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NSW Premier Chris Minns has continued to back Transport Minister Jo Haylen’s captain’s pick of a former Labor staffer for the $588,000-a-year role which saw hired as Transport for NSW secretary.

This is despite Mr Minns confirming on Tuesday that the independent recruitment panel was not aware of a $500 donation made by Josh Murray to Ms Haylen’s campaign in September last year.

Documents released to the parliament also revealed that a second person linked to him, believed to be his wife, also donated $250 prior to Labor winning the state election.

While only campaign donations under $1000 need to be disclosed, the revelations have inflamed claims that Mr Murray’s appointment was a job-for-the-boys hire.

It was previously revealed that Ms Haylen hand-picked Mr Murray for the role, with her office intervening in the recruitment process to ensure he secured an interview.

On Tuesday, Mr Minns said he was first made aware of the donation in a brief sent to his office “maybe three days” after Mr Murray was given the role on July 13.

He was adamant that Mr Murray purchasing a ticket to a fundraising dinner would not have influenced Ms Haylen’s ability to carry out her public duties and therefore did not constitute a conflict of interest.

“She believed he was the right person for a very difficult job as the secretary of Transport for NSW, I backed her decision,” he told reporters.

“I think Jo has been upfront in relation to this issue.”

Mr Minns also said he didn’t believe there were grounds to refer the appointment to an independent review.

Despite this, the NSW opposition questioned why Ms Haylen did not file a conflict of interest declaration over Mr Murray’s donation.

“If compliance had been undertaken, the documents could very easily have been produced. It appears that they are no conflict of interest declarations,” opposition transport spokeswoman Natalie Ward said.

Opposition Leader Mark Speakman also questioned the Premier’s stance that no conflict of interest had occurred.

“That’s very disappointing and it doesn’t bode well for the standards that this government will have over the next term,” he said.

According to Ms Ward, the minister has been invited to appear before an upper house inquiry investigating Mr Murray’s appointment.

While it hasn’t been confirmed whether she will speak, Ms Haylen maintains she has made all the necessary disclosures around the hiring process.

“What we’re talking about is a ticket to a fundraising event, six months before the election,” she said to 2GB’s Ben Fordham on Tuesday.

“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.”

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By Rahul

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