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Canberra woman Michaela Banerji loses in High Court free speech appeal over APS sacking

Genevieve Jacobs 7 August 2019 106

The High Court has dismissed Michaela Banerji’s appeal against being dismissed for tweeting anonymous political criticism. File photo.

In a finding with substantial implications for public servants everywhere, Canberra woman Michaela Banerji’s dismissal for anonymously tweeting critical opinions about immigration and border policies has been upheld by the High Court.

She had been sacked from her job with the Department of Immigration and Citizenship for breaching the public service code of conduct, requiring public servants to be apolitical at all times.

The long running legal saga began in the Federal Court in 2013, when Banerji’s application for an injunction to stop her termination was rejected by judge Warren Neville who said there was no “unbridled right” to free speech.

After her dismissal, Banerji then claimed workers compensation and was successful at the Administrative Appeals Tribunal. AAT deputy president (and former ACT Senator) Gary Humphries and tribunal member Bernard Hughson concluded that “a comment made anonymously cannot rationally be used to draw conclusions about the professionalism or impartiality of the public service”.

The AAT went further, drawing parallels between George Orwell and his concerns around thought crime and the idea of policing anonymous APS employees’ social media.

But an appeal from Comcare succeeded today, when the High Court unanimously upheld the decision to sack Banerji for the tweets from her @LaLegale account. It’s being seen as a landmark test case since the High Court did not use the constitutionally implied freedom of speech to find that the sacking was unjustified.

Chief justice, Susan Kiefel, and Justices Virginia Bell, Patrick Keane and Geoffrey Nettle found that anyone who posts on social media should assume their identity and public employment could potentially be revealed, creating an “obvious” risk that even anonymous social media could damage the public service and therefore contravene the code of conduct.

Speaking before the finding, ANU Law visiting fellow Kieran Pender said the Banerji case was “a really tricky issue that ultimately comes down to the balance between free speech and a legitimate government interest in an impartial and effective administration.

“There are strong reasons why the government doesn’t want public servants expressing their political opinions all the time. And that’s been long accepted by the courts…But public servants can’t be silent members of society. They are ordinary citizens too. They deserve to be involved in debate, and often they are best placed to comment and contribute to democratic discourse.”

Mr Pender said the issue required a clear decision from the High Court because of its complexity.

“This isn’t black and white,” he said. “It’s a question of where you draw the line between two very compelling policy priorities. Until we have the High Court clarity, the line is blurry and that encourages the government to overreach.”

Today, separate judgements from Justices Stephen Gageler and James Edelman noted the substantial burden the public sector gag imposes but agreed it was “reasonably necessary and adequately balanced”.

The APS Commission provides public servants with detailed social media guidelines, but commentators say the case reaffirms that there are legally binding regulations which ultimately supersede these.

The Commission has warned that it’s relatively easy for an experienced user to identify who someone is and where they work, and that Departments are often very willing to make that effort to identify internal critics.

The case comes as Canberra lawyer Bernard Collaery faces the ACT Supreme Court on charges of conspiracy for the advice he provided to Witness K in the Timor L’Este spying case, and his decision to speak to the media about concerns that Australia had acted unethically in negotiations over Timor Gap gas fields.


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106 Responses to Canberra woman Michaela Banerji loses in High Court free speech appeal over APS sacking
Lucy Baker Lucy Baker 5:54 pm 09 Aug 19

@LaLegale’s tweets were rabidly partisan and obsessive and I’m not surprised at the High Court verdict. If you look at her recent tweets she is really off the leash – retweeting far-left material calling for politicians to be tried for war crimes. She isn’t a good test case at all for the average public servant tweeting in good faith. We still don’t know what the limits are for reasonable people. I actually don’t think an impartial public servant could possibly have consistently tweeted the way Ms Banerji did over several years.

    Bussie Bussie 11:29 am 10 Aug 19

    If you believe in free speech you believe in it for everything including for “far left material calling for politicians to be tried for war crimes”.

    Everyone is in favour of free spech for opinions they agree with.

HiddenDragon HiddenDragon 6:47 pm 08 Aug 19

The majority decision in the HC case seems to be fairly closed tied to the provisions in the Constitution for a federal public service, which presumably means that the decision is less clear cut in relation to Territory and State officials – which is a comfort, because it would be sad to think that the Riot Act, etc. might be denied the frank, fearless, forthright, impartial etc. etc. etc. contributions from ACT PS employees which do so much to inform us about the unerring wisdom of ACT Government policies……..

    JC JC 5:02 pm 10 Aug 19

    It’s not a surprise that the high court ruled on provisions in the constitution because that was the basis of the defence case.

    Written and spoken by a non ACTPS person.

rationalobserver rationalobserver 4:10 pm 08 Aug 19

Banning public servants from using social media ! What will they do during work time now?

Gilavon Gilavon 1:30 pm 08 Aug 19

Government Servants are accepting salary and wages to enact the policies of the Government of the day. This may entail enacting policies the individual believes to be wrong in which case they should resign.

No Government Servant has the right of “free speech” or of criticizing their employer during the time they spend in the workplace, Banerji did that. If any of my employees did that I would immediately sack them. It is entirely reasonable for an employer to expect the loyalty of employees.

Not all government policy is “nice”. Government must make unpopular, unpalatable decisions. Employees must accept that.

    BlowMeDown BlowMeDown 8:29 pm 08 Aug 19

    Before social media there were dinner parties. It’s a totally unacceptable condition of the code and it is not enforced unless management doesn’t like what you say.

    Has anyone checked if there is a specific exemption for election days? Because anonymity is not sufficient to allow the expression of opinion by public servants.

Philippa Matthews Philippa Matthews 11:59 am 08 Aug 19

A healthy democracy would require discussing ideas. All people should be allowed the ability to discuss. Good comes from discussions. It is how democracy works.

Shawn Mulgrue Shawn Mulgrue 8:35 am 08 Aug 19

Precedent set for the Falou Case!

    Scott Abela Scott Abela 4:25 pm 10 Aug 19

    No. Not at all.. Izzy is NOT a Commonwealth Public Servant and he was not tweeting about his employer using inside information.. The two cases couldn't actually be further apart, precedent wise...

    Shawn Mulgrue Shawn Mulgrue 5:13 pm 10 Aug 19

    Scott Abela that’s true he’s not a part of the CPS but it’s about the code of conduct, same as in the Falou case!

Caroline Le Couteur Caroline Le Couteur 8:20 am 08 Aug 19

Wrong wrong. Public servants are citizens too

    Martin Leonard Martin Leonard 12:27 pm 08 Aug 19

    So is Israel Folau.

    Tanya Louise Tanya Louise 2:23 pm 08 Aug 19

    Martin Leonard but this lady didn't use any hate speech

    Martin Leonard Martin Leonard 2:41 pm 08 Aug 19

    Tanya Louise "Hate speech" is a lazy and loaded term.

    Tanya Louise Tanya Louise 4:36 pm 08 Aug 19

    Martin Leonard oh really? Do tell

    Martin Leonard Martin Leonard 4:52 pm 08 Aug 19

    Tanya Louise By all means. Google 'Begging the question'.

    Peter Major Peter Major 10:15 am 09 Aug 19

    Caroline, yes we are all citizens, but how would you like ACT public servants to get a dirt file on you and spread it across public media. Or using inside knowledge undermine your government mandated agenda.

    We have rights, but we have responsibilities and accountabilities, if you wish to remove the code of conduct and secrecy acts and allow anarchy then enact it in ACT law. But don't make sanctimonious statements like we are all citizens.

Ursula Gamal Ursula Gamal 7:59 am 08 Aug 19

Time to change Public Service Act to reflect transparency, accountability, and free speech to be judged on its merits for the public.

Allison Ashton Allison Ashton 6:28 am 08 Aug 19

Rightly so. Say whatever you like privately, but not publicly.

    Tanya Louise Tanya Louise 2:24 pm 08 Aug 19

    Allison Ashton she did it anonymously

    Allison Ashton Allison Ashton 2:27 pm 08 Aug 19

    Tanya Louise she knew she was taking a risk and that's why she did it anonymously. There should be a certain amount of trust between an employer and and employee. She broke it.

Robyn Soxsmith Robyn Soxsmith 8:56 pm 07 Aug 19

Greg Barns, spokesman for the Australian Lawyers Alliance, said the outcome of this case “shows that Australians lack fundamental protections such as freedom of speech”.

“The lack of a national human rights charter means government can shut down dissent far too easily,” he said.

IMHO - The High Court ruling lacks balance going too far one way. It doesn’t give sufficient thought to the rights and protection of public servants

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 4:13 am 08 Aug 19

    Robyn Soxsmith you should read the judgments. It was no surprise whatever to me that she lost this case. The Court thought the Code of Conduct was consistent with existing Constitutional arrangements. It’s not their role to decide whether we should change the Code of Conduct.

    Robyn Soxsmith Robyn Soxsmith 4:36 pm 08 Aug 19

    Eric Anthony Lucas - I am sure public servants are aware about not making value judgements on government policy, however this outcome is appalling and vindictive when Michaela was simply making public comment in a private capacity.

    It would seem the Federal Government is punishing her because they do not want to lose face and look less competent in their job.

    The High Court decision will set an absolutely terrifying precedent for public policy. It could lead to a lack of intellectual rigour and ethical integrity making the difference between good and poor public policy.

    I also can see this decision as a way to enforce restrictions on the freedoms of public servants in their private lives. This would only be bad thing for democracy.

Julia Raine Julia Raine 8:44 pm 07 Aug 19

So, something id like teased out of the judgement - if you work for Immi (Home Affairs) for eg, can you tweet criticisms of health policy, or indigenous affairs, or the environment policy?

    Trish Browne Trish Browne 1:02 pm 08 Aug 19

    Julia Raine nope public servants must be apolitical. So no dissing the government of the day

    Julia Raine Julia Raine 1:56 pm 08 Aug 19

    Def more complex than that - answer would only be hypothetical anyway as hasnt been tested. From my reading (media only), the only certainty is that anonymity is no defense. In any event, for public servants be very aware!

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 6:12 pm 08 Aug 19

    Read the APSC guidance. The answer is in there.

    Julia Raine Julia Raine 6:58 pm 08 Aug 19

    Think I was after a non APS lawyer not the Govt mouthpiece APSC. We know what they’ll be saying

    Julia Raine Julia Raine 7:26 pm 08 Aug 19

    PS. I’m not a public servant anymore; think it’s odd she tweeted 9000 anti Immi comments & thought it would all be ok ... Good luck to the rest of you

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 8:16 pm 08 Aug 19

    Julia Raine then you might be surprised by the answer.

    Julia Raine Julia Raine 8:39 pm 08 Aug 19

    The answer? Haven’t had one yet. Think I’ll listen to that ANU Law bloke... & think you might need to fess up Paul (& suggest u read the latest onlythesangfroid on the topic)

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 10:39 am 09 Aug 19

    Julia Raine thanks for the link to the blog. I wasn't aware of it previously; there's little in it that I would disagree with.

    Julia Raine Julia Raine 10:58 am 09 Aug 19

    Thats the law & lawyers for you!

Robbie Hammond Robbie Hammond 8:12 pm 07 Aug 19

You can thank the Libs for that chestnut.

    Martin Leonard Martin Leonard 12:28 pm 08 Aug 19

    How is this the Libs' fault?

    Ian Faulds Ian Faulds 1:22 pm 08 Aug 19

    Martin Leonard I mean what have they ever done for us? Apart from aqueducts, sanitation? Oh and don’t forget education!!

    Scottie Avela Scottie Avela 3:32 pm 11 Aug 19

    Robbie Hammond she broke the law that govern her employment... how is that any party's fault..?

Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:56 pm 07 Aug 19

Some useful reading on this subject.

https://www.apsc.gov.au/making-public-comment-social-media-guide-employees

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 9:23 pm 07 Aug 19

    Should a public servant remain "politically neutral" or "apolitical" when the government of the day is murdering people, jailing innocent people and silencing the general population and the media? Is there any such thing as "apolitical?" Has this government politicised much of the public service? These are all important questions to consider, rather than repeat rules and regulations. The Nazis also had codes and rules.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:30 am 08 Aug 19

    Jill Lyall Oh please, get a grip. There is no comparison with the Nazis.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 12:18 pm 08 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson I didn’t say there is - I am pointing out to you that rules and regulations designed to silence people in the name of “political neutrality” are in themselves political, and can be used for the worst ends we can imagine

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 6:10 pm 08 Aug 19

    Jill Lyall That is not correct. The Public Service has to be impartial and apolitical. Employees making off-the-cuff comments to the public about policies they don't agree with because they see that restriction as political, are being political themselves. The lady should not have done what she did and if people cannot abide by the terms and conditions of their employment they should leave their positions. Outside of the public service I know of no other employer who would tolerate having their business publicly criticised by an employee. Such an employee would be sacked.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:12 pm 08 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson by being “impartial and apolitical” staff in the immigration area are acceding to dehumanising and cruel policies which makes them culpable in the damage done to people’s lives. That is a political position whether you think so or not

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 8:57 pm 08 Aug 19

    Jill Lyall No it isn't and you are deliberately confusing the issue of compliance with terms and conditions of employment with what you see as political interference with free speech. In a private setting (as around the table with friends) one can voice one's opinion but should also be careful to note that it is only their opinion and not the official stance of the department they work for. I repeat what I have said above that no one should publicly criticise their boss/company/government department (that they work for) and expect not to be sacked. It is a sackable offence in almost any/all businesses you could think of. After all, such public remarks can affect a business' standing in the community and even their income from lost customers. In the public service it affect's a department's ability to give 'frank and fearless advice' to the government of the day without bias or perceptions of bias. In political life particularly, perception is everything as in diplomacy where words are the equivalent of bullets. This case was a political challenge to the long standing norms of the public service in order to advance a case against offshore processing of asylum seekers, and this lady lost. Accept it or not - that is your problem, not mine. I support the High Court position having been a long time public servant myself and being able to express my opinion freely.

Andrew Trousdell Andrew Trousdell 7:40 pm 07 Aug 19

should of just said god told her to tweet and it was religious expression

    Jeremy Cowden Jeremy Cowden 8:10 pm 07 Aug 19

    Andrew Trousdell I think I'm gonna start a religion.

Helen Stephenson Helen Stephenson 7:19 pm 07 Aug 19

Not good!

David Malcolm David Malcolm 7:06 pm 07 Aug 19

Is it just me or is 9000 tweets on one subject excessive? To my mind the number of tweets is more a campaign rather than expressing ones opinion.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:16 pm 07 Aug 19

    David Malcolm it was definitely more in the realm of a campaign but very justified in my opinion

    Bianca Cotter Bianca Cotter 10:51 pm 07 Aug 19

    David Malcolm that’s 24 per day I’m lucky to do that in a year haha

    Rae Rae Rae Rae 2:03 pm 08 Aug 19

    Jill Lyall not really the point though , tweeting your boss publicly to criticise an area you work in with a thinly veiled anonymous profile, smh

Darron Marks Darron Marks 7:04 pm 07 Aug 19

Makes you wonder how they figured out who she was that owned the account though given it was anonymous that would be the question I would really be asking ?

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:17 pm 07 Aug 19

    Darron Marks her work colleagues noticed that her screen saver at work was the same image as she used for her anonymous Twitter account and they betrayed her - shame on them

    Scottie Avela Scottie Avela 3:31 pm 11 Aug 19

    Jill Lyall yes and no, she was attacking the place they worked for and drawing heat on all of them as LaLegale was using inside information to attack with... it was fairly clear which area was the leak so I'm not sure you can blame them too much.

Catherine Campbell Catherine Campbell 6:46 pm 07 Aug 19

And are politicians who are also public servants going to follow this????

    Roderick Saunders Roderick Saunders 10:00 pm 07 Aug 19

    Catherine Campbell for the purposes of legislation politicians are not public servants

Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 6:18 pm 07 Aug 19

It is a no brainer if you work in the Australian Public Service and it's in the APS Code of Conduct I believe. Any employee of the APS is not permitted to publicly comment on the policies of the government of the day unless that employee has authorisation to do so. This has been the policy at least since I first joined the then Commonwealth Public Service in 1968 until 1997 when it was already the APS. This is no secret/new thing - it has always been there. If the comments made are derogatory to the government of the day, to an MP, a Departmental Head or Department, it can mean instant dismissal, depending on any mitigating circumstances. I simply don't understand how this lady thought she was going to get away with it. Nothing to do with free speech, it's all about confidentiality of matters you come into knowledge about through your employment. No employer outside the APS would tolerate it either.

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 6:30 pm 07 Aug 19

    what about contractors to the APS do they have to follow the APS rules?

    Steve Smith Steve Smith 6:40 pm 07 Aug 19

    Daniel Duncan yes.

    Daniel Coles Daniel Coles 6:41 pm 07 Aug 19

    it was an anonymous account

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 6:43 pm 07 Aug 19

    She tweeted under an anonymous account. Fair enough that you refrain from making political comments when you're performing your job or could be suspected of speaking on behalf of your employer or if you are using information you could've only gained through your employment. But excluding 240,000 citizens from participating in political discourse when there isn't any evidence that it may affect the way they perform their duties as public servants? That goes way too far.

    I work for local government and we have social media policies that are sensible and allow us to have a private life.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 6:48 pm 07 Aug 19

    Daniel Duncan Yes, they do. I did a lot of contract work for the APS at Parliament House itself in the House of the Senate Committee Office. I had three assignments there.

    Daniel Duncan Daniel Duncan 6:56 pm 07 Aug 19

    Steve & Julie thanks for the clarification. I will pass it on.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 6:56 pm 07 Aug 19

    Daniel Coles It doesn't matter if the account was anonymous. The lady in question was an APS employee and was covered under the Public Service Act 1999 and the APS Code of Conduct and that includes contractors used by the APS for the length of their assignments. If they reveal any information they learned during their employment with the APS after their departure then they will not be used again and may even be found to be in breach anyway, depending on the circumstances and the nature of the information revealed.

    Imants Ezergailis Imants Ezergailis 6:58 pm 07 Aug 19

    Terry Butters : Perhaps Ms Banerji could stand for Parliament?

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:01 pm 07 Aug 19

    Terry Butters

    https://www.governmentnews.com.au/though-shalt-not-criticise/

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:05 pm 07 Aug 19

    Imants Ezergailis If she did, and she was elected, she would be considered a public servant as defined under the Australian Public Service Act 1999.

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 7:08 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson How do you think it should work if they don’t discuss anything they learned through the course of their work at all, and they are taking all reasonable steps to ensure that they can’t be identified as public servants, and they’re just talking about politics on Facebook? Wouldn’t that be a reasonable thing to expect to be able to do? Not asking if they are allowed to, but if they should be.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:11 pm 07 Aug 19

    Ryan Daniel Not if the discussion includes information they only obtained via their APS employment. Sensitive government information or commercial-in-confidence matters must not be discussed under any circumstances and especially not on the media.

    https://www.governmentnews.com.au/though-shalt-not-criticise/

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:12 pm 07 Aug 19

    The above post covers matters involving public servants and the media. The APS put out a guide for public servants and the link is enclosed within this post if you wish to refer to it..

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:14 pm 07 Aug 19

    Terry Butters They can discuss politics privately but NOT publicly such as in social media, newspapers and television interviews.

    Jill Lyall Jill Lyall 7:15 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson she didn’t reveal anything that wasn’t already public knowledge i.e. that our immigration policies are abhorrent and harmful - her tweets were very general condemnations of the detestable refugee policy - not sure how anonymous tweets of that nature harmed the government. It’s the policy she was protesting that is harmful - including to the government

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 7:25 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie, there was no suggestion at all that any of her tweets related to information that she could've only gained through her job, so it's a mute point (at least, it should be).

    And an anonymous Twitter account is totally different to a tv interview.

    It's just not on that that many voters would be denied the opportunity to voice their opinion on political matters on social media, which is what all of us are doing here now.

    Except maybe for you. You're just posting the current policies. Most of us are arguing that they're far from fair.

    Marc Edwards Marc Edwards 7:28 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson I think you will find she lost as the comments she made was about immigration and she also worked there. If she was commenting on a different department then it wouldn’t have been any where near an issue.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:46 pm 07 Aug 19

    Marc Edwards See my post above about criticising the government if you are an employee. You need to be careful about what you say on places like Twitter and Facebook. Once you post, that post is public. Basically the policy is not to bag your employer or your employer's policies PUBLICLY. Twitter is not private and it doesn't matter if the information was already in the public domain. The fact is her criticism was made public and that was the problem and therein the breach.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 7:47 pm 07 Aug 19

    Lin Van Oevelen See my post to Marc Edwards. Yes, I concede others may consider these rules and regulations are unfair, but they are there and have been for a very long time and this lady must have known this. She was unwise to criticise her employer so publicly. Any critique on social media is considered public.

    Annie Wyer Annie Wyer 8:00 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson This woman did not divulge official secrets, she simply commented and repeated a comment by a previous PM, so it’s open knowledge. The Department made an example of her to frighten their staff. So much for encouraging whistleblowers, which all departments do. The only whistleblower here was her work colleague.

    Dutton and Pezzulo don’t believe in open government. That should frighten you.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 8:09 pm 07 Aug 19

    I suggest you read "Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees". I have posted it below as useful reading on this subject and it will answer many questions people have about this issue. Basically, it's all about an employee acting in an apolitical and impartial and professional manner - as viewed by a reasonable person. Explained much better in the Guide I have already mentioned.

    Lyndon Zoukowski Lyndon Zoukowski 8:17 pm 07 Aug 19

    Marc Edwards agree, there was a Nexus to her employment / agency.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 8:20 pm 07 Aug 19

    Lyndon Zoukowski : I agree also.

    Peter Major Peter Major 8:34 pm 07 Aug 19

    Terry Butters if you don't like the job leave. Don't violate your employment contract.

    Its very simple really.

    Peter Major Peter Major 8:38 pm 07 Aug 19

    Ryan Daniel sorry mate, not on it's a responsibility that comes with job. You can leave, you can lodge formal complaints, but you don't use inside knowledge to abuse your employer on public media.

    APS Code off Conduct.

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 8:40 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson I did specifically ask how you think it should work if they don’t disclose any information attained through work and take all necessary steps to avoid being identified as an APS employee etc. You still think they shouldn’t be allowed to discuss politics on Facebook under those circumstances? Again I did say I’m not asking whether they are or not, but whether they should be.

    And if not, why not? Considering they’re not identifying themselves as public servants in any way and aren’t divulging any sensitive information at all, then what other reason is there for it to remain a sackable offence?

    Peter Major Peter Major 8:40 pm 07 Aug 19

    Terry Butters as long as they dont lir to Parliament so be it.

    Also in a multitude of cases they tell a form of the truth often obfuscated and spun but that's their job

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 8:42 pm 07 Aug 19

    Julie, "as viewed by a reasonable person"? No, these social media policies are not reasonable. They may justify them by referring to the policies regarding traditional media that have been in place for a long time but they are completely different beasts. Denying 240,000 voters a voice on social media is just insane.

    Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 9:09 pm 07 Aug 19

    I thought the prior Code of Conduct allowed comment as long as it was clear it wasn't in the role of your job but as a private citizen

    Gwg Heldon Gwg Heldon 10:32 pm 07 Aug 19

    Natalee Gersbach depends on the department. Some are stricter than others.

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 10:47 pm 07 Aug 19

    Lin Van Oevelen true. It’s quite different avoiding giving an interview to the newspaper compared to not using social media for anything political.

    Shane Westmore Shane Westmore 11:04 pm 07 Aug 19

    I’ve worked with APS with a private company, we were obliged to sign the same confidentiality documents as they did. I get it, the govt wants to keep a good reputation & secrets & whatnot, even when the chain of command & management might be rotting from the head down, but this level of control shouldn’t have to be tolerated. The APS staff I worked with were so unnecessarily controlled it was ridiculous. Criticism can be healthy & helps a workplace improve. Punishing that criticism devalues the organisation as well as its employees.

    Eric Anthony Lucas Eric Anthony Lucas 4:02 am 08 Aug 19

    Lin Van Oevelen no, she was identified by colleagues, and if you read the tweets it seemed clear enough she worked for the Department. The Court thought the requirement to be apolitical applied, whether or not you commented under an alias. The judgments are worth reading.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:23 am 08 Aug 19

    Seon Ferguson 🙄

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:24 am 08 Aug 19

    Ryan Daniel 🙄

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:27 am 08 Aug 19

    Ryan Daniel I'm just telling it like it is and what the rules are, together with the fact that these rules have been in place for a long time, a fact this lady should have known. Opinions on what should or shouldn't be allowed I will leave to others to debate.

    Ryan Daniel Ryan Daniel 3:56 pm 08 Aug 19

    Julie Coker-Godson whether it should or shouldn’t be allowed is the discussion here in this thread. Not sure why the rolling eyes. Pick a side and explain why

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 6:06 pm 08 Aug 19

    Ryan Daniel The lady should not have done what she did. End of story.

    Paul Casimir Paul Casimir 6:25 pm 08 Aug 19

    Natalee Gersbach no, that's never been the case.

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 10:45 pm 08 Aug 19

    So rules are rules and end of story, Julie? That's a real cop out. Maybe in this case there was some evidence that some tweets related to information this woman could have only gained through her job (I have not read the court docs) but the code of conduct is way over the top. They tried to adapt old media rules to new media and failed. Which is typical of current politicians and probably high level public servants

    Peter Major Peter Major 9:02 am 09 Aug 19

    A very naive point of view Terry. You are an employee of the people and the duly elected peoples representative. You are bound by your Code of Conduct and numerous secrecy acts Never to use your work derived knowledge to defame the duly elected representatives.

    She didn't agree with Govt. policy as such she should have removed herself from that position. She exploited her internal (Insider) knowledge to debase the govt in public media. She LIED and BREACHED her signed contract of employment.

    The HIGH Court agreed she was WRONG. When will the do gooder lefty socialists learn Contract Law is law and breaking the law has consequences.

    Peter Major Peter Major 9:52 am 09 Aug 19

    Terry Butters however you have laws of conduct that have been observed since before my time at work. You complied with your contractual obligations so has every one else.

    Wake up to the real world, don't breach employment contracts without expecting repercussions. If you don't like your employer leave IMMEDIATELY, don't hang around gathering dirt and then spreading YOUR interpretation of what's right and wrong, you weren't elected they were. Govt policy may suck or be brilliant but it Govt policy end of story. As I keep saying if you don't like it leave the job and vote differently next time.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:09 am 09 Aug 19

    Terry Butters Pretty much the same when I signed on as a contractor in 1996.

    Julie Coker-Godson Julie Coker-Godson 10:33 am 09 Aug 19

    Terry Butters As far as I'm aware guidelines for commenting on social media were issued to APS a while ago and I have posted those guidelines on this thread. "Making public comment on social media: A guide for employees" APSC.GOV.AU.

Michael Blythe Michael Blythe 6:11 pm 07 Aug 19

There is no such thing as free speech. Everything is sanctioned somehow by the Fatherland.

    Greg Oehm Greg Oehm 9:41 pm 07 Aug 19

    Michael Blythe it’s part of your conditions of employment in the APS that you refrain from making political comments that use (or abuse) your position and the possession of information that position holds. There’s nothing new in this. The APS is apolitical and must be seen to be so. What she did was abuse the trust placed in her as an employee. Dismissal is a reasonable outcome. Most employers have similar expectations. That’s not about free speech. We don’t have the right to free speech anyway. We never have - we can’t say what we like regardless of the truth. We DO have the right to an opinion and to express it, providing it is factual and impinges on no other obligations encumbent on us.

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