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Pay review after $700k NSW Police media merry-go-round

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has had four media advisors after just two years in the top job.

NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb has had four media advisors after just two years in the top job. Photo: AAP

A review of NSW senior public servant pay will be launched after it was revealed the dismissal of a string of top media advisers for the nation’s largest police force will cost taxpayers more than $700,000.

NSW Premier Chris Minns said his government would look at overhauling the state’s Government Sector Employment Act, particularly provisions covering separation payments for top-level public servants.

Tuesday’s announcement came after it was revealed NSW Police Commissioner Karen Webb’s decision to part ways with four previous media heads in just two years had led to termination payments of $687,613.

Former Seven Network TV producer Steve Jackson was the latest to be given the boot from the highly-paid role of executive director of public affairs after his appointment was mired in controversy.

Jackson’s payout for his weeks-long interim appointment is likely to bring the total cost of the termination payments to more than $700,000.

The $687,613 figure was released in answers to questions from the independent NSW upper-house MP Rod Roberts.

Minns said he understood community concern about the payouts, describing a review of the provisions as “appropriate and necessary”.

“These are large amounts of money that have been handed to senior executives for not doing a job,” he said on Tuesday.

“I’m concerned with the amount of money that’s going out the door at the moment and that’s why I’ve asked for this review.”

Its findings will be made public upon completion.

Roberts, a former police officer, said it was an “exorbitant” waste of taxpayer money for the dismissal of three media advisers – excluding Jackson’s short-lived stint – “simply because Karen Webb’s not happy with them”.

“If you go through three you’ve got to start looking at the common denominator in all this,” he said.

Grant Williams, Alex Hodgkinson and Liz Deegan were all axed from the role since Webb was appointed commissioner in February 2022. All three were legally entitled to termination payments equal to 38 weeks’ pay.

Jackson’s appointment came under intense scrutiny partially due to his friendship with NSW Police Minister Yasmin Catley’s chief of staff, Ross Neilson.

Webb admitted she had asked Neilson, who once ran the police media unit, for references for the role as she had few connections in the industry.

There were also questions about Jackson’s suitability due to his role in courting Bruce Lehrmann for an exclusive interview with Seven’s Spotlight program, which included an attempt to reverse another employee’s company credit-card charges for a Thai massage.

Previous media chief Liz Deegan was taken off the job after Webb fielded widespread criticism of her public response to the case of Beau Lamarre-Condon, the NSW officer accused of murdering two men with his service weapon.

“Most cops join the police to be in the police force, not to be in the media, and so certainly I can do better and I will,” Webb said in March.

– AAP

Topics: NSW Police
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