Dominic Perrottet defends appointment of Liberal donor brother of Angus Taylor to NSW body

<span>Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP</span>
Photograph: Lukas Coch/AAP

Dominic Perrottet has defended his government’s appointment of a senior Liberal official – who made thousands of dollars in political donations to the party – as the chair of a New South Wales productivity council set up to provide independent advice on innovation.

In January the state’s innovation minister, Alistair Henskens, appointed Charlie Taylor to chair the state’s Innovation and Productivity Council (IPC).

A former senior partner at the consultancy firm McKinsey, Taylor has a master’s in economics from Cambridge University and experience in research “on productivity and innovation topics” as well as experience working in the corporate sector overseas.

But he is a senior office holder in the federal Liberal party, leading to accusations of “jobs for the boys” from the Labor opposition.

Related: John Barilaro’s NY trade appointment showed signs of a ‘job for the boys’, NSW inquiry finds

On Thursday Perrottet said Taylor was “perfectly suited” to the role.

“Productivity is crucial and key to growing our economy moving forward … and I think Charlie Taylor is very, very well suited to take on that role,” the premier said.

As well as being the brother of the federal shadow treasurer, Angus Taylor, and brother-in-law of the senior NSW government minister Bronnie Taylor, Charlie Taylor is treasurer of the federal Liberals, a role he has held since 2020.

A member of the party’s Manly branch, he has been a regular financial contributor to the party, including attending fundraisers hosted by Henskens.

Electoral disclosure records reveal that in 2018 Taylor made a $1,000 donation to attend a fundraiser organised by Henskens and the Ku-Ring-Gai branch of the Liberal party. It included the then treasurer, Dominic Perrottet, as special guest.

Taylor has given almost $11,000 to the Liberal party in the past nine years, including three donations totalling $3,980 to its NSW branch and associated fundraising entities in 2020-21.

Both men appear to have been longtime associates. They attended the prestigious St Andrews College at the University of Sydney together during the early 1980s and both spoke at its 150th anniversary gala in 2017.

The revelation comes just days after an upper house inquiry published the findings of its inquiry into the appointment of the former NSW deputy premier John Barilaro to a plum trade job in New York City, finding it showed “all the trademarks of a ‘job for the boys’ position”.

Penny Sharpe, Labor’s leader in the upper house, who sat on that inquiry, said Taylor’s appointment suggested that “not only have the NSW Liberals learned nothing from the Barilaro scandal, this is how business is done in NSW”.

The appointment smacked of “jobs for the boys”, she said, while criticising Henskens for not announcing the appointment.

“How many other donors and mates have been appointed in the lead-up to the [next] election?” she said.

Board positions for the IPC were advertised last August and were assessed by a panel inside Investment NSW, the same agency that oversaw Barilaro’s controversial appointment to the New York trade job last year.

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But unlike Barilaro’s job, Taylor’s position was approved by the state’s cabinet before being signed off by the governor, meaning the minister had more discretion over the appointment.

Henskens did not directly respond to questions about whether he had discussions with Taylor about applying for the role.

But in a statement the minister said Taylor had “received the top rating of highly recommended by the independent assessment panel” and he “did not have any communication with the independent assessment panel concerning the applications they were considering for the IPC”.

Taylor does not receive a salary for the role, but under government rules board chairs are eligible for a fee of $350 a day for work they do.

“The IPC is not a decision-making body of government and Mr Taylor will not be remunerated for his role as chair,” Henskens said.

“Its members are eminent experts across industry, academia and government who provide advice and information on ways to drive innovation, competitiveness and productivity for the state’s ongoing economic prosperity.

“Mr Taylor has extensive experience in the private sector and strong networks in business, technology and research communities. He is highly experienced in government policy and strategic advice, and formerly led and built the health and public service practices at McKinsey.”

But Sharpe said government board roles were not necessarily appealing because of the money.

“They also provide access to decision makers and [potential] influence over policy,” she said.

The IPC describes itself a “trusted and independent” advisory body.

Charlie Taylor did not respond to a request for comment.

– Additional reporting: Tamsin Rose