Barilaro’s former chief of staff tells inquiry

63
3
Barilaro’s former chief of staff tells inquiry

The former chief of staff of John Barilaro told an inquiry that her old boss had never expressed any personal interest in a lucrative $500,000 a-year New York-based trade role.

Siobhan Hamblin was in the midst of a parliamentary inquiry into the former deputy prime minister's appointment.

She said that she had no reason to believe that he would benefit personally from any changes to the way the trade commissioners were appointed during her time in Mr Barilaro's office.

In the days before Mr Barilaro announced his plans to leave politics, emails show bureaucrats discussing changing the rules for the recruitment of new trade commissioners, then deciding the plum US role would be handled as an internal matter. Ms Hamblin said that she would have had no hesitation in flagging it as a concern.

Ms Hamblin told the inquiry that in September last year, Mr Barilaro spoke to her about his intention to resign from politics.

She agreed that those conversations took place around the same time as he asked his staff to prepare an urgent submission to the Cabinet to change the trade jobs into ministerial appointments.

Ms Hamblin said the discussions were not unusual and were not restricted to that period, as he had been talking about leaving parliament since he took a month of mental health leave the previous year.

Ms Hamblin told the hearing that it was sometimes quite flippant and at other times more serious.

Labor's Daniel Mookhey pressed Ms Hamblin on the timing of Mr Barilaro's request for his staff to prepare an urgent submission to cabinet to turn the New York-based role into a ministerial appointment.

Why did Barilaro want this cabinet submission produced ASAP and considered urgently? At that point in time he had already begun contemplating a resignation? Mookhey asked.

That is a question for him, Mr Mookhey, replied Ms Hamblin.

Barilaro is due to appear before the inquiry on Monday.

The position of the New York trade commissioner has been put on hold pending the conclusion of the hearings, according to the acting managing director of Investment NSW Kylie Bell.

She told MPs that there were currently four people working in the NSW government's New York trade office, earning a total of $900,000 in salaries.

There are two staff in San Francisco and one in Washington who are employed through Austrade.

Labor has said it will scrap the international trade roles, but questions have been raised by the revelations in recent weeks about whether they are delivering value for money for taxpayers.

The Government has failed to demonstrate value for the money of its senior trade commissioners because of the hospitals overstretched and teachers under-resourced, as stated by NSW Labor Leader Chris Minns.

Mr Barilaro's appointment has been under the microscope for several weeks and is the subject of two separate inquiries.

He has since withdrawn from the position.