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Federales crackdown on the tweeting drones

By johnboy - 18 January 2012 25

Markus Mannheim in the Canberra Times has an interesting story on a pretty major crackdown in the public service on tweeting and blogging by public service employees.

The commission’s head of ethics, Karin Fisher, said bureaucrats had the same right to freedom of expression as other citizens.

But that right was ”subject to legitimate public interests, such as the maintenance of an impartial and effective public service in which the community can have confidence”.

The Public Service Act says bureaucrats ”must at all times behave in a way that upholds … the integrity and the good reputation of Australia”.

Ms Fisher said this applied to comments made outside office hours and on issues unrelated to a public servant’s work.

So that pretty much rules out any sort of useful contribution to public debate by anyone who actually understands the reasons for government policy.

Well done Greg Jericho.

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25 Responses to
Federales crackdown on the tweeting drones
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Myles Peterson 8:28 am 16 Feb 12

“Actually we have more public servants using social media each year. And many of us have been using it for far longer than Greg.”

Ah well, if you’re going to take digs at Greg.

Why don’t you tell us about your work on and what sort of state it was in when you found it? 😉

CraigThomler 7:34 am 16 Feb 12

Actually we have more public servants using social media each year. And many of us have been using it for far longer than Greg.

The APSC guidance won’t constrain this growth. The usual suspects will use it to say “see the government is stopping public servants from contributing”, or “social media must be dangerous”. The rest of us will keep on using it constructively 🙂

Sandman 9:33 pm 10 Feb 12

PM said :

Some APS agencies have already banned access to this site….

And why wouldn’t they? What productive purpose does this website serve for most APS agencies or positions?

Mrs Sandman is reasonably high up in the APS and was telling me about this new policy a couple weeks ago. Made a hell of a lot of sense to me. If you were in the private sector and trash talked your employer via social media they wouldn’t just look the other way and ignore it. Why should the Public Service? From my experience, the people that whine and bitch the most are the ones doing the least amount of productive work.

PantsMan 11:38 pm 18 Jan 12

I think the APSC is a gutless wounder that turns a blind eye to misconduct such as leaking, backgrounding of journalists, misconduct and under-performance by SES officers and secretaries.

Further, as the guidance material from the APSC is only interpretative, and there is no change to the actual law in the Public Service Act 1999, then there is no actual policy change and the whole reissue of the circular is just designed to intimidate public servants.

Bramina 8:33 pm 18 Jan 12

Primal said :

As a rule of thumb, irrespective of the forum, anyone who posts material online should make an assumption that at some point their identity and the nature of their employment will be revealed.

This still doesn’t prevent anyone from making a rational and respectful argument against government policy or activity. The guidelines being released here seem to be deliberately couched in terms of avoiding extremes (“so harsh or extreme in its criticism that [it raises questions about your ability to do your job professionally]…”, “so strong in its criticism [of administration that it could seriously disrupt the workplace]”, “a gratuitous personal attack that…” etc.).

[Disclaimer: Yes, I am APS. And I care about this stuff. This is my personal viewpoint and not the opinion of my agency. Terms and conditions apply, see in-store for details.]

I agree. As long as you aren’t saying things that conflicts with your role as an impartial advisor to your minister, it’s fine. Obviously, extreme comments on any subject directed towards the government would jeopardise your impartiality as would any comments in your area of work.

Otherwise it’s completely reasonable.

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