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Inquiry into John Barilaro US trade job hears from recruiter and selection panelist, as it happened

The NSW parliamentary inquiry into the selection of John Barilaro as trade commissioner to the Americas has heard from two new witnesses.

Look back on the day's events.

Key events

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Live updates

By Paige Cockburn

Thanks for joining me

The inquiry has finished for the day so that's where we will leave our live coverage.

Thanks for your company.

It's not yet known when the next hearing will take place, but Mr Barilaro is still expected to give more evidence.

By Paige Cockburn

The future of trade roles

Before wrapping up, the inquiry asked Mr Smith whether he thinks these trade roles could be done by Austrade.

Austrade is the federal government's international trade promotion and investment attraction agency and has offices all around the world.

It's previously been proposed that state representatives could be housed in Austrade offices.

Mr Smith said this doesn't always work and depends on the region.

"The state that lags, that doesn't have a presence, doesn't take it seriously, will get the result you expect to see."

Labor has promised to abolish the six trade envoy positions if elected next year.

By Paige Cockburn

Are politicians the right people for these trade jobs?

This question was posed by Labor's Penny Sharpe.

Mr Smith said it depends on the individual and their capabilities.

"My sense is that the political life can be a great contributor in the business world.

But to just come out of political life and be rescued straight into a job that you may not fully be appropriate for is not a good thing."

And here's what he thinks about Mr Barilaro's appointment:

"He interviewed well, he could have done ok."

But Mr Smith maintains other candidates were "personable" and had deeper international experience.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

Fitzpatrick should have got job over Barilaro

Mr Smith said he believes one of the other front-runners for the US job, Rob Fitzpatrick, should have been selected.

This is based on his capabilities and the need to be politically sensible, Mr Smith said.

The former MP has summed up the whole recruitment process as a "mess" and said he feels sympathy for Mr Fitzpatrick/

By Paige Cockburn

Smith says referees should never have been deciding factor

Labor's Daniel Mookhey has just questioned Mr Smith on a section from the final selection report which said Mr Barilaro's strong referees were what got him over the line.

Mr Smith says he was never consulted about what this report said.

"I don't think any panel I've ever sat on would just say this is the best person based on the strength of the references.

"You just don't do that, you have a bigger responsibility."

By Paige Cockburn

'Wasn't aware of that until just now'

Warwick Smith says he had no idea that then trade minister Stuart Ayres was an informal referee for John Barilaro.

"I wasn't aware of that until just now.

"I suppose colleagues say nice things."

The Graeme Head report, released on Tuesday, said Amy Brown had not adhered to ethics rules when she failed to tell job panel members about informal references from Mr Ayres.

By Paige Cockburn

No conflict of interest disclosure

Mr Smith has told the inquiry he did not disclose any conflict of interest before interviewing Stephen Cartwright for the UK job.

This was despite the fact the pair would sometimes meet for discussions.

Mr Smith said he didn't believe he need to make a disclosure.

He says he rated Mr Cartwright "highly" after the interview.

By Paige Cockburn

Questions about UK Agent-General job

Mr Smith said he thought the first front runner for the UK job, Paul Webster, would be a good fit.

"He had a run up start as he was already there."

He says he never found out why Mr Webster was no longer considered after Stephen Cartwright entered the race.

Mr Smith says he knew Mr Cartwright personally, and occasionally caught up with him, but doesn't remember ever giving him advice about the UK job.

Mr Cartwright was appointed to the job and still holds it.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

Smith felt disrespected

Mr Smith has told the inquiry he was "surprised" to get an email on June 15, 2022 saying Mr Barilaro was the successful candidate.

He had not been consulted about this decision and felt "disrespected" to learn contract negotiations were already underway with Mr Barilaro.

"Normal process was that we would respect independent panel members."

Mr Smith says he thought another candidate, Rob Fitzpatrick, would be an excellent fit.

He says the New York-based job was a particularly important trade job.

By Paige Cockburn

'Crocodile Dundee of Queanbeyan'

Mr Smith said he was somewhat surprised that Mr Barilaro put his hat in the ring for the US job.

"There was some element of surprise to have the self-described Crocodile Dundee of Queanbeyan want to go to New York."

By Paige Cockburn

Perrottet never spoke about candidates with Smith

Mr Smith says no one in government ever pushed him to consider particular candidates for the trade jobs.

"Perrottet [only] spoke to me about the greater strategy [relating to the roles]."

However Mr Smith does not believe the process was done at arm's length from the government.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

'Used or taken for granted'

The review by Graeme Head, released on Tuesday, is now being discussed.

It found the independent members, including Mr Smith, had little involvement in some parts of the job process.

Mr Smith was not told about Mr Ayres' contact with Ms Brown or that the job had already been offered to Mr Barilaro by the time he was asked to sign the final selection report.

"We were both bypassed, that's my view...and I wasn't happy about it," Mr Smith has said to the inquiry now.

"Seems to me [that I was] used or being taken for granted."

"You're dealing with the state's future, there's a requirement for fairness and openness and transparency."

He says he would not have signed the final selection report if he had known what had been going on in the background.

By Paige Cockburn

Warwick Smith is up

Mr Smith is one of the independent members on the selection panel for the trade roles.

He says he was asked to be on the panel due to his extensive experience and knowledge of international trade.

He served on the panels for the Americas, China, Middle East, UK and Japan trade roles.

By Paige Cockburn

Next witness

Shortly we will hear evidence from Warwick Smith, who was on the selection panel for the US trade job.

Mr Smith has significant experience in the business community and was a MP in the Howard government.

By Paige Cockburn

Barilaro's withdrawal from recruitment process

In February 2022 Mr Barilaro told Dr Broadbent he no longer wanted to be considered for the US role.

Two days later he told her he did indeed want to be considered.

Dr Broadbent has told the inquiry she didn't find this "concerning" or choose to read into it.

She said it's not something that happens every day but it "certainly does happen".

By Paige Cockburn

Discussions with Cartwright about pay

The inquiry is talking about this ABC article published this morning which revealed that Stephen Cartwright claimed Dominic Perrottet and John Barilaro personally guaranteed a $800k salary package for him.

Dr Broadbent said she remembers an email Mr Cartwright wrote her in March 2021 which said Perrottet had promised him extra money.

Mr Perrottet has denied approving the salary and expenses package.

She said she believed Mr Cartwright had also spoken to Mr Barilaro about pay. At the time, Mr Barilaro was trade minister.

Investment NSW advised Dr Broadbent in April that the salary and super package for this job would be $600k.

By Paige Cockburn

Final report saw Barilaro's score changed

Chair of the committee, Cate Faehrmann, has asked Dr Broadbent what she thought about being asked to change the rankings.

"On what basis does a professional recruitment firm make such a substantial change?... you had to essentially upgrade Mr Barilaro...two of his meets became exceeds," Ms Faehrmann asked.

Dr Broadbent responded by saying that although the first selection report had Kimberley Cole ahead of Mr Barilaro, the second report had them on even footing and the third report (completed by the panel not NGS) had Mr Barilaro higher.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

'Change the order'

Dr Broadbent told the inquiry on May 26, 2022 Amy Brown told her Mr Barilaro was the successful candidate.

She was then asked to edit the selection report.

"[She asked]  could I please change the [ranking] order to reflect that and also ensure that I include comments that Mr Barilaro had strong references."

By Paige Cockburn

Broadbent asked to let Cole down

Marianne Broadbent says Amy Brown told her that Kimberley Cole, the other top candidate for the US job, had met with then minister for trade Stuart Ayres during the recruitment process.

She was told the meeting "did not go well".

Ms Brown asked Dr Broadbent to tell Ms Cole she was not successful.

By Paige Cockburn

Key Event

Broadbent thought Kimberley Cole was preferred candidate for US trade job

As the recruitment process for the Americas job came to an end, Kimberley Cole and John Barilaro were the front-runners.

Dr Broadbent said a draft selection report she wrote after a meeting by the job panel suggested Ms Cole was the preferred candidate due to her strong international experience.

However she says she may have got this impression wrong.

"Other panel members have different impressions.

"It was one of the rare occasions that I was advised that it (the report) did not necessarily reflect the conclusion the panel reached."

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