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This isn’t great: Bombshell John Barilaro texts exposed in NY job probe

Explosive texts reveal public servants’ reactions as news of John Barilaro’s appointment to a plum US trade role filtered through to the government.

August 10, 2022
By Phoebe Loomes
10 August 2022

Explosive text messages reveal the reactions of public servants to John Barilaro’s appointment to a plum US trade role as news filtered through the government.

Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown texted colleagues a news article flagging that a parliamentary upper house inquiry would probe how Mr Barilaro landed the role as the state’s senior trade commissioner to the Americas.

“This isn’t great,” she wrote on June 20.

“No, but utterly predictable,” Department of Premier and Cabinet Secretary Michael Coutts Trotter replied.

Ms Brown texted back: “We should talk it through once I’ve pulled everything together. Technically it was my decision.”

Deputy Secretary, Community Engagement at the Department of Premier and Cabinet Kate Meagher replied: “Happy to help Amy”.

“Of course,” Mr Coutts-Trotter said.

The texts, ordered as part of the upper house probe into Mr Barilaro’s hiring, were published on Tuesday night.

Ms Brown has maintained it was her decision to appoint Mr Barilaro during her appearance at three upper house inquires.

However she conceded she was somewhat influenced as the government sought to convert the roles to ministerial appointments.

In May, the month before Mr Barilaro’s hiring was made public, Ms Brown texted Mr Coutts-Trotter to let him know she had the green light to proceed with the contract from Premier Dominic Perrottet.

“I’ve been told that premier and DP (Deputy Premier Paul Toole) are comfortable with the appointment of Barilaro … and requested to get on with formalising the arrangements (which I’ll do).”

Ms Brown previously told the inquiry she approached Mr Coutts-Trotter to discuss the appointment and told him she was nervous about it.

“He didn’t say what he was going to do necessarily,” Ms Brown told the inquiry last Wednesday, noting she also did not receive a substantial answer.

Mr Coutts-Trotter was charged with running a separate inquiry into the hiring process by the premier, which is in fact being conducted by former public service commissioner Graeme Head to ensure confidence in the process.

Another exchange shows Investment NSW Media Director Kristoff Clark texting another media director, Sophie Hull, who previously worked for former Investment Minister Stuart Ayres, discussing a June 17 media release announcing Mr Barilaro’s appointment.

“Any aggro from anyone?” Mr Clark asked on the day of the announcement.

“A little but it has settled,” Ms Hull replied, with a blushing smile emoji.

“Wonder who Yoni heard from,” Mr Clark added.

“Not sure who told Yoni. Probably Barra (Mr Barilaro) himself,” Ms Hull replied, with the eye roll emoji.

The pair appear to be discussing a June 16 column by News Corp journalist Yoni Bashan, which reported Mr Barilaro was “on the move”, having resigned from his job at Coronation Property.

The report pipped the government’s release by a day.

Mr Barilaro was told he had been the successful candidate by Investment NSW managing director Kylie Bell on May 23, who texted him to organise a call with human resources.

“Texting to say congrats and we’re thrilled you are our STIC for Americas,” Ms Bell said.

“Thank you Kylie,” Mr Barilaro replied.

“Just give me a time and I’ll work around it. John.”

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