Thank you Speaker
And thank you to the Member for Londonderry for bringing this Public Interest Debate to the Parliament – because this is an important matter, and urgently debating it today is absolutely in the public interest.
This matter – the appointment of John Barilaro to the position of Senior Trade Investment Commissioner to the Americas – goes to many of the key requirements of good government - of transparency and integrity.
It’s also about merit. And about following proper fair processes.
And it doesn’t take much to uncover that this appointment fails on all those counts.
The appointment of John Barilaro to this position, paying over half a million dollars a year – in New York - fails to pass any of the key tests that aught to be applied to such an important – and let’s make no mistake here – a highly paid, plum appointment.
Firstly let’s take a look at the process.
These positions – the Trade Commissioner positions were created by John Barilaro back in November of 2020.
They were announced by John Barilaro as part of a $112.4 million package with each commissioner’s pocketing a salary of $450,000 + potential allowances and benefits of ~$150k.
Nice work if you can get it
These new plum positions created by John Barilaro were advertised in March 2021.
Advertising and recruitment that cost around $50,000
Investment NSW confirmed in April that each position … and I quote
“have a structured approval protocol prior to employment. The preferred candidate meets with the Treasurer, Deputy Premier and Premier. If endorsed by all three a Cabinet appointment form is prepared and added as a Cabinet agenda item. Once endorsed by Cabinet, a contract can then be offered to the candidate for negotiation.”
That’s right – endorsed by Cabinet
We know that by May a shortlist of candidates for the America’s position was provided to Investment NSW.
That in July interviews were conducted and the following month the then Premier Gladys Berejiklian informed the successful candidate she had the gig.
That person was Jenny West.
Someone with a wealth of experience in government, trade, and the corporate world.
Jenny West’s role at Austrade included being general manager for trade and investment and general manager for digital innovation and client services.
She was Telstra’s NSW-ACT state director, running retail stores and managing the NBN rollout.
At Westpac she was dubbed as “one of the key emerging, global female leaders”, and in 2013 she won Westpac’s Women of Influence award for business outcomes.
So how on earth did we end up with John Barilaro?
Let’s compare the pair here.
Because if John Barilaro is your answer after searching the globe for talent, then what kind of questions are you asking?
John Barilaro who suddenly resigned from the Ministry on October 4 2021?
John Barilaro, who had spent the last three months of his career in politics trying to blow up the government over the koala SEPP?
John Barilaro, who was so proud of rorting taxpayer funding that he called himself Pork Barilaro in a press conference?
John Barilaro, who said he left this place to spend more time with his family, but instead was walking these halls lobbying for developers.
And let’s no forget the time John Barilaro admonished the Parliament’s ethics advisor.
Let’s be very clear here - Jenny West was certainly a strong candidate.
The same cannot be said for John Barilaro.
So why did the NSW Government sack Jenny West, an eminently qualified and successful applicant for the position in New York, and pay her a substantial amount of public money as a settlement?
Well to everyone watching, it looks like the fix was in.
It looks like John Barilaro wanted something in return for leaving the Parliament, and for stopping his disruption of the Government.
And what’s more Mr Speaker, it looks like Perrottet, Kean and Ayres gave him what he wanted!
Because after Jenny West was sacked, the Government re-advertised the position in December 2021.
Then miraculously there he is the new Commissioner himself John Barilaro!
Now, no one quite knows just how he got there.
The Premier says he didn’t appoint John Barilaro, even though all the other Trade Commissioner positions were decided by cabinet.
He claims a public servant made the decision.
He says that there were no successful applicants in the first round.
But that simply isn’t true.
Because the Government had to pay Jenny West out!
The Premier has had every chance to explain how this decision was above board, and he has failed at every turn.
Until he does, the most reasonable explanation is that Dominic Perrottet, Matt Kean and Stewart Ayres wanted John Barilaro out of the way – NY.
And they were willing to throw an experienced, professional corporate leader and public servant under the bus to get him out of the way!
We’ve heard a lot of talk about how this Government is all about empowering women.
Speaker, if this is what supporting women looks like, then I’d hate to see the alternative.
Because it’s clear that if you’re a woman, it doesn’t matter if you’re a qualified, professional and experienced candidate.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve managed to pass a merit based selection process with flying colours.
It doesn’t matter if you’ve done enough to impress the former Premier Gladys Berejiklian, who then offers you a job.
John Barilaro shouldn’t be appointed until the Parliament can hold a proper inquiry into this whole unwholly mess of a process.
Because it stinks to high heaven.
And everybody knows it.
Members of cabinet know that it stinks.
The Coalition backbench know that it stinks.
The NSW Upper House knows that it stinks.
And most importantly, the people of NSW know that it stinks.
They can smell a conflict of interest.
They can smell a dirty deal.
Mr Speaker, the only people who have the gall to say that nothing stinks here are Dominic Perrottet, Matt Kean, and Stewart Ayres.
And they are up to their necks in it.