NSW premier backs party donations from public servants

NSW Premier Chris Minns has defended public servants making donations to political parties, saying they can lawfully participate in democracy just like any citizen. 

Transport Minister Jo Haylen has been under fire for the appointment of former Labor staffer Josh Murray to a plum senior public servant position as the secretary of her department.

During an inquiry into Mr Murray's appointment, it was revealed he had previously donated $500 to Ms Haylen's election campaign at a fundraiser dinner headlined by the prime minister.

He also attended two other pre-election Labor fundraisers as a "private citizen". 

But the premier said public servants had the right to make political donations if they wanted to, just like any private citizen in the state.

"There's 440,000 people in the New South Wales public service, some of whom vote Labor, some of whom vote Liberals or Nationals or Greens and that's the way it should be," he told reporters on Friday. 

"If you look at the mix of senior public servants, as well as frontline public servants like teachers and nurses and police officers, we would expect a range of political views to be part of that mix.

"We want the public sector to look like the people of New South Wales."

The inquiry also heard that senior public servant Emma Watts, appointed to a $218,000-a-year position as NSW cross-border assistant commissioner, failed to declare nearly $4000 in donations to the National Party. 

Ms Watts admitted it was naive of her to not consider that she may need to disclose this information. 

But she questioned the merits of requiring people to declare financial information during the interview process. 

"By virtue of being a member of the National Party you make donations because your membership fee is a donation," she told the committee.

"I made those donations as a private citizen." 

Mr Minns said he hoped skilled people with political affiliations would not be stopped from gaining employment within the public service. 

"There's going to be people who have got political affiliations that apply for jobs, that want to participate in public service," he said. 

"I hope that they're not banned from it."

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