Dominic Perrottet says he will bring Stuart Ayres back to frontbench if government re-elected

Former NSW trade minister Stuart Ayres will be reinstated to the frontbench if the Perrottet government is re-elected in March.

The Penrith MP resigned from the frontbench and as Liberal deputy leader in August last year over his role in the controversial appointment of former deputy premier John Barilaro as trade commissioner in New York. 

Mr Ayres stepped down during an independent review into the scandal.

At the time, Premier Dominic Perrottet said he had been provided with information that showed the recruitment process of Mr Barilaro “was not at arms length” to government. 

A separate review was then conducted by high-profile barrister Bruce McClintock, SC, into whether Mr Ayres breached the ministerial code of conduct.

A man addresses the media
Dominic Perrottet says he will bring Mr Ayres back to the frontbench.(AAP: Dan Himbrechts)

The former minister was cleared of wrongdoing in September and his future role in the Perrottet government has been unclear since then.

Mr Perrottet has now confirmed Mr Ayres will play a prominent role as a senior minister post-March, if the Coalition wins the election.

His decision has been revealed as Mr Ayres faces a battle in his Western Sydney seat of Penrith, which he holds on a slim margin of 1.3 per cent.

It is an electorate that is being targeted by Labor at the upcoming election and is considered a crucial seat for deciding the result. 

The premier has refused to be drawn over whether he will announce a new line up for his frontbench before or after the election. 

The government is losing five ministers at the March election due to retirements.

When Mr Ayres resigned from cabinet, his portfolios were handed over to existing ministers. 

Opposition Leader Chris Minns has criticised the plan.

“Many people in New South Wales would say if the government gets re-elected and Stuart Ayres returns to that cabinet it’ll be back to jobs for the boys straight after March the 25th,” Mr Minns said.

“Our view is that is time for a clean sheet in New South Wales, a fresh start with a new team and getting rid of that culture that says old political colleagues and former deputy premiers should be rewarded with taxpayer-funded jobs.”