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London agent-general's brief 'massaged' before appointment, emails to NSW parliament reveal

Daniel Mookhey says the emails raise more questions regarding the appointment process for the overseas trade commissioner roles. (AAP: James Gourley)

The NSW Opposition describes new emails surrounding the recruitment of the state's agent-general to the UK, Stephen Cartwright, as "disturbing", saying they raise serious questions about the appointment process for the role.

The emails, which were provided to the NSW upper house, show recruitment firm NGS Global told an Investment NSW HR executive in April last year that Mr Cartwright's candidate brief needed to be "massaged". 

"We would need to massage the Candidate Brief for Stephen as there were some difference [sic] that panel identified between the NGS brief and the panel view," NGS Global Managing Partner Dr Marianne Broadbent wrote in the email to Investment NSW HR business partner, Evelina Polura.  

An email from NGS Global to a government representative.  (Supplied)

In an email later that afternoon, Ms Polura asked Dr Broadbent whether Mr Cartwright had met with the treasurer, deputy premier or premier. 

"I understand that out of these three approvers, at least one of them may not require a meeting as Stephen is known to them," she wrote. 

The revelation comes a week after a NSW parliamentary inquiry heard Mr Cartwright was a "late entrant" in the hiring process for the job, after another preferred candidate was considered "not acceptable". 

The inquiry, which is investigating the appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro to a plum New York trade role, previously heard former bureaucrat Jenny West was verbally offered the job before it was rescinded. 

An email from a government representative to NGS Global.  (Supplied)
Former NSW premier Mike Baird with Stephen Cartwright (right).  (AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

Shadow Treasurer Daniel Mookhey said the new emails were "disturbing". 

"Time and time again, these documents are showing that there was manipulation in the process in order to secure a preferred outcome from the government," he said. 

 "A successful person is found, that person is deemed a preferred candidate then shoved aside for somebody else. 

"The process is then manipulated to retrospectively justify the decision to give it to the government's preferred candidate." 

Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told the parliamentary inquiry Mr Cartwright asked for an "unrealistic" salary. (AAP: Bianca De Marchi)

Last week, Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown told the inquiry Mr Cartwright wanted an "unrealistic" salary of $800,000 a year for the role. 

Ms Brown said she had to negotiate the figure down.

The NSW Opposition also questioned the role Mr Perrottet played in the recruitment and appointment of Mr Cartwright.

Emails from February 2021 show then treasurer Mr Perrottet was set to meet the "preferred candidate" Paul Webster, before cabinet would consider the appointment on March 15."

"It looks like another incidence of the public service running one process, the then treasurer and other ministers getting involved, leading to an entirely different candidate at the end," Mr Mookhey said.

"Mr Perrottet needs to explain whether he vetoed the original candidate for the agent general's job and what role did he play in the process that led to the appointment of Mr Cartwright."

Mr Perrottet has denied any intervention in the recruitment of Mr Cartwright, and said it was a matter that ultimately rested with then trade minister John Barilaro. 

"I was treasurer at the time, I was not the trade minister and I in my treasury responsibilities, and in my premier responsibilities, leave that to the public service," he said.

"From time to time they will give you updates, they may seek your advice."

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