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Probe clears Stuart Ayres of ministerial code breach over Barilaro job

An inquiry found the former deputy Liberal leader complied with the ministerial code over the appointment of colleague John Barilaro to a New York trade post.

September 12, 2022
By Phoebe Loomes
12 September 2022

Former New South Wales Liberal minister Stuart Ayres could be on track to return to cabinet, after an inquiry cleared him of any legal wrongdoing in the appointment of John Barilaro to a coveted job in New York City.

The former deputy Liberal leader’s role in the controversial appointment was scrutinised after a broader inquiry into the appointment of the former deputy premier found Ayres may have breached the ministerial code of conduct.

The review by former NSW public service commissioner Graeme Head, released last month, also found Barilaro’s appointment was not conducted at arm’s length.

Ayres maintained he had not engaged in wrongdoing, however, the review led to the former investment, trade, enterprise, tourism and sport minister resigning from cabinet and relinquishing his deputy Liberal leadership position.

Premier Dominic Perrottet ordered an independent legal review be undertaken last month, to establish if the member for Penrith had breached the ministerial code.

The review, carried out by former Independent Commission Against Corruption (ICAC) inspector Bruce McClintock SC, and released on Monday found Ayres had not.

“While Mr Barilaro’s appointment was controversial, my task is a limited one, that is, to consider and determine whether … Mr Ayres complied with the Ministerial Code of Conduct,” he said.

“My legal opinion is that Mr Ayres complied with his obligation under the Ministerial Code of Conduct.”

Ayres issued a statement saying the report made clear “I acted lawfully, honestly and had no conflict of interest”.

He said the premier described the outcome to him as “an emphatic exoneration”.

The appointment of Barilaro to the US trade envoy position with an annual salary of $500,000 earlier this year became an escalating controversy that plagued the government for months.

Barilaro relinquished the position in June amid allegations of “jobs for the boys”, conceding his appointment was untenable and a distraction.

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