Minister grilled on new detail in $588k hire

The NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen has dismissed calls for her to resign over the appointment of former Labor staffer Josh Murray to a plum $588,000 role as Secretary of Transport for NSW (TfNSW).

On Monday it was revealed Mr Murray donated $500 to Ms Haylen’s election campaign about five months before she became minister on September 29, 2022.

A second person linked to him, understood to be Mr Murray’s wife also donated $250 on October 13 last year.

The details were revealed in documents released to parliament of Ms Haylen’s talking points surrounding Mr Murray’s appointment, sent between the office of the Minister and the Premier.

Asked if he had “made any donations to your campaign?” the accompanying answer states: “Yes, but they were of a non-declarable value,” before the figures are listed as “donations we know of”.

The talking points also had a prepared answer if the Minister was quizzed over whether the appointment was a “job for the boys”.

The listed answer read: “No. This appointment comes following a market testing process in which he was put forward as one of the preferred candidates for the Minister to choose from.”

“Josh is a highly qualified leader with extensive executive experience. As Group Leader of People at Laing O’Rourke, he’s really well placed to deliver on priorities as Minister which include re-engaging our workforce and building a system that they are proud to run”.

Appearing on 2GB on Tuesday morning, Ms Haylen maintained she had done “nothing wrong.” The senior minister faced a tough grilling over why she didn’t declare the donations prior to the documents being publicly released.

“What we’re talking about is a ticket to a fundraising event, six months before the election,” she said.

“To say I would give a very important senior public service job to someone who gave a $500 donation is completely absurd. That beggars belief.”

Asked whether the escalating scandal would force Ms Haylen to resign from her portfolio, the Minister was resolute she would not.

“No,” she told 2GB presenter Ben Fordham.

“I’m here answering your questions and I’ll answer many questions after this, I’m sure.”

Mr Murray’s appointment has been a recurring headache for the Transport Minister, with the government accused of a “jobs for the boys” hire, due to Mr Murray’s former affiliation with the Australian Labor Party.

Mr Murray was previously the chief of staff to former Labor premier Morris Iemma, before becoming Group Director for People and Corporate Affairs for Laing O’ Rourke – an engineering and construction company.

Ms Haylen now faces renewed pressures around her captain’s pick hire, with an upper house inquiry into Mr Murray’s appointment set to start on Thursday.

Opposition spokesperson for transport Natalie Ward questioned whether Ms Haylen appropriately declared potential conflict of interests during Mr Murray’s recruitment process, and any related correspondence between the Premier and his office during this time.

“The production of these documents will establish whether a conflict of interest was declared as required under the Ministerial Code of Conduct and if it was appropriately managed,” she said.

“If appropriate steps were taken these documents should be easy to produce.”

While Premier Chris Minns has maintained the correct processes have been maintained, he conceded on Monday that a $125,000 external recruitment process was unnecessary.

“Well given that Mr Murray was appointed to the job, obviously we wanted to make sure that we don’t spend that money when we don’t need to,” he said on 2GB.

“In retrospect it wasn’t required, that’s correct.

“If you know who you want for the position we want to make sure we’re in a position where we can appoint those senior public servants for those difficult jobs.”

Originally published as Transport Minister Jo Haylen grilled over $500 donation after $588k hire for transport boss hire

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