Stuart Ayres, the Minister for Tourism and Major Events in New South Wales, has resigned following the ongoing saga around former Nationals deputy John Barilaro’s appointment to a well-paid government gig in New York.
Ayres’ role in the appointment of Barilaro to a plum US trade position was coming under increased scrutiny after revelations of an alleged government imposed short list that put Barilaro as the front runner.
Premier Dominic Perrottet has ordered a review into the recruitment process but stopped short of laying the blame squarely at Ayres feet.
“Late last night, Minister Stuart Ayres informed me he would resign from his ministerial positions and as deputy leader of the NSW parliamentary Liberal Party,” Perrottet said.
“His intention to resign follows a briefing I received from the Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter on a section of the draft Graham Head report relevant to Mr Ayres.
“I subsequently discussed the issues raised in that briefing with Mr Ayres.
“Mr Head’s draft findings raised a concern about whether Mr Ayres had complied with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.”
Ayres has conceded he sent the job application to Barilaro but maintained he was at arms’ length from the actual recruitment process.
Quite how Barilaro managed to secure the $500,000 a year trade commissioner role remains a mystery following the release of his job application which was so poorly written it would have disappointed a primary school teacher.
But Ayres stood his ground, saying while he felt it necessary to resign, “no such breach [of ministerial conduct] has occurred”.
“However, I agree it is important that this matter is investigated appropriately and support the Premier’s decision to do so,” he said.
“I have always applied the highest levels of integrity in my conduct as a minister.
“To maintain the integrity of the cabinet, I have decided to resign as a minister to allow the investigation to be completed.
“Accordingly, I will also be resigning as the Deputy Leader of the Liberal Party.”