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Senior government attorney Chris Carr testifies in John Barilaro investigation in New York

A moving conversation between a senior government lawyer and a woman rejected for a commercial job in New York has come to light during a parliamentary hearing.

Department of Enterprise, Investment and Trade General Counsel Chris Carr, who gave evidence to a parliamentary inquiry into the hiring process on Tuesday, said he comforted his colleague on a “level human” rather than as a lawyer.

“I was very clearly in a situation where I felt the need to console her because she was going through the vicissitudes of life,” Mr Carr said of Jenny West, the former civil servant who was offered the $500,000 job before having the offer revoked so that former NSW Deputy Premier John Barilaro could take the plum post.

“And I felt it was up to me as a colleague, just on a human level, to give him some degree of comfort.”

Ms West, a former assistant secretary at Investment NSW, previously handed the committee notes she took after her interview with Mr Carr.

In one of the notes, written on September 17, Ms West said Mr Carr told her he was ‘horrified to hear of the situation I was in and could not believe what was being offered “.

“His comments were, you were offered the job, got him signed and just wait for the contract, then it happens…if it was me, I’d be bitterly disappointed,” the note continued.

Mr Carr said the word ‘horrified’ was not the word he would have used.

But he confirmed that he had tried to console Ms West and understand her disappointment.

“I have no doubt that she felt the finish line was in sight. Whenever a co-worker comes up against disappointment, you will of course try to empathize and contextualize for yourself. Mr. Carr said.

“I empathized with the excitement and enthusiasm that comes for someone, to be in a situation where after going through all of this, and so close to the end, you find out that it suddenly comes to a point where it seems difficult.

“Of course, you try to relate your own experiences to that to comfort them.”

Mr Carr also revealed conversations between himself, Ms West’s boss and John Barilaro’s office in the weeks before his verbal offer was revoked.

Mr Carr said in mid-August 2021 that the then Minister for Trade, Mr Barilaro, “became aware that within NSW’s existing legal framework, appointments (Senior Commissioner for Trade and Investment ) did not need to be submitted to cabinet for approval”.

“I was then asked to advise on a political question, namely ‘Why is it that in New South Wales the law provides that these appointments go through the civil service, and what should be to change that to ministerial appointments?” said Carr.

Mr Carr said Mr Barilaro sought the advice of Investment NSW chief executive Amy Brown in early September and was then asked by her office to look into the matter.

He was then questioned by Labor MP Daniel Mookhey about this evidence because it contradicted Ms Brown’s testimony.

Earlier, she told the committee that Mr. Barilaro’s office sought advice from Mr. Carr, not his office.

“My evidence was that at the time the instructions were received, it was through a combination of the CEO of Investment NSW and his chief of staff,” she said.

The hearing was repeatedly interrupted by government and opposition MPs arguing over whether the questions were fair.

During her testimony to the committee, Ms West claimed that Ms Brown had told her the job in New York would be “somebody’s gift”.

Mr Barilaro gave up the New York post earlier this year after public outrage over the appointment.

He was involved in creating the post when he was trade minister, and testimony to the committee has previously suggested Mr Barilaro sought to change the appointments process in one of his last acts in cabinet.

Two former members of Mr. Barilaro’s staff were asked to testify publicly on Tuesday, but both declined.

One of the men, former chief of staff Mark Connell, reportedly refused to give evidence, while former senior political adviser Joseph Brayford agreed to give evidence behind closed doors.