Dominic Perrottet’s adviser to be quizzed about controversial trade appointment

Labor attempting to link saga to NSW premier, who was treasurer at the time of Stephen Cartwright’s appointment to senior trade job

NSW premier Dominic Perrottet’s chief of staff will be questioned about what role he played in the appointment of the former NSW business chamber president, Stephen Cartwright, to a lucrative UK trade job.

Bran Black, Perrottet’s chief adviser, will appear before the long-running inquiry into the government’s controversial senior trade jobs, which was launched after former deputy premier John Barilaro’s appointment to the New York position in June.

After months of hearings, Black’s appearance is the first by a staffer inside Perrottet’s office, and represents Labor’s efforts to link the saga to the premier, who was treasurer in Gladys Berejiklian’s government at the time of the appointment.

The scandal over the appointment has dogged the Coalition government for months, even after Barilaro withdrew from the role and another minister, Stuart Ayres, was prompted to resign from the frontbench.

The upper house inquiry has continued, shifting focus to Cartwright’s appointment as senior UK trade commissioner after evidence from the now-former Investment NSW boss, Amy Brown, that Cartwright threatened to go above her to “the minister or premier” during salary negotiations.

Labor is expected to grill Black on what role he played in Cartwright’s appointment, which was made after Barilaro urged the former Business NSW boss to apply for the job despite another candidate already being identified for the role.

In August, Brown told the inquiry that in mid-2021 Cartwright had what she described as “unrealistic” pay expectations amounting to an overall package of about $800,000, and that she had approached Black to ask him about the demands.

Then-NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (centre), with Stephen Cartwright (at left), Brad Hazzard and then-treasurer Dominic Perrottet (right) in 2020.
Then-NSW premier Gladys Berejiklian (centre), with Stephen Cartwright (at left), Brad Hazzard and then-treasurer Dominic Perrottet (right) in 2020. Photograph: Dan Himbrechts/AAP

During a hearing in August, Brown said Black had given her the “strong opinion” that a $800,000 salary package for Cartwright was “worth it”.

Black denied her account of the conversation, saying at the time that he had told her the salary demand was “unreasonable”.

Black said he told Brown she should “not take any decision that was inconsistent with ordinary public sector principles or practice”.

When the inquiry resumes on Tuesday Cartwright will also appear to give evidence for the second time.

Earlier this month he denied that his appointment was a case of “jobs for mates”, despite being encouraged to apply by Barilaro.

“I don’t think there’s any way that my appointment can be categorised as jobs for mates because I don’t have any politicians that are mates,” he said.

“I’ve never been part of any political party.”


Michael McGowan

The GuardianTramp

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