Roll Out the Barilaro
13 August 2022
I sometimes get upset that I missed a good series on TV, but I was recently sorry to miss the Barilaro
Show on the NSW Parliamentary website stream.
It seems that John Barilaro, the Deputy Premier worked to get rid of Gladys Berejeklian, then set up
an entire Trade Commissioner Service for NSW, then someone made its jobs subject to political
appointment rather than public service protocol, then he said that he wanted a job in New York
rather than London, then someone decided that he was the best man for the NY Trade
Commissioners job. So because of the ‘someones’ in the above sentence Barilaro was surprised to
get the job in NY and is a ‘victim’ in this process, so he has ‘mental health issues’ and cannot front
the Parliamentary Inquiry about all this.
Looking at the 3 aspects of this:
- Whether we need a NSW Trade Commissioner
- How they are selected and
- Politicians with mental health issues at critical times
I am not sure if there should be State-based Trade Commissioners, as there is a danger that the
Australian States will have a race to the bottom to get foreign investment. I recall NSW competed
with Qld and Victoria to have a new tobacco factory built. In the Randwick and Botany Sites
Development Act 1982 it rezoned the tobacco factory in Kensington from industrial to high-rise
residential, changing its value from about $5 million to $17 Million and handing over the Pagewood
bus depot site at a peppercorn price to get British Tobacco to stay in Sydney rather than move
interstate. British-Americal tobacco got a huge windfall, NSW got a new tobacco factory and the
industry had a good base to lobby against smoke-free legislation for the next 20 years.
Australia has a Federal Trade Commissioner service and New Zealand has one lot of Trade
Commissioners who sell their national brand very effectively and consistently.
As far as the selection of staff is concerned I am also in favour of proper and transparent selection
processes, which were in place in the NSW Public Service when I started in in it in 1983, but were
being considerably frayed with political interference when I left in 1994.
My track record on Mental Health is that I initiated the NSW Mental Health Inquiry (Hansard
11/12/2001), which was chaired by Dr Brian Pezzutti, was completed in 2003 and noted the
appalling state of Mental Health in NSW since the large institutions were closed after the Richmond
Report, and Premier Greiner saved on the alternative by not providing the promised community
mental health support services. The result of the 2003 inquiry was more money ($320 million) for
NSW mental health services so that practitioners’ complaints changed from ‘we cannot afford it’ to
‘we cannot get trained staff’, which is progress after a fashion. It also triggered a Federal Senate
Mental Health inquiry in 2007, which resulted in psychologists being put onto Medicare, which
increased the professional workforce by about 6 times as there are many more psychologists than
psychiatrists. But perhaps the main effect was some degree of destigmatisation of mental health,
so now sportspeople and others can time off for mental health problems when they could not
But before you drop all scepticism about mental health, you should read Rick Morton’s piece in The
Saturday Paper today, which is the source of my potted summary above and traces Barilaro’s
actions. Sometimes being stressed looks particularly like getting comeuppance when you think you
are entitled to something.