Photography: Joel Carrett/AAP
The appointment of former deputy prime minister of New South Wales, John Barilaro, to a high-paying commercial job he created while in government, will be investigated by an upper house inquiry.
Barilaro was named the US$500,000 per year senior trade and investment commissioner for the Americas on Friday. He created the position when he was Minister of Commerce.
State Treasurer Matt Kean defended the appointment and insisted that proper process was followed.
Opposition leader Chris Minns accused Prime Minister Dominic Perrottet of making a “captain’s choice”.
“He will be held accountable for that,” he said.
“How can you be appointed to a well-paid trade commissioner post – a job created by John Barilaro before he left the post – without that appointment going to the cabinet?”
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The executive director of the Center for Public Integrity, Han Aulby, said there needed to be transparency in public appointments, including clear and transparent criteria and a selection panel made up of senior civil servants, including the public service commissioner.
“The panel must inform the public about the qualifications and experience of the selected candidate, with assurance that the candidate meets the selection criteria,” said Aulby.
“Public appointments are paid by the taxpayer to work in the public interest. Confidence in the merit and independence of these appointments is crucial.”
The appointment will be put under the microscope in an upper house inquiry to be established later this week. The inquiry will look at other requests, any conflicts of interest that have arisen during the process and whether ministers have had the opportunity to provide feedback.
Senior ministers came out in support of the appointment on Monday, with Kean saying Barilaro “seems qualified to be trade commissioner” given his previous post as trade minister.
Asked whether it was appropriate for the appointment not to have cabinet approval and what the “proper process” was, Kean said he supported the process being followed.
“The usual process where people apply for a position – this is interrogated by properly qualified public servants and they make recommendations,” he said.
“I was informed that the proper process was followed.”
The job has a salary of $450,000, excluding retirement, as well as an annual cost-of-living allowance of $112,950 and relocation costs.
Health Minister Brad Hazzard said that “luckily [knows] nothing about the nomination”, but also supported the proper process to be followed.
“He’s obviously qualified,” Hazzard said.
“It was done through the process that is normal, and this is the result.”
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Over the weekend, Perrottet also defended the nomination, insisting the former minister was the best candidate to come out of an $18,000 recruitment quest.
“It is no surprise to me that the independent process that took place [found] that he was by far the most outstanding candidate and was recommended by that panel to the government,” said Perrottet.
“I’m sure he will do a brilliant job.”
Barilaro has repeatedly made headlines in recent years — most notably by threatening to blow up the state coalition when he was leader of the Nationals in 2020 over a difference in koala politics.
Most recently, he was awarded $715,000 in his defamation case against Google for a series of “racist” and “abusive” videos posted on the Friendlyjordies YouTube channel.
Barilaro was contacted for comment.