Candidate told plum US trade job would be a ‘present for someone’ before Barilaro hired,


An executive who missed out on the position of NSW trade commissioner based in New York says she was told the job “would be a present for someone” when her employment offer was withdrawn.

Jenny West is giving evidence to a parliamentary inquiry which is investigating how the former deputy premier John Barilaro was subsequently appointed to the job.

Ms West was offered the position of Senior Trade and Investment Commissioner for the Americas in August 2021, before being told the recruitment process was on hold while the government considered whether the roles should be political appointments.

Mr Barilaro was later appointed to the New York position but withdrew following political fallout.

Ms West has told a parliamentary inquiry, Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told her she would no longer be appointed in October 2021, and the job “would be a present for someone”.

The inquiry has heard Ms West was told she was the successful applicant in August 2021 and was sent a signed briefing note by the then premier Gladys Berejiklian, acknowledging the appointment. 

a man standing and looking
John Barilaro withdrew from the role after a political backlash.(AAP: James Gourley )

“I was so excited about the appointment,” Ms West told the inquiry.

“I began taking steps to relocate.”

Ms West says she had negotiated her contract, but then a month later she was advised she wasn’t getting the job because Cabinet had decided the commissioner roles would be political appointments.

She told the hearing she had a meeting with Ms Brown, who was involved in the recruitment process.

“She told me I would not be getting the senior trade and commissioner role for the Americas,” Ms West said.

“Ms Brown says the position and this is a quote — ‘will be a present for someone’.”

Ms West has told the inquiry that Ms Brown sympathised with what had happened. 

“She added, and I again quote, ‘You are an extraordinary performer and I am upset that this has happened’.” 

Amy Brown wearing a suit jacket and glasses
Amy Brown gave evidence at the inquiry last month.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Ms Brown has previously given evidence to the inquiry that she’d questioned the suitability of Ms West for the job.

Ms West said she was “surprised” because the pair had had a good working relationship and Ms Brown was initially supportive of her application. 

Ms West also lost her job as a senior bureaucrat.

“In the space of four weeks I went from having been appointed to the role of the senior Trade Commissioner for the Americas to potentially not having a job,” she said.

Mr Barilaro’s appointment to the position, which comes with a $500,000 annual salary package, was confirmed last month. 

The recruitment process has been the subject of intense media scrutiny and two separate inquiries at Macquarie Street.

Mr Barilaro last month told Investment NSW his position had become untenable and a distraction for the government and withdrew from the role.

Mr Barilaro resigned as deputy premier, and from the parliament, late last year.

Ms Brown last month gave evidence to the parliamentary inquiry examining Mr Barilaro’s appointment.

She told the inquiry an adviser in Mr Barilaro’s office had asked if the recruitment process for several global trade roles, including the job in New York, could be changed so that they were direct ministerial appointments.

She also gave evidence that Ms West had been verbally offered the New York position before a change in government policy meant the process was halted.

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