Documents reveal Dominic Perrottet received brief about prior candidate’s appointment to John Barilaro’s New York role

by Michael McGowan
Files released by parliament show Barilaro was also sent brief saying Jenny West selected following ‘full recruitment process’

The New South Wales premier, Dominic Perrottet, was sent a brief noting that former senior public servant and businesswoman Jenny West was the “successful candidate” for the New York trade job now at the centre of a major controversy.

Contained in a tranche of documents released to the parliament on Tuesday, the brief is identical to a brief sent to then premier Gladys Berejiklian and investment minister Stuart Ayres in August last year.

The new documents were released after the Labor opposition successfully pushed to have the parliament recalled from its winter break on Friday to secure the release of hundreds of pages of files relating to former deputy premier John Barilaro’s eventual appointment to the $500,000-a-year trade position.

The documents released on Tuesday also include a brief sent to Barilaro.

The briefs to Perrottet and Barilaro note that following a “full recruitment process” West had been identified as the successful candidate, stating the recruitment panel, headed by Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown, had recommended her for the job.

While the brief to Perrottet is unsigned, emails released to the parliament show that on 13 August a department liaison officer inside Perrottet’s office wrote to Investment NSW saying the brief was being returned as “noted”.

The brief to Barilaro is also unsigned.

Guardian Australia first reported in June that the New York City trade role had been offered to West in August 2021. The parliamentary inquiry has been told the first round of recruitment was discontinued after a cabinet decision to make the position a ministerial appointment. However, that decision was later reversed and it returned to being a public service appointment, with the position being readvertised in December after Barilaro left politics, and his appointment announced in June.

Both Perrottet and Ayres have told parliament that “no suitable candidate” had been identified for the job after the first recruitment process for the job.

Perrottet has since said he does not recall being briefed on her successful candidacy.

However the brief is likely to pile pressure on the premier, with Labor previously suggesting both he and Ayres may have misled parliament.

Both ministers have denied this, with Perrottet saying he made his comments “based on advice I received from the department”.

“When pressed in the inquiry, the secretary of the department confirmed that was the advice that had been provided to me in relation to whether or not there had been a suitable candidate from the first process,” Perrottet said earlier this month.

Ayres has also dismissed Labor’s suggestion he mislead parliament as “false and deliberately deceptive”.

Ayres told the Guardian earlier this month: “the department secretary made it clear in her evidence to the Legislative Council committee that at the end of the first round of recruitment there was no suitable candidate and a new round of recruitment commenced”.

Last week, Barilaro’s former senior adviser provided an explosive submission to the inquiry, claiming his then-boss told him he would get the state’s California trade office moved across the country because he wanted the New York job “when I get the fuck out of this place”.

In a submission, his former chief of staff Mark Connell told the inquiry he had a conversation with Barilaro in April 2019 in which the then deputy premier told him he was “off to New York”.

Barilaro described Connell’s submission as “fictitious” and “false”.

The former deputy premier quit the trade role late last month, saying it was “now not tenable with the amount of media attention this appointment has gained”.

He said he “maintained that I followed the process and look forward to the results of the review”.