Minister denies secrecy over Barilaro docs

·3-min read

A senior minister has denied the NSW government is trying to keep documents about John Barilaro's appointment to a US trade role a secret, ahead of the recall of the upper house over the scandal.

The Legislative Council will sit again on Friday - more than three weeks ahead of its scheduled return - to address government claims of secrecy over some documents.

The Public Accountability Committee has requested the documents as it continues its inquiry into the former deputy premier's appointment as senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas.

Leader in the upper house Damien Tudehope said the government is committed to complying fully with orders for papers, and will deliver more this week, rejecting any suggestion it had been keeping any secrets.

He said the government's hands had been tied in some instances by privacy laws that prevent revealing certain information, such as personal details about candidates who applied for the role.

"No one applying for a job expects their CV or assessment panel reports on their suitability to (be) made public without their permission," Mr Tudehope told AAP.

On Monday, 169 documents were provided to the upper house by the Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade, with 162 of them marked as privileged.

The department reviewed those documents on Wednesday, and removed privilege from 71 of them.

It also provided another 304 non-privileged documents to the Department of Premier and Cabinet, to be delivered to the upper house.

A department spokesperson said it was given 10 business days to provide documents dating back to October 2020 and a request for an extension was rejected.

"The coordination and production of standing order documents is resource intensive, requiring sophisticated identification and reviews, indexing, privilege assessments and careful consideration of how to lawfully deal with sensitive personal information," the spokesperson said.

The ongoing inquiry has been an unwelcome distraction during Premier Dominic Perrottet's first international trip to Japan, Korea and India.

He was forced to defend Trade Minister Stuart Ayres on Tuesday after the release of documents which showed a former senior public servant had been identified as the preferred candidate, before the role was readvertised and Mr Barilaro was eventually appointed.

Mr Ayres said the briefing, which he took note of, did not represent the end of the recruitment process.

Mr Perrottet and Mr Ayres have previously said they'd been advised the initial recruitment process had not identified any successful candidates.

Mr Barilaro stood down from the role at the end of June, less than two weeks after his appointment was announced.

Deputy Opposition leader in the upper house John Graham said Friday's sitting will aim to secure more documents in a public form, so they can be used in hearings by the committee conducting the inquiry.

"The public deserves to know it's in the public interest that these documents are moved from behind closed doors and out into the open so that the committee can do its work," Mr Graham said.

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