Politics Analysis

Dominic 'Gunner' Perrottet and John 'Call Me Pork' Barilaro

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(Cartoon by Mark David / @MDavidCartoons)

What did Premier Dominic Perrottet know about the shady process surrounding Barilaro's New York trade appointment? Managing editor Michelle Pini takes a look at the scandal-ridden New South Wales Government. 

THE LATEST John Barilaro scandal stinks to high heaven.

Not only because an obviously better-qualified candidate was sidelined for a plum position in favour of the former Deputy-Premier for no apparent good reason, though this is concerning.

What is most troubling about Barilaro’s U.S. trade role gift, is that, just like the open-slather rorting that characterised his New South Wales Deputy Premiership, Barilaro and those around him thought they’d just get away with it. And they still might, of course.

After all, so far there appear to be few consequences for his earlier shameless funnelling of public moneys into those electorates that served his personal political ends.

Justifying this, Barilaro said at the time:

“Well my name is John Barilaro – call me Pork-Barilaro – and I have no apology because at the end of the day I will stand up and fight for our communities."

Of course!

In that particular episode of Barilaro’s rorting escapades, then Premier Gladys Berejiklian defended her Deputy's actions as perfectly normal:

"It’s not illegal… You make election commitments, you make commitments to particular areas. I mean, it would have been dishonest for me to say otherwise…"

Well, naturally, because Berejiklian’s record isn't exactly pristine where questionable activities are concerned. Berejiklian, of course, resigned under a thick ICAC cloud as investigations into her involvement with her previous boyfriend Darryl MacGuire's corrupt dealings continue. 

As a quick refresher, her resignation followed Gladys' secret relationship with one of her ministers about which she lied; during which she awarded millions of dollars in grants for his business interests; instructed her office to shred documents that may have provided evidence of her wrongdoing; and then "couldn't recall" details at the ICAC hearing.

Then there was the time when Barilaro tried to garner sympathy for having his delicate sensibilities deeply offended by Friendlyjordies, such that he felt compelled to sue the comedian for reporting on his murky affairs, as well as Google for allowing the videos to be viewed.

This time, new NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has attempted to wash his hands off the whole affair.

And who could blame him? Barilaro’s latest exploits involve his setting up a brand new position – while ensconced as Deputy Premier at the time – a $500,000 per annum Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner Americas (STIC) role, based in New York. 

Following his other questionable dealings being exposed at ICAC, Barilaro then suddenly decided to resign as Deputy Premier. 

Fast forward a few months to the appointment of a suitably qualified candidate for the role, a business executive, who was then promptly rejected in an astonishing turn of events, in favour of Barilaro. His appointment was not approved by Cabinet.

Just one day after a New South Wales Upper House inquiry into the whole smelly affair, Barilaro also resigned from the U.S. trade role, with the following statement:

'I’m withdrawing from the position of STIC for the Americas. It is clear that my taking up this role is now not tenable with the amount of media attention this appointment has gained. I believe my appointment will continue to be a distraction and not allow this important role to achieve what it was designed to do, and thus my decision.'

Yep, it's clearly the media's fault!

Premier Dominic Perrottet in his haste to avoid being associated with the former Deputy Premier, went as far as to stand up in Parliament to deny all knowledge of any wrongdoing.

Perrottet claimed the recruiting process for the cushy position had been an independent inquiry, conducted by a global talent firm and that no suitable applicant was found in round one of the proceedings.  

Unfortunately for Perrottet, however, none of these things appears to be even remotely true.

Further, evidence given to the inquiry into the whole affair by Jenny West, the successful applicant of the non-independently run recruitment process, also evinced that on top of being told (and congratulated by the recruitment official) that she had been successful only to have the job offer later rescinded, when West queried the sudden turn of events, she was sacked from her previous public service role and then investigated.

The congratulatory text from Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown, complete with Statue of Liberty and champagne bottle emojis, read, 'Congratulations, this is one to frame,'  and included an attachment of a signed note from then Premier Gladys Berejiklian to seal the deal. 

West also gave evidence at the parliamentary probe indicating that when the job offer was revoked, she was told the position would instead be “a present for someone”.

Nothing to see here!

Indeed, the Perrottet Government even cited national security to keep Barilaro's documents on the whole sordid business from seeing the light of day. 

The New York trade job saga has now been referred to NSW ICAC.

Perrottet, meanwhile, is maintaining his “I knew nothing” stance but as more details emerge, it becomes harder to swallow. And let’s not forget that the NSW Premier is hardly squeaky clean as the gun club scandal, in which he is deeply implicated, suggests.

An exclusive report on IA by Anthony Klan revealed that as Treasurer, Perrottet was responsible for the $5.5 million Wagga Wagga gun club grant, which was green-stamped despite it being “unusual” and the NSW Office of Sport not wanting “any involvement” in the project. 

Oh, how the plot thickens.

As we now know, Barilaro eventually abandoned his cushy New York role, just like he dropped his defamation suit against Jordan Shanks and abandoned his elected position as NSW Deputy Premier. The question now is, will the case involving Barilaro’s barrelling over Jenny West (he did allegedly set the role up for himself, after all) be abandoned, along with the serious questions it raises about the integrity (or lack thereof) of the New South Wales Government, regardless of leadership?

This editorial was originally published as part of the Independent Australia weekly newsletter. These editorials are usually only available to subscribers and may be read online in the IA members-only area.

Follow managing editor Michelle Pini on Twitter @vmp9. Follow Independent Australia on Twitter @independentaus and on Facebook HERE.

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