August 3, 2022 | By Bronwen Largier | Image: Stuart Ayres speaking at a EEAA event in 2021 | Credit:

The NSW Minister for Enterprise, Investment and Trade, Tourism and Sport and Western Sydney, Stuart Ayres, has resigned in light of a concern raised over whether he breached the NSW Ministerial Code of Conduct.

The concern was raised within the context of the ongoing review into the appointment of John Barilaro – former deputy premier of NSW and former leader of the NSW Nationals Party – as senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas. The tax-payer funded role has a salary package of around $500,000.

NSW Premier Dominic Perrottet announced Ayres’ resignation at a press conference this morning and called it an “appropriate action”.

“Late last night Minister Stuart Ayres informed me that he would resign from his ministerial positions and as deputy leader of the NSW Parliamentary Liberal Party,” said Perrottet.

“His intention to resign follows a briefing I received from the Department of Premier and Cabinet secretary Michael Coutts-Trotter yesterday afternoon 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 as to whether Mr Ayres had complied with the Ministerial Code of Conduct.

“The issues raised fell outside the terms of reference of the Head review. Mr Head’s review does not and could not extend to whether Mr Ayres had complied with the Ministerial Code of Conduct. When I put these matters to Mr Ayres, he offered his resignation from the ministry and as deputy leader of the Parliamentary Liberal Party.

“An investigation will now be undertaken to determine if Mr Ayres has breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct,” said Perrottet.

Perrottet said the portfolios held by Ayres, including tourism and trade, which are important to the business events industry, would be reassigned with an announcement in due course.

The review into why Barilaro was appointed to the highly paid role – including looking at the recruitment process and how declared or perceived conflicts of interest are managed – has found its way back to Ayres as the minister most closely tied to the government agency responsible for the appointment, Investment NSW. The review is separate from the parliamentary inquiry into Barilaro’s appointment, the public hearings of which have been generating headlines.

In recent days, contradictory statements have come to light regarding Ayres’ involvement in the recruitment process for the commissioner position. Initially Ayres said the process was conducted at arm’s length from him, but subsequently also said he had sent the job ad to Barilaro.

In a statement released this morning, Ayres said the draft excerpt of the inquiry review “creates a question” over whether he breached the Ministerial Code of Conduct, but he believes he has not.

“In my view, no such breach has occurred.

“However I agree it is important that this matter is investigated appropriately and support the Premier’s decision to do so,” said Ayres.

“I believe I have always acted in accordance with the Ministerial Code of Conduct and in the best interests of the people of NSW.”

Ayres will stay on as the Member for Penrith in the NSW Parliament.