John Barilaro has stepped down from a corporate gig in New York after his new position became ‘untenable’ amid intense scrutiny.
The former NSW deputy premier and Nationals state leader was appointed as the NSW Trade Commissioner to Americas a fortnight ago, sparking widespread outrage at his appointment and two separate parliamentary inquiries.
Investment NSW CEO and trade secretary Amy Brown told a parliamentary inquiry on Wednesday that she revoked a verbal job offer for the coveted $500,000-a-year New York-based post promoting NSW in New York in September last year.
The three-year contract was then offered to then-deputy secretary Jenny West, before Mr Barilaro, Ms Brown’s boss at the time, changed the recruitment requirements.
Mr Barilaro announced his retirement from politics shortly afterwards and was later offered the plum role in the Big Apple, which he was due to within a fortnight.
He withdrew from the role late Thursday after telling Investment NSW his position has become untenable and a distraction for the state government.
‘It is clear that my taking up this role is now not tenable with the amount of media attention this appointment has gained,’ he said in a statement.
Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro (pictured) has stepped down from his new role as NSW Trade Commissioner to Americas after his appointment sparked widespread backlash
NSW trade secretary Amy Brown (above) said she models her management style after Jesus’s leadership after she retracted a dream New York job offer for her colleague Jenny West
‘I believe my appointment will continue to be a distraction and not allow this important role to achieve what it was designed to do, and thus my decision.
‘I stress, that I have always maintained that I followed the process and look forward to the results of the review.’
Ms Brown confirmed she’s been notified of Mr Barilaro’s decision.
‘This evening Mr John Barilaro notified me that he is withdrawing from the role of Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Americas, effective immediately,’ she said
‘I request that his privacy be respected at this time.’
Investment NSW would continue to assist with two inquiries probing the appointment. As such it is not appropriate to make any further comment.’
Nearly $1million had been spent refurbishing part of the Australian consulate in New York for Mr Barilaro to live in.
The job came with a $487,000 salary plus a $16,000 allowance, with Mr Barilaro due to start work in the Manhattan office on July 12.
His decision comes hours after Transport Minister David Elliott urged his former ministerial colleague to do the right thing.
‘I expect him to withdraw and do the honourable thing, because quite clearly when you become the story over an appointment, well, then the appointment might not be in the best interest of the people of NSW,’ Mr Elliott told Sky News on Thursday.
‘I’ll let the parliamentary inquiry and the premier’s investigation determine that but my very, very strong view is that he shouldn’t be going to New York, and I’m pretty sure that that’s the view of the majority of people in this state.
It comes as Investment and Trade Minister Stuart Ayres also revealed he had concerns after Mr Barilaro texted him about his inteerst in the role late last year.
‘He contacted me via text message … indicating that he was interested in it,’ Mr Ayres told reporters on Thursday.
‘I informed him that they would be publicly advertised and he, like any other private citizen, will be able to apply,’ Mr Ayres recalled.
He knew Mr Barilaro’s appointment would be politically contentious, but said he did not have the authority to direct his former colleague to resign.
A parliamentary inquiry (above) sat for the first time on Wednesday to investigate the retraction of Ms West’s job offer and the new candidate’s selection, John Barilaro
Jenny West (pictured), then the deputy secretary of Investment NSW, was told in August last year that she was selected for a $500,000 trade post job in New York
Ms Brown, who was thrown into the spotlight this month over her role in the controversial New York job, gave an extensive interview in February about how her faith inspires her management of 6000 employees.
‘What would Jesus do if he were me in these life circumstances, in this job, with this issue before me and serving the people that I lead?,’ Ms Brown told Eternity News, an online Christian magazine.
‘He showed up for the people when they needed him and he really put every person at the centre.’
Ms Brown said God offered her a sense of relief in her ‘exhausting’ job because her actions are part of his ‘plan’.
‘It started to dawn on me how exhausting it is to have to live that way, where every single outcome depends on you,’ she said.
‘If you don’t perform to the highest standard at that meeting or if you’re not in the right place at the right time… that is a really exhausting way to live.
‘Having kids gives you that perspective and you don’t have time to be able to be everywhere and do everything and so you have to let go and let God.’
Ms West’s dream job in New York City was taken from her – leaving her upset
Ms Brown said she tried to lead by thinking of ‘the good of your people’.
‘I think God really speaks through the leadership of Christians in that servant leadership mentality,’ Ms Brown told Eternity News.
‘You put the good of your people at the heart of the way you lead and what you do and the decisions you make.’
Ms Brown joined the NSW public service’s ‘Club 600’ in 2022 – with a pay rise seeing her collect $614,000 a year on the taxpayer to run the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade.
Ms Brown told the inquiry on Wednesday that Ms West had been ‘extremely upset’ when her dream job offer was revoked which led to an ‘irreconcilable’ relationship with Investment NSW.
Ms West is no longer working with government and was given an undisclosed payout after three years of public service.
Then-NSW trade minister John Barilaro (above) changed the job’s recruitment process after Ms West had been offered the positions and went on to be offered the job himself in May this year
Ms Brown said Ms West had been ‘extremely upset’ about the job offer retraction during a parliamentary hearing on Wednesday (above)
Ms West was offered the New York job boasting a $487,000 salary plus a $16,000 cost of living allowance in August 2021.
Mr Barilaro, who created the job along with four other similar roles in 2020, changed the recruitment process for the position in September.
Ms West’s job offer was revoked on October 1 and the position was given to Mr Barilaro in May 2022.
Ms Brown told the inquiry she had voiced concerns that Mr Barilaro would veto her nominated candidate for the New York job and claimed she did not know if Mr Barilaro ever asked his replacement as NSW trade minister, Stuart Ayres, for the job.
However, NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has insisted Ms Brown was the final decision maker for the role.
Mr Barilaro (above) was offered the New York job Ms West was previously offered after changing the recruitment process
NSW Transport Minister David Elliott (above) said Mr Barilaro should be removed from the position because ‘when you become the story over an appointment then the appointment might not be in the best interests of the people’
Mr Perrottet established a private inquiry into Mr Barilaro’s selection, separate to the parliamentary inquiry.
‘I will look at the recommendations and any action that needs to be taken I will,’ he said on Tuesday.
NSW opposition leader Chris Minnshas slammed Mr Perrottet for failing to move against Mr Barilaro earlier.
‘It’s telling that the premier didn’t sack John Barilaro, he walked,’ Mr Minns said.
‘Mr Barilaro should never have been appointed to this job in the first place.
‘Serious concerns remain about how he got the job and the parliamentary inquiry will continue to pursue those.’
The parliamentary inquiry will resume next Wednesday, where Ms West will appear as a witness.
Trading places – how John Barilaro won a prime New York gig
The NSW Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner post in New York comes with a $487,000 salary plus a $16,000 cost of living allowance.
It was created along with four other similar roles by then-NSW trade minister John Barilaro in November 2020.
Then-deputy secretary of Investment NSW Jenny West was told she had won the New York job in August after beating out three other candidates from a select shortlist of interviewees.
Mr Barilaro requested changes to the recruitment process in late September which required it to be signed off by state cabinet, although this has not occurred.
This led to the verbal offer to offered to Ms West being withdrawn.
The relationship between Ms West and Investment NSW then became ‘irreconcilable’.
The job was advertised in a process handled by Investment NSW and global recruiting company.
Mr Barilaro was verbally offered the job in May, signed a three-year contract in June and is due to begin the role in July.
He will be owed a week’s salary if he is removed inside his six-month probationary period. After that he could be owed the wages due for the full three-year contract.
Nearly $1 million was spent refurbishing part of the Australian consulate in New York for Mr Barilaro to occupy.
Trade department secretary Amy Brown worked under Mr Barilaro when he was trade minister.
She said she was not aware whether Mr Barilaro ever asked his replacement as trade minister, Stuart Ayres, to give him the job.
Ms Brown expressed concerns last year in internal communications that Mr Barilaro’s office would try to veto her picks for the role.
She said a staffer on temporary secondment had misunderstood when she sent an email, since resurfaced, requesting the premier’s approval for two other commissioner appointments despite the recruitment being an apolitical process.