NSW Commerce Secretary Stuart Ayres has admitted he should have advised former Deputy Prime Minister John Barilaro not to apply for an overseas trade position.
Most important points:
- Mr Ayres accepts that his position would be untenable if he was proven to have acted improperly
- The NSW Prime Minister says an independent inquiry into Barilaro’s appointment to the trade role will take place “very soon”
- Leaked emails revealed that Mr Ayres had put forward a name to be added to a shortlist of candidates for the role
Ayres told Nine Radio that Barilaro’s application for Trade Commissioner for America came too soon after he left parliament and that he should have advised him not to apply.
“Had I had the time again, I would have said to him, ‘The time frame between the end of your parliamentary career and applying for this job will be too politically sensitive and you should not consider taking the role'”, said Mr Ayres. said.
He accepted that his job was at stake and that he would not be able to continue as Secretary of Commerce if the assessment found that he had acted improperly.
“I am confident that all my actions have been in the best interest of the public and I think that will be reflected in that review,” said Mr Ayres.
“As the [Graham] Head review shows I didn’t do the right thing, then I don’t think my position is tenable, but I don’t believe that is the case.”
Mr Ayres confirmed that he had sent a copy of the vacancy to Mr Barilaro when it was first advertised after Mr Barilaro expressed interest in the position.
But Mr Ayres has denied having any role in Mr Barilaro’s subsequent appointment to the role.
“Of course I’m considering my course of action, but all I’ve done as a minister has been to make sure we deliver the best results for the people of New South Wales,” Ayres said.
“I have always acted in the interest of the public.
“I have always carried out my ministerial duties with the highest level of integrity and I have always wanted to make decisions in the interest of the public.”
Mr. Barilaro was announced as the successful candidate in June.
The position is based in New York and comes with a $500,000 salary package.
Mr Barilaro later withdrew from the position, saying it had become untenable.
Mr Ayres said Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet had not asked him to assist on the matter, but admitted it had been a “challenging” few weeks.
“[Mr Perrottet] has been really supportive throughout this exercise,” said Mr Ayres.
“He has made it quite clear that he has conducted the independent assessment conducted by Graham Head, a former public services commissioner, and he wants to wait for that assessment to be completed and then make his decisions.”
Deputy Prime Minister and leader of the Nationals, Paul Toole, declined to comment directly on whether he supported Ayres, but said public trust in ministers was critical.
“As National Party leader and Deputy Prime Minister, I have very high standards and I have very clear expectations of my ministers,” he said.
“I expect them to act honestly and with integrity at all times.”
Leaked emails last week revealed that Mr Ayres had put forward a name to be added to a shortlist of candidates for the position, but he insists that name was not John Barilaro’s.
Documents released yesterday revealed that another candidate was recommended for Mr Barilaro before he was later ranked higher.
Mr Perrottet said he expected the independent review of Mr Barilaro’s appointment “very soon”.
Mr Perrottet started the review at the end of June and was conducted alongside a parliamentary inquiry.