New South Wales Premier Chris Minns has stated that he does not believe his transport minister, Jo Haylen, broke the ministerial code by not declaring political donations from the man she later hired for a lucrative government job. Haylen has faced scrutiny for her appointment of former Labor staffer Josh Murray as Transport for NSW secretary, despite concerns about his qualifications and experience.
Recently released documents reveal that Haylen was aware of two donations made to her campaign in July, one from Murray and another from his wife, totaling $750. Haylen claims that these donations were for tickets to a fundraising event attended by Prime Minister Anthony Albanese. Premier Minns suggests that the donations were below the threshold required for declaration to the electoral commission.
According to Minns, Haylen did not disclose the donations during the recruitment process, and he only became aware of them when they were included in talking points sent to his office. Haylen denies that the donations influenced her decision to hire Murray and rejects the suggestion of a potential conflict of interest.
Despite the controversy, Premier Minns expresses confidence in Haylen’s ability to address public transport issues in the state. He states that he fully supports his transport minister and is not upset by the delayed disclosure of the donations. Haylen herself asserts that she will not resign from her position.
Opposition figures, including Shadow Transport Minister Natalie Ward and Opposition Leader Mark Speakman, call for greater transparency and demand proof that Haylen declared the donations as a potential conflict of interest. They argue that the public should have confidence that conflicts of interest are appropriately disclosed and managed.
A parliamentary inquiry into Murray’s recruitment, set to take place on Thursday, will also investigate the appointment of the National Party’s Federal Secretary Emma Watts as the NSW Cross-Border Assistant Commissioner in 2020. The opposition expresses disappointment in the premier’s response to the matter, questioning the government’s standards.