19 April 2018

Public servants given the green light to use fake names to bag their departments on social media

| Tim Benson
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Big Brother is watching ...

Big Brother is watching …

Attention public servants, the Administrative Appeals Tribunal (AAT) has decided you can bag your department, and government policy, on social media … as long as you use a fake name.

The decision came after Michaela Banerji won her right to compensation after she was sacked from the Department of Immigration and Citizenship (Home Affairs) in 2013 for criticising Australia’s refugee policy under a fake name on Twitter.

In 2014, Comcare rejected Ms Banerji’s case for compensation for depression and anxiety caused by being fired.

This Monday (16 April), the AAT found that Ms Banerji’s sacking was unlawful and trespassed on implied freedom of political speech.

As part of the decision, AAT deputy president Gary Humphries and Dr Bernard Hughson wrote that ‘A comment made anonymously cannot rationally be used to draw conclusions about the professionalism or impartiality of the public service’.

Comcare has the option of appealing the decision of the AAT to the full Federal Court.

George Orwell’s novel 1984 was also referred to in the AAT ruling. The ruling said that restricting statements from public servants where their identity was unknown bore ‘a discomforting resemblance to George Orwell’s thoughtcrime’.

So there you have it. The AAT seems to be saying that it’s okay to criticise your department and government policy as long as you cannot be identified … but then again, the Government has just introduced new draconian social media rules for public servants … so read the rules and act accordingly …

Do you think public servants should be able to voice their views on social media about their department and Government policy?

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Blen_Carmichael8:35 pm 19 Apr 18

Wouldn’t read too much into it. Yes, it’s a big win for Banerji against Comcare, but it’s not as if the Fair Work Commission or the Federal Court has ruled her dismissal was unlawful.

As long as they aren’t releasing any classified or restricted information they should be allowed to bag away.

If they’re anonymous, who cares?

People should be allowed to say whatever they like, fake names or not. I was sacked from Dept of Finance in 1985 (before the Net and FB) because I wrote a letter to The Australian bagging Bob Hawke’s Tax Summit. Disturbing to hear that rather than things improving since then, it is now far more oppressive.

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