely I would be called up to provide this detail immediately.

“The continued drip feed of select information from the inquiry into the public domain goes against all procedural fairness,” Barilaro said. 

The former deputy premier will no longer be taking up the STIC Americas role, having previously said the media attention made it untenable for him to perform the role. 

Labor MP Daniel Mookhey, who is a member of the upper house inquiry, called the office closure “suspicious”.

“It’s awfully suspicious that the government closed the California office to open a new one in New York. 

“We could have saved ourselves nearly $1 million in disruptions costs by basing the Americas position in California,” Mookhey said. 

There have been calls for the NSW Legislative Council to resit because of a failure to produce documents relating to the upper house inquiry, with the chair of said inquiry and NSW Greens member Cate Faehrman being amongst those calling for the resit. 


READ MORE:

Investment NSW CEO appears before Barilaro inquiry

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