Barilaro inquiry missing key puzzle pieces

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The NSW government is hindering the process of a committee examining former deputy premier John Barilaro's appointment to an overseas trade role, Labor's leader in the upper house says.

Penny Sharpe says the government is entering "obstruction territory", with an upper house order for documents almost two weeks overdue.

"We are now getting to the point where it is beyond a joke," Ms Sharpe said on Tuesday.

The inquiry into Mr Barilaro's appointment as senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas is considering its next witnesses.

"But at this point we do not have the key pieces of the puzzle and I would argue that is deliberate from the government," Ms Sharpe said.

Earlier on Tuesday, Department of Enterprise, Trade and Investment general counsel Chris Carr told the inquiry he had "limited" involvement in Mr Barilaro's appointment.

He was available to answer any questions Mr Barilaro had about the contract, as he was for other senior trade and investment commissioner roles.

However, he was not involved in the hiring process, he said.

Mr Carr also disputed evidence given by other witnesses before the hearing.

Former public servant Jenny West previously told the inquiry she was offered the role and subsequently lost her senior job at Investment NSW after it was withdrawn.

Ms West said Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown told her the role "will be a present for someone".

It eventually went to Mr Barilaro.

Mr Carr was asked in September to prepare advice on why the hiring of senior trade and investment commissioners was a public service appointment, and whether it could be a ministerial one.

He said the request came from Ms Brown or her chief of staff, not from Mr Barilaro.

Ms Brown previously told the inquiry a request came from the former deputy premier's office.

An email showed Ms Brown emailing Mr Barilaro's office information about why the roles were considered public servant positions and unsuitable for ministerial appointment in July 2021, advice Mr Carr said he did not provide.

Labor MP Daniel Mookhey said it was important to determine who commissioned advice about the appointment process.

"That allows us to then understand the motives of the people who were doing it," he said.

He said the hearing raised questions due to Ms Brown's and Mr Carr's contradictory testimony and suggested Ms Brown could be called back for another hearing.

"We are going to need to hear from her about who we should believe," Mr Mookhey said.

Mr Carr also told the hearing Ms West's testimony that she was "fully offered the job" was "not correct".

"Ms West was well advanced in the process, but not at the end of it," he said.

He had a phone call with Ms West around the time she learned the job offer was being withdrawn.

She told the hearing she had taken a note of their conversation and Mr Carr had told her he was "horrified" by her situation.

"That's not a word I would have used," Mr Carr told the hearing, although he did not take notes.

"I had a colleague who was upset and it's not my usual practice when giving comfort and consolation to a colleague ... to take notes and submit them later on," he said.

Mr Carr said Ms West's note was a summary of their conversation and only her interpretation of it.

Mr Barilaro announced last month he would withdraw from the role, saying it was "not tenable with the amount of media attention this appointment has gained".

He has maintained he followed the proper processes.

Premier Dominic Perrottet has launched an internal inquiry into the appointment, led by former public service commissioner Graeme Head, which he expects to be finalised in the coming weeks.

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