Calls for NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley to step down over involvement in Karen Webb’s spin doctor saga

The Nightly
There are calls for NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley to step down.
There are calls for NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley to step down. Credit: AAP

NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley is under increasing pressure to step down following her involvement in the saga over Police Commissioner Karen Webb’s media chief.

Ms Webb dropped Liz Deegan after less than a year in the job following sustained criticism over the commissioner’s handling of the high-profile murders of Sydney couple Jesse Baird and Luke Davies.

Ms Deegan — the third media chief to be let go during Ms Webb’s time in the role — finished as Ms Webb’s director of public affairs on March 13.

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Then on Monday, former television producer Steve Jackson was confirmed as Ms Deegan’s replacement.

Ms Catley has since confirmed she recommended Mr Jackson for the role but denied her office directed the police commissioner to sack Ms Deegan.

“No, I did not,” she said in Parliament on Wednesday.

“The police commissioner’s office and my office work very closely together, and of course the commissioner’s office would have discussed matters like this with my office.”

Under rules for public service appointments, Ms Catley or her office are prevented from “seeking to influence” the police commissioner in her employment functions “except through the provision of performance feedback in accordance with the relevant Public Service Commission policy or GSE Rules”.

They are also prohibited from directing Ms Webb to hire or fire staff.

In a statement to The Daily Telegraph, a spokeswoman for Ms Catley said that Mr Jackson had been appointed to run the NSW Police media unit “on a temporary basis for six months”.

“This appointment was made through a suitability assessment process in accordance with the rules of the Government Sector Employment (NSW Police Force) Rules 2017,” she said.

“This involved assessment of Mr Jackson’s suitability for the role against key selection criteria,” the spokeswoman said.

However, the admission has sparked outrage and prompted 2GB broadcaster Ray Hadley to call for the Premier Chris Minns to sack “naive” Ms Catley.

“Chris Minns has a number of problems, he’s got a number of ministers who should be moved on and Yasmin Catley heads that list,” he said on his morning show.

“She is not up to it — the former librarian being the police minister in the state of NSW — she’s just not up to it.

“And if she’s so naive to let her chief of staff make a decision with her approval on who should be guiding the commissioner, who needs desperate help when it comes to media, that the old mates club comes into the fray, into the picture, ‘he’s a good mate of mine, he’s a good fella, give him the job,’ is that how it works?”

When contacted by the Nightly on Monday, Mr Jackson declined to comment on the appointment.

The 43-year-old resigned from his role at Seven last week as a producer on current affairs show Spotlight.

Ms Webb was criticised for taking days to hold a media conference on the shock deaths of Mr Baird, a television presenter, and his partner Mr Davies, a Qantas attendant.

NSW Police Const. Beau Lamarre-Condon allegedly murdered the couple with his police-issued Glock pistol at Mr Baird’s terrace share house in Paddington in the eastern suburbs.

When Ms Webb did face reporters, her deputy, Dave Hudson, did most of the talking.

Ms Webb was also criticised for describing the alleged murders as “a crime of passion” and making reference to pop singer Taylor Swift when defending her handling of the case. “There will always be haters. Haters like to hate. Isn’t that what Taylor says?” Ms Webb told Sunrise.

Ms Webb later backtracked and blamed her comments on “Taylor fever”.

“We’ve just had Taylor Swift in the city, it was Taylor fever here,” she told Channel Nine.

“Certainly, my efforts have been on the investigation.”

The top cop has also faced allegations police tried to cover up the death of Clare Nowland at an aged-care home in Cooma after police took 36 hours to disclose a taser had been discharged at the 95-year-old grandmother.

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