Former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro has said he wishes he had ‘never applied’ to an inquiry into his appointment to a plum $500,000 New York job.
‘If I had known what I know now I would never have applied. “If I had known what I know now, I would not have gone on that show,” he said.
Mr Barilaro said this because ‘the trauma I have experienced in the last six-seven weeks is significant’.
In his opening statement, Mr Barilaro said the Upper House inquiry was an ‘investigation to clear my name’.
Former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro is pictured leaving the Federal Court of Australia in Sydney, Wednesday, March 23, 2022.
He said that his ‘fundamental rights’ have been taken away by assuming that he is innocent because he is a former MP.
He said, ‘I deny any suggestion that I sought any special treatment in the public service employment process where an independent panel advanced me as the preferred candidate on merit.
Mr Barilaro said he had endured what could be described as ‘personal hell, unfair and unjust’ which has also dragged down three high-flying female executives.
A senior public servant was promised a high-level business job in New York before being given to Mr. Barilaro.
After he announced his resignation from Parliament last November, but before he left, he expressed interest in a job in New York, he told an inquiry on Monday.
Award-winning Australian businesswoman Kimberley Cole (pictured) was caught in a NSW New York business employment scam.
Mr Barilaro mentioned his interest in the position in a ‘passing comment’ to NSW Premier Dominic Perrott in late November.
‘He was checking me, and on one of those occasions I flagged [it]… I said I was interested. He had nothing to say but “go for it”.’
Mr. Barilaro said he did not know the New York job was vacant at the time. ‘I just flagged the business role option, and the idea.’
The scandal surrounding Mr. Barilaro’s appointment to the New York trading role drew three high-flying female executives and destroyed a friendship between two of them.
Investment NSW executive Amy Brown, the public servant in charge of recruitment for the job, told a parliamentary inquiry into the recruitment process that the experience was a ‘failure’ and ‘disappointing’.
The political drama has also drawn in highly-accomplished businesswoman Kimberley Cole and former NSW investment executive Jenny West, who was once a friend of Ms Brown.
Opening statement to NSW Parliament Inquiry into John Barilaro’s role as New York Trade Commissioner
‘I deny any suggestion of wrongdoing. Reject the suggestion that I created a role for myself.
‘I deny any suggestion that I sought any special treatment in the public service employment process where an independent panel put me forward as the preferred candidate on merit.
‘We have heard from long-standing, professional senior public servants that I am a credible and capable candidate who brings many qualities to fulfill this important role for the people of our great state.
‘For that, I publicly mocked my evidence and application and this is nothing less than an abuse of my privacy.
‘Let me make this clear. I applied for a public service job as a private citizen. Nothing stopped me from doing so.
‘I followed exactly the same procedure that was provided to the others.
‘I went through several interviews, psychometric tests and police checks. I got a job offer. I accepted the job. Then I withdrew from this work.
‘Since that moment, I have enjoyed what can only be described as personal hell, unfairness and injustice.
‘I look forward to presenting my case to this committee today.’
Both lost out to former NSW deputy premier Mr Barilaro for the New York role after Ms West received a text from Ms Brown with champagne and Statue of Liberty emojis before seeing it torn up in 2021 despite having the job.
The job was advertised this year and Ms Cole was the favorite candidate after an interview but failed to impress then business minister Stuart Ayres after being given just 12 minutes to chat over video link.
The job eventually went to Mr. Barilaro, who signed the contact in June but stepped down last month after a public outcry.
He said he didn’t know Jenny West was the successful candidate in the first round of recruiting last year.
‘I didn’t know that Jenny West had offered the job. I came to know about this only during the operation,’ he said.
Mr. Barilaro was asked why he signed the brief identifying Ms. West as the successful candidate.
“It has a digital signature, it does not have my personal signature,” he said.
‘If I did not believe this to be the case, I would not say so under oath.’
He said he was a ‘huge fan’ of Ms West. ‘I’m going to make it perfectly clear on this forum.
‘She was a strong professional, an excellent public servant and an excellent person for me in that role.’
The now-departed senior trade and investment commissioner in America’s job has seen two months of negative headlines for the NSW Liberal-National Coalition government and already cost a minister his job.
Mr Ayres, a former deputy Liberal leader, resigned last Wednesday A draft review of the scandal found that he had violated the ministerial code of conduct.
Speaking at a lengthy press conference last week, a visibly strained NSW Premier Dominic Perrott said Mr Ayres’s ‘intention to resign follows the briefing I received yesterday afternoon from the Department of the Prime Minister and Cabinet Secretary’.
Amy Brown (pictured) outlined the process which saw two high-flying women passed over for the business role which eventually went to former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro.
“I later discussed the issues raised in that briefing with Mr. Ayres,” Mr. Perrotet said.
He added that the draft report ‘raised concerns about whether Mr Ayres followed the ministerial code of conduct’.
“When I put these things to Mr Ayres, he offered to resign from the ministry and as deputy leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party,” Mr Perrott said.
‘An investigation will now be carried out to determine whether Ayres has breached the ministerial code of conduct.’
Former Investments NSW senior executive Jenny West (pictured) told the inquiry in July that Ms Brown said the New York trading job was a ‘gift for someone’, which Ms Brown denied.
The Prime Minister indicated that he had no choice but to resign, saying ‘quite simply, I have decided to make my decision based on the information I have received’.
Mr Barilaro said he ‘really believes’ Mr Ayres did nothing to help him.
“I don’t believe he was batting for me and I think he’s been public about it,” he said.
Mr Ayres was the second NSW ministerial casualty in just four days.
Mr Perrotet sacked NSW Fair Trading Minister Eleni Patinos over allegations of intimidation.
Ms Patinos was accused of calling a member of staff ‘ret**ded’ and ‘stupid’, allegations she vehemently denied.
Just months into the Liberal-National coalition, the NSW Independent Commission Against Corruption also found former minister John Sidoti engaged in ‘serious corrupt conduct’ at family-owned properties.
NSW Premier Dominic Perrotte (pictured) is under pressure after the alleged ‘jobs for boys’ scandal.
And Kiama MP Gareth Ward resigned from the ministry and was moved to the crossbench because of a police investigation into him.
In March, Ward was charged with sexually assaulting a man and a 17-year-old boy.
The appointment of former NSW deputy premier and national leader Mr Barilaro to a US trade job earlier this year has become a growing scandal for the government.
Mr Barilaro and his new friend were pictured throwing themselves at camera crews after they were confronted outside a bar on Sydney’s northern beaches late last month, in a sign that the pressure of the situation may have gotten to him.
Police are now investigating the public row after he got into a fight with two cameramen after they confronted him during a night out.