To be more than fair to Premier Dominic Perrottet, the chain of events surrounding John Barilaro's ill-fated - and ill-advised - appointment as a senior trade commissioner to the Americas, based in New York on a salary package of about $500,000 a year, began when his predecessor, Gladys Berejiklian, was still heading the state.
But as finance minister since 2014 and treasurer since 2017, Mr Perrottet had been plugged into the highest levels of government for six years when he took the top job in October last year. Back then, COVID and the looming federal election were the big issues in a week that saw Ms Berejiklian, Mr Barilaro and former minister Andrew Constance announce their departures.
It should not be forgotten that one of Mr Barilaro's final ministerial roles was to announce the search for six trade commissioners, including the position in New York he would covet and briefly obtain. It was Stuart Ayres, whose role in the saga has now cost him his ministerial and deputy Liberal leadership roles - who took over Mr Barilaro's trade and industry portfolio, giving him carriage of the appointments.
The political dogs had begun to bark months before Mr Barilaro was announced as the New York appointee on June 17 this year. Mr Perrottet had ample time to take control of the issue. Having Mr Ayres fall on his sword may staunch the blood flow for the short term, but the Labor opposition, and the Greens on the crossbench, are determined to maintain the pressure. Even if the original appointment process had not been stopped - and Mr Barilaro appointed in a second, re-opened process - his selection would still raise legitimate questions.
Earlier this week, Mr Ayres said he regretted not telling Mr Barilaro not to apply for the job, because it was too politically sensitive, and too soon after his time in parliament. This is such an obvious realisation that it is difficult to understand how such a realisation did not hold sway in the first place. Mr Barilaro's threats to "blow up the Coalition" make him an unusual recipient of Liberal largesse.
And if he was not the best person for the job, then the end result has been expedience, at the very least, put ahead of whatever benefit the trade commissioner role could ever bring the state.
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