Investment NSW managing director Kylie Bell has revealed she was the one who told John Barilaro he was successful in his application to the role of senior trade and investment commissioner (STIC).
Bell said she texted Barilaro about his success on May 23, and then later had a call with him the following day about his successful application to the role.
The public servant added she would have assumed the recruitment firm NGS Global would have “warmed him up” over the success of his application.
Bell reiterated Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown’s sentiments that the first version of a report about several potential candidates from NGS Global was not accurate, where Barilaro was assessed as lower as another candidate for the role.
“We weren’t just looking for someone that was a good leader or who had done good in business. We were actually looking for someone that could sell New South Wales to the US and could walk into a room with a business leader and talk about what is happening in this state,” Bell said.
The managing director added she believed the other female candidate — Kimberley Cole — was ranked above Barilaro as a desire to hire a female candidate had been expressed, as all previous STIC roles had been filled by males.
Bell speculated that may have contributed to why the recruitment firm ranked the female candidate above Barilaro.
“Someone should not be employed because they’re a female if they are not the best person for the job,” Bell stated.
A female STIC was eventually appointed to the role of STIC Greater China, announced at the same time as Barilaro’s.
Additionally, the New York office where Barilaro was destined to be based has taken on additional staff since this saga has begun, bringing the office headcount to three (including a contractor) with a fourth on the way.
Bell said the decision to move the office to New York was based on the city being viewed as the financial hub of the US as well as its proximity to Washington DC. The managing director added the decision to move the office would have been made in November 2019 by cabinet.
The public servant added she decided to endorse Barilaro for the role of STIC Americas based on “his skills and experience with this particular role”.
“I have been a dedicated public servant for more than 20 years and I’m committed to helping Australian and NSW businesses succeed and grow. My entire career has been focused on this goal,” the public servant stated.
Barilaro’s former chief of staff Siobhan Hamlin also appeared on Friday morning, saying she could not recall Barilaro inquiring about the role for himself personally.
When Labor MP Daniel Mookhey inquired whether it was fair to characterise while Hamlin was focused on the releasing of NSW’s roadmap out of COVID-19, Barilaro was making “urgent” inquiries about changing the appointments from public service to ministerial appointments.
In response, Hamlin said that was a question for Barilaro and while there was a COVID-19 response, regular government processes were occurring but emphasised that was where her priorities lay.
“As I said in my opening statement, my priorities between February 2020 and October 2021 was rolling crises — quite frankly — moving from bushfires into COVID-19 and the various challenges that are related to that,” the former chief of staff said.