Infrastructure Minister Rob Stokes privately asked the deputy Liberal leader to resign from cabinet after accusations Ayres used his influence to appoint Barilaro the lucrative envoy position.
On Tuesday, Ayres’ response when asked about the Stokes message was: “I responded with very similar messaging that the advice I provided the House is the advice I received from the CEO of Investment NSW.”
Ayres is under fire for his handling of the former deputy premier’s appointment, following accusations he used discussions with the Investment NSW CEO Amy Brown to promote Barilaro’s standing as a candidate.
Ayres once again doubled down on his claim he did nothing wrong.
“I’ve always acted in the best interests of the people of NSW,” Ayres said.
He admitted there was “one thing” he would do differently if he had his time over.
When Barilaro asked him about filling the potential Investment NSW role in New York, Ayres said he should have advised him that though he could apply as a private citizen, it would not be in Barilaro’s or NSW’s “best interests” to do so.
“Once he did that though, I think it’s important that the public service treated him fairly and equally,” he said.
He said he was confident the review into the matter would show he acted “appropriately” as a government minister.
Two selection reports were released, with one showing Barilaro did not attract the highest interview score among the final candidates and was instead suggested for the “talent pool” instead of snagging the role.
The other document showed Barilaro was the “recommended candidate” for the trade posting.
Barilaro was awarded the job of US trade commissioner ahead of credentialed bureaucrat Jenny West.
He has since withdrawn from the role, citing media attention.
A parliamentary inquiry into the appointment is currently underway.