Former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro has announced he is stepping down from his controversial new trade job in New York following mounting pressure to relinquish the role.
The government’s announcement that Barilaro had been appointed the state’s NYC-based US trade commissioner position was met with mass backlash amid concerns over how he got the job.
Labor slammed the appointment and accused the government of giving out “jobs for mates” over the $500,000 tax-payer funded role – a job Barilaro created while trade minister.
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Barilaro had been expected to relocate to NYC within months.
Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade secretary and Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown said Barilaro had withdrawn from the role, effective immediately.
“Investment NSW is assisting the Department of Premier and Cabinet and NSW Legislative Council Inquiry in reviews of the Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Americas recruitment process, and as such it is not appropriate to make any further comment,” Brown said.
It follows two weeks of intense scrutiny over the handling of Barilaro’s appointment, with several ministers outraged it had not been approved by cabinet.
Transport Minister David Elliott on Wednesday said the appointment is “an unnecessary distraction” for the government.
He called for Barilaro to “do the honourable thing” and quit.
“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,” he told Sky News on Thursday.
Investment and Trade Minister Stuart Ayres also weighed in, saying he had concerns after Barilaro texted him about the role in December.
“He contacted me via text message … indicating that he was interested in it,” Ayres said on Thursday.
“I informed him that they would be publicly advertised and he, like any other private citizen, will be able to apply.”
A parliamentary inquiry is under way to investigate if a deal was done and scrutinise the work of recruitment firms to fill the roles.
The inquiry on Wednesday heard senior Investment NSW bureaucrat Jenny West was told last year she had the job.
Brown told the inquiry she had to withdraw the verbal offer to West in October, following a request by Barilaro’s office in September to move the trade commissioner positions from an in-house decision for her department to one requiring cabinet approval.
Days later Barilaro announced his retirement as an MP, officially ending his time in parliament in December.
Barilaro was offered the job in May and signed the contract earlier this month.
– With AAP