John Barilaro to face inquiry into $500k-a-year New York trade job appointment
Former NSW Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro will testify before a parliamentary inquiry investigating how he landed a taxpayer-funded trade job in New York.
Labor says the Public Accountability Committee has scheduled a series of hearings after they struck a deal with the government to release three major tranches of documents related to the nomination of the former leader of the NSW Nationals.
“This is a victory for the public’s right to know and a defeat for the government’s attempt to cover up these documents and the information they contain,” Labor shadow treasurer Daniel Mookhey said on Thursday.
Mr. Barilaro, who was announced last month as the state’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for America, will finally tell his side of the story to the upper house inquiry on Aug. 8.
John Barilaro (pictured) will testify on Aug. 8 before a parliamentary inquiry into how he landed a taxpayer-funded trade job in New York
The committee waited to call Barilaro until the government released all requested documents about the controversial appointment.
Mr Barilaro resigned less than two weeks after announcing his appointment as political fallout increased pressure on the Perrottet government.
The investigation hearings resume on Wednesday when Amy Brown, CEO of Investment NSW, appears for the second time.
Another hearing will be held Friday with multiple witnesses, including former Chief of Staff to Mr Barilaro, Siobhan Hamlin, the Secretary of the Department of Regional NSW, Gary Barnes, and employees of Investment NSW.
Ms Brown previously told the investigation that she withdrew her colleague Jenny West’s $500,000-a-year job offer after Ms West’s relationship with the government became “incompatible.”
Mr Mookhey says there are new lines of inquiry to question Ms Brown, and questions remain as to whether Investment and Trade Minister Stuart Ayres misled parliament.
“Mr. Ayres has some very serious questions to answer,” Mookhey said.
“How (was it) possible that he could say in Parliament that no suitable candidate had been found when he was told that Jenny West was the successful candidate – after a full recruitment process?
“Either he misled parliament or he misled the public.”
The former NSW Deputy Prime Minister resigned from his role as the state’s Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner less than two weeks after his appointment was announced.
NSW Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet (pictured) has vigorously defended Mr Barilaro’s nomination, claiming the former leader of the NSW Nationals was the strongest candidate for the role
Ayres, who is in Mumbai with Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet, told reporters on Thursday that he had “absolutely not misled parliament” about the recruitment process.
He said he had simply passed on the information he had received from Mrs Brown, adding that he had complete confidence in her.
The escalating scandal has haunted the couple’s trade mission and sparked a daily barrage of heated questions.
Mr Ayres said suggestions that Ms West was being pushed off the nomination to make way for Mr Barilaro were not correct.
“I categorically reject that all decisions made at the end of the hiring process were designed or orchestrated to give John Barilaro a chance, okay,” Mr Ayres said on Thursday.
“That’s a ridiculous suggestion.”
He insisted that Mr Barilaro apply as a private individual, he did not take calls from his former colleague and his role as a former deputy prime minister did not give him a leg up in the position.
Stuart Ayres (pictured) told reporters he had ‘definitely not misled parliament’ about the hiring process after Barilaro was hired for the trade job
Perrottet continued to defend the nomination, saying he believed the former deputy prime minister was the strongest candidate.
“I think John Barilaro was someone who had that experience in NSW, and was ultimately selected on merit in an independent trial on my advice.”
Deputy Opposition Leader in the upper house John Graham said Labor was now focusing on Mr Ayres’ role in the nomination.
“There are real questions as to whether this appointment was indeed remote,” said Mr Graham.
Plans to recall the NSW Legislative Council on Friday – more than three weeks ahead of schedule – were scrapped after the government agreed to release the additional documents on Monday.
It comes as footage has been released of Mr Barilaro getting into a scuffle with a cameraman outside a bar in Manly on Saturday night.
Police investigate footage showing former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro locked in a scuffle with a cameraman
The video captured the incident which took place on Saturday outside a bar in Manly, on Sydney’s northern beaches
The former NSW Nationals leader was pictured earlier in the evening eating pizza and drinks at a bar flanked by a guard.
A reporter from Channel Seven approached him later in the evening to ask questions about Labor blocking his attempts to appear for the investigation into his job.
Mr. Barilaro ignored the questions and walked away before snapping at two cameramen. His guard threw a microphone into the bush.
His new girlfriend, who was also his former media consultant, later tried to take the expensive equipment.
Mr Barilaro then got into an argument with cameraman Matt Costello when he appeared to be trying to grab the camera from his hands.
Mr Costello tried to continue filming while blocking Mr Barilaro with his other hand while the former Deputy Prime Minister continued to swipe at him.
The group then walked away from the altercation.
The former NSW Deputy Prime Minister told 2GB Monday morning that the camera and microphone were shoved in his face.
“The reality is people are now piling up, harassing, intruding, not allowing me to move on with my life, I’m a private person,” he said.
“They turned up with a cameraman. I don’t know who it was, I just know you could see a bright light shining into my black face.”
“All I did was push a camera aside, not manipulate a person.”