The Leader of the Opposition in the NSW Legislative Council, Penny Sharpe, spoke to the media late yesterday about former minister Stuart Ayres being cleared of wrongdoing in regard to John Barilaro’s appointment as NSW Trade Commissioner in New York.
The review into Mr Ayres’ behaviour was conducted by Stuart McClintock SC. NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet has not yet said whether Mr Ayres will be reinstated as a minister.
Penny Sharpe MLC said, ‘The McClintock review today was a very narrow review that looked at Mr. Ayres’ actions within the ministerial code of conduct. What it did not look at was his misleading of the parliament when it came to the ability for two very well qualified women to be considered for that role.’
She said Stuart Ayres was still ‘in a lot of trouble’, and had showed ‘poor judgement’ which would continue to be examined through the Public Accountability Committee, as would the role of the premier in the scandal.
‘I don’t think that the community will think that this passes any pub test,’ said Ms Sharpe. ‘What we’ve seen is a jobs for the boys culture, and that continues.’
Will Stuart Ayres return?
Penny Sharpe said there would be a ‘lot of concern in the community’ if Mr Ayres returned to cabinet.
‘What we know is that he worked through the process that saw Mr Barilaro appointed. He told the parliament that there was no suitable candidate for that role and he stood by John Barilaro.
‘It shows at best, a willingness to mislead the parliament,’ she said. ‘Let’s understand what’s happened here – two very good women who were qualified for that very important role in New York didn’t get the job because of the actions of Stuart Ayres and him working with his department.
‘We’re looking at the secretary of his department, from evidence from the secretary of DPC last week, possibly losing her job. At the end of the day, we’re going to have jobs for the boys and Stuart Ayres will benefit if he’s returned,’ said Ms Sharpe.
‘He may not have technically breached the ministerial code of conduct, but he’s shown very poor judgment and the premier has allowed him to do that all the way along.’
While Mr Ayres yesterday described the McClintock review as an ’emphatic exoneration’, Penny Sharpe MLC suggested that the case may yet be referred to ICAC.
‘The point here is that if the premier today thinks that Stuart Ayres is cleared and there’s nothing to see here, I just think that the community don’t believe that’s the case, and nor should they,’ she said.
‘It shouldn’t be the case that after all this time, the best person who’s lined up for a plum job in New York is the ex-deputy premier who created the job for himself.’