Police are investigating an incident involving former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro and a cameraman after he accused the media of harassment and having a camera “shoved in his face” on Saturday night.
Mr Barilaro, who is at the centre of a political storm over his appointment to a $500,000 taxpayer-funded trade commissioner’s role, described being confronted on Saturday night after he was spotted having a pizza and a few drinks with friends.
Breaking his silence over the political scandal, he told 2GB radio that there was “no conspiracy” and he desperately wanted to give evidence over the process of his appointment.
He accused the Labor Party of turning the matter into a “circus” and refusing to allow him to give evidence at an inquiry into the trade commissioner’s role.
“This is why cameramen are chasing me down the street. Like I’m a criminal. There are no criminal charges against (me). I’ve done nothing wrong. Nothing wrong,’’ he told 2GB radio.
“You know, for me to break my silence. I’ve stayed quiet during this whole ordeal. What did I do? I applied for a job, a trade job and the process can be detailed if given the opportunity to go to a hearing.
“But the upper house won’t call me to the hearing because I don’t want to hear the truth.”
Mr Barilaro insisted he was now “a private citizen” after he quit politics.
“And on Saturday night, I went out with friends for a few drinks for a pizza to come out in the dark and have a camera shoved in your face, a microphone in your face,’’ he said.
“And I at that point, you know I asked him just to walk away I’ve got nothing to say. But the constant harassment.
“I was confronted in the dark outside of the bar. I tell you what, I’ll ask the question of anyone that’s listening today, if that was you. How would you respond? All I did was push a camera. I did not man handle an individual.”
Mr Barilaro said he was happy to make himself available to the inquiry into the job this week.
“I’m calling on the Labor Party to stop playing games in the Upper House. Call me to the inquiry because it’s you that’s causing this intrusion and it’s harassment,’’ he said.
“Now is your chance. I’m available to turn into an inquiry hearing this week to talk about my side of the story. And let’s do that before this gets even uglier.”
Two years ago, Mr Barilaro was forced to take mental health leave after torrid week in politics over koala policy.
After the issue sparked a civil war in Coalition circles he took four weeks mental health leave.
In a text to colleagues at the time he spoke of his mental health “struggles”.
“Some of you are aware of the issues I have been dealing with, added with the past 10 days, I’m not in a good way. On strong advice I really need this time for me,’’ he said.
“I’m struggling. I have never felt this way and I need to address everything I’m facing.”’
Opposition Leader Chris Minns has seized on “explosive revelations” in recent days from Mr Barilaro’s chief of staff Mark Connell that the then-deputy premier had stated as early as 2019 that he wanted a New York trade job for “when I get the f**k out of this place”.
In a submission to the parliamentary inquiry, Mark Connell recounted a conversation he claims to have had with his then-boss in April 2019.
He claims Mr Barilaro came to see him following a meeting with then-treasurer Dominic Perrottet and minister for investment, Stuart Ayres, over plans to create six senior trade postings in cities around the world.
“This is it; this is the job for when I get the f**k out of this place,” Mr Connell alleges that Barilaro told him after the meeting.
Mr Barilaro has rejected the accusation as false.
“If true it’s a huge revelation – it would indicate that a job was created for John Barilaro and a selection process was effectively rigged,” Mr Minns said.
Originally published as John Barilaro filmed in confrontation with cameraman