London rent ‘horrified’ Australian public servant on $600k

A New South Wales Agent-General to London paid $180,000 more than the state premier was “horrified” by the cost of rent in London and arranged for taxpayers to fund it before asking for help to pay school fees.

Nov 22, 2022, updated Nov 22, 2022
Photo: Carlton Myrie/News Images/Sipa USA

Photo: Carlton Myrie/News Images/Sipa USA

Stephen Cartwright says he quickly realised his $600,000 salary package would not be enough to rent in the UK capital and support his family.

“I started to do some of that research as soon as I arrived and was pretty horrified with what I saw,” Cartwright told a parliamentary inquiry on Tuesday.

“I got over here and found out the outrageous rents that you have to pay here, the school fees, that are double anything that you would ever pay in Australia.

“I discovered just how poorly NSW had structured these things.”

Cartwright’s appointment to the lucrative trade position is being scrutinised after it emerged he sought a salary of $800,000 – almost double the initial offering – and landed the role despite being ranked below other candidates.

The inquiry stems from the controversial appointment of former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro as the senior trade and investment commissioner to the Americas in June, a $500,000-a-year role he resigned from within two weeks.

The upper house committee’s focus has since been expanded to examine the circumstances surrounding all appointments to senior overseas trade positions.

Cartwright previously said he met Barilaro for coffee before applying for the role.

The former Business NSW executive rejected claims his appointment was a case of “jobs for mates”.

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After tense and protracted contract negotiations, Cartwright eventually accepted a base salary of $487,000 with $113,000 in perks, earning more than the state’s five other trade commissioners.

In February, a month after he arrived in London, the state also agreed to pay his rent, expected to cost taxpayers $105,000.

By June, Cartwright began emailing NSW CEO Amy Brown requesting financial help for his children’s school fees.

“You will recall that the (Trade) Minister (Stuart Ayres) was very clear that school fees could be dealt with in the same way that we are dealing with the rent,” Cartwright wrote to Investment NSW staff.

In July, staffers from NSW Treasury referred to former Investment NSW staffer Jenny West being upset and in a “real tizz” after a call with Cartwright.

Cartwright told the inquiry he did not recall what had caused the issue.


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