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

Tim Benson 19 April 2018 24
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?


What's Your Opinion?


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24 Responses to Public servants given the green light to use fake names to bag their departments on social media
Ian McDonald Ian McDonald 3:09 pm 22 Apr 18

Ummm is the public service endorsing #trolls??

Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 1:46 pm 20 Apr 18

Natalee Gersbach Hopefully this will become a catalyst for more sensible social media laws in the Federal PS.

    Natalee Gersbach Natalee Gersbach 1:48 pm 20 Apr 18

    I can neither agree nor disagree with you without using a fake name!

Kay Vee Kay Vee 1:27 pm 20 Apr 18

It comes down to the fact that in your own time, you are average Joe Citizen. But if you wish to bag your employer, well it would be I'll advised until you had another job. I think does beg the question: why are you working there?

    Lin Van Oevelen Lin Van Oevelen 1:48 pm 20 Apr 18

    Surely you are aware that ministers change at every election and every reshuffle in between? Would you honestly expect public servants to resign every time the government changes?

    Kay Vee Kay Vee 4:06 pm 20 Apr 18

    Lin Van Oevelen good point. However, I would not choose to work somewhere that I did not feel a connection with the direction of the company/ organisation. It would just cause me way too much stress and I would be actively seeking to find employment else where. People move jobs every couple of years these days anyway.

    Morris Reinbear Morris Reinbear 7:02 pm 13 May 18

    Because you have an underlying faith in the mission and work of the department, but object to areas of distortion and dodgy actions.

    Kay Vee Kay Vee 8:41 pm 13 May 18

    no loyalty in organisations these days for either party.

Marko Savić Marko Savić 12:52 pm 20 Apr 18

Harry Warrick

Henry Warrick..

Ean Grieve Ean Grieve 9:48 am 20 Apr 18

As long as you are only using information about the policy that is in the public domain you should be able to express your views.

Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 9:50 pm 19 Apr 18

We’ve never had a government more deserving of whistleblowing. This LNP government have gone out of their way to decimate the public service and their operational budgets. We’ve witnessed the results of these cuts time and time again. They’ve also operated at a morally questionable level on just about every activity - as so many recent revelations prove.

They tried to repeal 18C on the grounds of ‘free speech‘ at the same time as pursuing this former employee that objected to incorrect statements made on twitter - she never gave away any info not already in the public domain.

Public servants should be just as free to comment on the state of their government as any other Australian is, particularly where their comments have nothing to do with their own area of employment.

Roger Mungummary Roger Mungummary 9:47 pm 19 Apr 18

Of course they should. What sort of oppressive cowards seek to stifle informed discussion?

Blen_Carmichael Blen_Carmichael 8:35 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.

Paul Amores Paul Amores 6:59 pm 19 Apr 18

RIP Grog's Gamut

Jason Oneill Jason Oneill 4:01 pm 19 Apr 18

Scatty Anthony any of your mates affected?? 🤣🤣

chewy14 chewy14 3:57 pm 19 Apr 18

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?

John Moulis John Moulis 3:46 pm 19 Apr 18

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.

Brenton Myers Brenton Myers 3:46 pm 19 Apr 18

I got fired for that reason by a government owned agency. Never had a written or verbal warning issued. Just a firing.

Lauren Melksham Lauren Melksham 2:14 pm 19 Apr 18

That’s ignorant of the fact that Facebook is cracking down on fake names. Besides, it’s democratic and in most cases doesn’t affect your ability to do your job.

    Gerry Satrapa Gerry Satrapa 9:40 pm 19 Apr 18

    Facebook are not cracking down on fake names. Any I’ve reported I’ve got a ‘doesn’t break of terms of service’ response.

Nathan Brereton Nathan Brereton 1:38 pm 19 Apr 18

Alex Olbrei Ben Anderson one for you guys

    Ben Anderson Ben Anderson 1:39 pm 19 Apr 18

    That John Smith does say a lot of negative things...

    Nathan Brereton Nathan Brereton 2:04 pm 19 Apr 18

    Ben Anderson especially about that bloke who looks like a potato 🥔

Glynis Quinlan Glynis Quinlan 12:58 pm 19 Apr 18

This will open up a can of worms.

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