Deputy Premier and Member for Monaro John Barilaro is under pressure following accusations he may have misled the NSW Parliament nine times.
Mr Barilaro signed off on a decision to buy a stake in an oyster company and then told Parliament the decision was made “at arm’s length” from the NSW Government.
He reiterated this point to a Parliamentary committee nine times under oath, saying he had no part in the decision to spend $3.3 million of a fund he controls to buy a stake in Australia’s Oyster Coast (AOC).
Mr Barilaro personally signed off on the approval for the purchase of the stake in AOC on April 5, 2018. In May he announced that his NSW Go Equity Fund had partnered with private equity fund ROC Partners, which is also the government’s investment advisor, to jointly invest in AOC.
The electoral district of Monaro ranks among the most marginal seats in the state. Mr Barilaro has so far proven to be one the most durable local members.
Formally a Queanbeyan local councilor, Mr Barilaro has managed to hold the seat even after becoming a state minister, a feat most of his predecessors simply failed to achieve.
NSW Opposition Leader Luke Foley has since called on Mr Barilaro to resign in light of his involvement in the AOC decision.
The investment has also angered some oyster farmers along the South Coast because it has created an unfair playing field in the local industry.
Mr Barilaro said: “I outlined the investment steps in Budget estimates, but the Labor Party has lazily ignored that. The recommendation process is completely at arms’ length of government and Ministerial sign-off occurs after an investment decision has been determined by the Jobs for NSW Board.
“Considerable external due diligence is done before an investment is recommended. And even after Ministerial sign-off, it goes back to the investment committee before the investment goes ahead.”
Labor candidate for Monaro Bryce Wilson said: "Once again the people of the Monaro are left feeling deeply disappointed in our local member, John Barilaro.
“There has been broken promises on forced council mergers, his handling of the Brumbies bill, the problems of delays and overruns in the delivery of the Queanbeyan Police Station, and today’s stunning evidence of misleading Parliament.
“He has been caught bang to rights and it is high time for him to go. Communities across the Monaro deserves better.”
Unlikely to cause his resignation, these revelations may yet be unhelpful to Mr Barilaro’s re-election campaign in the 2019 state contest.