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Barilaro helped ex-staffer, who later became girlfriend, secure government job

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Mr Barilaro said the pair were not in a relationship with Ms Lugsdin at the time and so no disclosures were made to Ms Brown when he “went in to bat” for his advisor.“I was not in a relationship with her when I was Deputy Premier or Trade Minister,” he said.Mr Barilaro said Ms Lugsdin told him she was applying for a job at the agency and asked him to be a referee and he contacted Ms Brown on her behalf — one of the three phone calls he had with his in the course of his role as Trade Minister.Labor MLC Penny Sharpe named the advisor as Ms Lugsdin who worked in Mr Barilaro‘s office for two years and left his office to go to Investment NSW in July 2021 in a similar role.Mr Barilaro said his contact with Mr Brown was not frequent however went “in to bat” for Ms Lugsdin as he would for his other employees.“(I) was told by my media advisor that she was applying for a job in the trade investment space … (She asked) if I would be a referee and I chose to reach out and find out about that job,” he said.Ms Brown, who fronted the inquiry for the third time on Monday afternoon, was asked about the phone call.“He said that there was a senior media advisor in his office looking for opportunities. That he had heard through the grapevine that we were building our media and communications team,” she said.Ms Brown said when the pair‘s relationship became reported in the media in December 2021, she became “concerned” and contacted the recruiter who hired her for a conflict disclosure. “We did ask if conflict of interest declarations were made. We saw a report in the media and although it was speculative, it concerned us enough to pick up the phone to her employer and ask whether or not she had made a declaration.”The Telegraph contacted Ms Lugsdin for a comment.AGENT GENERAL WANTED $800,000, BROWN CLAIMSThe inquiry has also heard explosive claims about a second trade role — the Agent General based in London which went to Stephen Cartwright.Ms Brown said Mr Cartwright’s salary expectations were close to $800,000 — which would make him the second highest paying public servant in NSW and outearn the Premier and Police Commissioner.Ms Brown said Mr Cartwright used then Treasurer Dominic Perrottet and Department of Premier and Cabinet boss Michael Coutts-Trotter‘s names when expressing frustrations with Ms Brown’s unwillingness to meet his remuneration expectations.She told parliament that she was advised by Mr Perrottet‘s office at the time that to “attract someone of high calibre” they needed ”to pay a private sector size salary”.She said after a “disagreement” in March 2022 Mr Cartwright sought then Trade Minister Stuart Ayres‘s intervention by contacting him via Whatsapp.Mr Ayres forwarded the message to Ms Brown but told her he did not wish to be involved, according to the evidence. “I relayed to the Minister that perhaps the Agent General didn’t understand that he was my employee,” she said.FORMER PREMIER WAS BARILARO’S REFEREE Earlier, it was revealed former Premier Barry O’Farrell acted as a referee for Mr Barilaro’s bid to be appointed to a plum New York trade role.Mr Barilaro has revealed to a parliamentary committee that he sent Mr O’Farrell a message seeking his support as a referee, after initially refusing to answer the question in the interests of privacy.Mr O’Farrell is currently Australia’s High Commissioner to India.Mr O’Farrell added his support to Mr Barilaro’s application along with Regional NSW Secretary Gary Barnes and Australia’s Ambassador to the United States Arthur Sinodinos.Mr Barilaro said he contacted Mr Sinodinos directly by mobile phone to ask if he would be a referee.The former Deputy Premier rejected suggestions that his three high-profile referees would have put pressure on the public service.“I’ve been lucky enough to be surrounded by some very high profile individuals,” Mr Barilaro said.‘WALKED INTO A SH*T SHOW’Mr Barilaro told the inquiry he wishes he never applied for a plum New York trade role, describing controversy about his appointment as a “sh*t show”.The former Deputy Premier told a parliamentary inquiry that he “genuinely” believed dumped Trade Minister Stuart Ayres did “nothing” to help him get the $500,000-a-year job.That is despite Mr Ayres previously admitting that he texted Mr Barilaro a copy of the job advertisement when it was published in the newspaper in December.Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown has previously told the inquiry that Mr Ayres was not at “arm’s length” of the process.NED-6846-Barilaro-Quotes“If I knew what I know now, I wish I never had applied,” Mr Barilaro said. “I wouldn’t have walked into what was a sh*t show.”Mr Barilaro said he has been subjected to significant “trauma” since his appointment was announcedHe said there was “nothing” excluding him ”as a former minister or member applying for a public service job”.He refuted suggestions from Labor MLC Daniel Mookhey that he used information gained in his role as Trade Minister to assist him in his application. “In those interviews I spoke about what was public knowledge … I used no information in relation to my interview or anything else that isn‘t public knowledge,” he said.“The reality here is that it would be very difficult going to an interview and not talking what their more recent employment was, that is as a member of parliament, as a Minister, as a Deputy Premier.“There are great positives in the achievements that I‘ve been able to achieve in my time so I proudly talk about my time as a member of Parliament, minister, Deputy Premier, those achievements.”The Ministerial Code of Conduct prevents former ministers from using information gained in their role for personal benefit. He also defended his decision to put Department of Regional NSW Secretary Gary Barnes, a department Mr Barilaro established during his time in government, as his referee. PREMIER SAID ‘GO FOR IT’Mr Barilaro said he flagged his interest in a New York trade role with Premier Dominic Perrottet in November, and Mr Perrottet told him to “go for it”.The Perrottet government is bracing for a potentially damaging day of revelations as former Mr Barilaro faces a parliamentary inquiry probing his appointment to the $500,000 per year job.Mr Barilaro also told the inquiry that Treasurer Matt Kean was “supportive” of him applying.The former Deputy Premier revealed that he had a conversation with Premier Dominic Perrottet about the New York trade role in “late November,” when Mr Barilaro was still employed as an MP.Mr Barilaro said he flagged with Mr Perrottet his interest.“There was many phone calls after I left (parliament) with Mr Perrottet.“He was he was always checking in on me. He was checking in on me and on one of those occasions I flagged, as I said that I’d be interested (in the trade role).“He had nothing more to say than ‘go for it,’” Mr Barilaro said.In comments drawing Mr Kean into the controversy, Mr Barilaro said he flagged an interest in applying for the New York role with the Treasurer in December.Part of Mr Barilaro’s intention was to seek “counsel” from Mr Kean about whether he should apply.John Barilaro Stuart Ayres NY job saga“He would have told me bluntly if he thought that it was going to be an issue, for sure,” Mr Barilaro said.Asked by Labor Treasury spokesman Daniel Mookhey if Mr Kean raised concerns, Mr Barilaro said: “no”.”No one ever raised with me anything (to say that) that this would be politically sensitive,” Mr Barilaro said.KEAN RESPONDSMeanwhile, at a press conference in Parramatta, Mr Kean confirmed he responded to a text message from Mr Barilaro while he was still a member of parliament and “encouraged him” to apply for a high profile trade role.Mr Kean said despite his many “ups and downs” with Mr Barilaro he told him to apply for the $500,000 a year gig and “didn’t give it a second thought”.“ I received a text message I responded and encouraged him to apply for the role, as was his right to do so,” he said.“I encouraged him to do so. I didn’t, I didn’t really give it a second thought. I didn’t actually think John would go through, but it was in December.”‘TREATMENT ‘UNFAIR’, ‘UNJUST’Back at the inquiry, in his opening statement, Mr Barilaro said that he applied for the Trade Commissioner role as a “private citizen”. He said that throughout the inquiry public servants had said he was a “credible and capable candidate” before he was awarded the job. “I had my credentials and application publicly derided and what is nothing less than an abuse of my privacy,” he said. He labelled his treatment since being appointed as “unfair and unjust”.He denied creating the job for himself.Mr Barilaro was appointed to the plum job months after former public servant Jenny West had already been verbally offered the role last year.That offer was later rescinded after cabinet agreed to make the Trade Commissioner roles Ministerial appointments.Mr Barilaro said all but one Minister in Cabinet supported making the roles Ministerial appointments rather than public sector recruitments.However that change was never implemented by legislation.‘I DON’T RECALL SIGNING OFF ON WEST’Mr Barilaro said he doesn’t think he “ever” found out that Ms West had been verbally offered a plum New York trade role, despite signing a ministerial brief that identified her as the “successful candidate”.The former Deputy Premier suggested that he may not have even signed the brief, indicating that it could have been signed by one of his staff.“I don’t recall seeing that brief, it is possible that I gave instruction to my staff to sign the brief on my behalf,” he said.Government documents previously provided to a parliamentary inquiry have revealed that former Minister Stuart Ayres also signed the brief identifying Ms West as the “successful candidate” for the New York trade role.Mr Barilaro arrived at Macquarie Street ahead of his evidence shortly after 9am, avoiding waiting cameras by driving through the back entrance and parking in the carpark underneath parliament.As a former member, Mr Barilaro holds a parliamentary security pass allowing him greater access to the building than other witnesses who have attended the inquiry.

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