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NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen and Police Minister Yasmin Catley face budget estimates grilling

NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen has defended a public servant accused of using his non-partisan role in her office to perform political work.

Transport bureaucrat Kieren Ash is being investigated over his secondment to the transport minister’s office, after emails emerged showing he shared a list of Coalition backflips, helped write speeches, and set up a Labor barbecue.

Mr Ash’s role as a department liaison officer (DLO) was to act as a strictly apolitical conduit between the department and the minister’s office.

Ms Haylen told a budget estimates hearing that in her experience, Mr Ash’s work was in line with his role.

“That is my experience up until those emails came to my attention last week, which I referred to his employer for investigation,” she said.

“We are talking about a small number of internal emails that may have blurred the lines between this public servant’s role as a DLO and [his] personal political views, and I acknowledge, his well-known personal political views.”

Mr Ash ran Labor’s failed campaign to win the seat of Balmain, and he ran as the party’s candidate in Pittwater in 2015.

Ms Haylen said the public servant worked with her on processes for infrastructure and transport ministers’ meetings and cabinet processes.

“The bulk of my engagement with this public servant was on those matters,” Ms Haylen said.

“My engagement with him was positive. I would describe him as a policy workhorse.”

Police minister to be grilled on rally, tasers

Meanwhile Police Minister Yasmin Catley is being questioned about her response to a pro-Palestinian protest on the steps of the Sydney Opera House on October 9.

The protest turned ugly, with several members of the group chanting anti-Semitic slurs and lighting flares as the sails of the opera house were lit up blue and white, the colours of the Israeli flag.

Ms Catley has been criticised by the Coalition for not directing the police to prevent the protest, which started at Town Hall, from marching to the opera house.

NSW Police internal emails released to parliament last month reveal senior police had concerns the decision to light the opera house in the Israeli flag would inflame tensions in the community.

Premier Chris Minns told an earlier budget estimates hearing that he made a “mistake” by not acting on those warnings.

Yasmin Catley was questioned about a pro-Palestinian rally at the Sydney Opera House last month.(AAP Image: Dean Lewis)

Ms Catley has told budget estimates she has no powers to direct police officers.

“I, as the minister, cannot authorise an officer or direct an officer and particularly when we’re talking about operational matters in the New South Wales Police Force,” she said.

“I accepted the advice and I trusted the advice that was provided to me by the police.”

Ms Catley will also likely face questions about the tasering of 95-year-old woman Clare Nowland, who died after being tasered by police at Yallambee Lodge nursing home in May.

The police officer who allegedly discharged the taser is now facing criminal proceedings and a police internal critical incident investigation is underway.

At the time of the incident, questions were raised as to why the original media release from NSW Police omitted the word “taser”.

It was later revealed the word “taser” was removed from a draft version, leading to allegations of an attempted cover-up.

https://www.abc.net.au/news/2023-11-07/nsw-jo-haylen-yasmin-catley-budget-estimates/103072494 NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen and Police Minister Yasmin Catley face budget estimates grilling

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