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Farid Farid and Jack Gramenz

'What a mess': Barilaro panel member

A businessman who sat on NSW selection panels for overseas trade commissioner roles said he would not have hired deputy premier John Barilaro to a New York-based position.

A parliamentary inquiry has expanded its scope to include other overseas positions, but has so far placed a particular focus on London agent-general Stephen Cartwright.

The inquiry's attention shifted back to Mr Barilaro when Warwick Smith, an independent member of the selection panel for the Americas trade role and the London agent-general, fronted the committee on Thursday.

Labor MP John Graham asked him directly about who in his experience was the best candidate for the New York post.

"I'm asking a specific question knowing what you know sitting here today. Who would you have chosen Fitzpatrick or Barilaro?"

"(Rob) Fitzpatrick," Mr Smith bluntly answered.

"It's about capability and it was politically sensible to choose someone in accord with the broad-based strategy that the premier himself when he was treasurer had set up."

Recruitment firm NGS Global ranked Mr Barilaro below the other candidates initially, but the former Nationals leader ended up nabbing the lucrative $500,000 a year position.

Mr Smith was scathing in his assessment of how the recruitment process moved forward without his input.

"I was bypassed and I wasn't happy about it," the veteran businessman and one-time federal Liberal MP told the inquiry.

"I wouldn't have (signed off) ... I was surprised to receive it (a selection panel report for Mr Barilaro)."

He also said he was unaware that former trade minister Stuart Ayres acted an informal referee for Mr Barilaro.

"Was I aware of that? No ... Well I suppose they were colleagues and would say nice things about each other".

Mr Smith said the entire chain of events leading to Mr Barilaro being chosen was problematic.

"Knowing what I know, hearing what I've heard and just being fair - what a mess," he said.

Earlier on Thursday, NGS Recruitment's Dr Marianne Broadbent told the inquiry another candidate for the London posting, Paul Webster, was seen as a more suitable candidate until February 2021 before the job went to Mr Cartwright.

"Perhaps unadvisedly I use the term massaging to describe that process," she said, referring to spruiking Mr Cartwright's credentials in emails released to the committee.

Dr Broadbent also confirmed that Mr Cartwright told her he had been encouraged to apply at the behest of Mr Barilaro, who was then deputy premier, and had also spoken with then treasurer and now premier Dominic Perrottet.

Ms Brown previously testified that Mr Cartwright threatened to go over her head to the minister or premier as he sought a salary package close to $800,000, which she could not legally give him anyway.

In text messages from September, released to the inquiry, Mr Perrottet told Mr Cartwright he was "going to be a great asset for the state over (in London)".

It was in response to Mr Cartwright wishing Mr Perrottet happy birthday at 1am.

"Looking forward to finally being announced as AG to London on 1 October and to getting over there to champion the cause for NSW," Mr Cartwright wrote in the early morning text.

The premier was asked in parliament earlier this month whether he still had confidence in the agent-general following reports he racked up $113,000 in expenses.

Scrutiny over the recruitment process for the taxpayer-funded US trade role prompted the resignation of Mr Ayres from cabinet following a draft report by former Public Service commissioner Graeme Head, which found he was not at arm's length.

The full report, released on Tuesday, prompted Mr Perrottet to announce bans on ministers taking up public sector jobs related to their portfolios for 18 months after they leave office.

The ministerial code of conduct will also be amended to prevent ministers seeking to influence departmental secretaries.

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